Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Got a few days? Make a French entremet

You'll recall that I had to miss a couple Daring Bakers challenges in the end of 2008. I missed November as I was preparing to leave for Africa and I missed December as I was acclimating after getting home. While the November challenge didn't knock me off my socks - December's did. I wanted so badly to make the French Entremet. The bakers turned out beauty after beauty of entremet formed into yule log shape.

In December the Daring Bakers made French entremets.
Better late than never pour moi?

I just had to try my hand at it. I knew from reading the EIGHTEEN-PAGE recipe that it'd take me a few days to put this together. And I also knew if there was one group for which I'd be willing to spend 4 days baking, it'd be my family.

We had a belated Chinese New Years dinner at my parents' house

An entremet is a [typically] cream dessert filled with layers of different goodies. Since I wasn't doing this during the Christmas season, I could have made it in a completely different shaped mold and it wouldn't have resembled a yule log whatsoever. But I decided to stick with the Daring Bakers' plan and executed it accordingly. There were 6 elements to this dessert listed in the order I made them [note: for serving on Saturday evening]:

Wednesday night: Praline feuillete (made the praline Tuesday night)
Wednesday night: Vanilla crème brûlée
Thursday night: Dacquoise Biscuit
Thursday night: Chocolate mousse
Thursday night: Dark chocolate caramel ganache
Friday night: Chocolate icing

It was definitely a lot of work and I used every mixing bowl, measuring cup/spoon, rubber scraper, appliance, whisk and piping bag I own - MANY times over! But it wasn't difficult. Each element in itself is rather simple - especially if you have some cooking/baking experience. I had to wing it in a few places but nothing overly troublesome.
Candy the pecans and then grind until it forms a paste - praline paste!

The recipe for the praline feuillete called for praline paste, which I didn't easily find anywhere (though didn't look too hard since I figured I'd just make it.) This above one is a pecan praline paste.

My praline feuillete didn't come together well until I used a
rolling pin; even then it was very crumbly on the edges

The praline feuillete was my absolute favorite part of the entremet. I found myself snacking on the scraps even days later. I used milk chocolate as the recipe called for - Ghirardelli to be exact... which is a local San Franciscan [tourists'] favorite. And instead of the gavottes I used the suggested Rice Krispies! Crushed down... no one had any idea! 1 recipe of praline feuillete and rolled thin made enough for 2 layers in the entremet. Since it was my favorite part I was happy for the double-up!

Making vanilla crème brûlée then promptly freezing it up!

I make a lot of crème brûlées but lemme tell you, this was the first time I'd man-handled it like this! :) Fortunately mine cooperated a bit easier than it seems others' did. I actually made a recipe and a half but only needed the 1 recipe. In fact, I wasn't sure how much this entire 18 page recipe would make but it turns out 1 recipe of each element (and a double recipe of the icing) was perfect if not a bit too much, for my 10" x 3" x 4.5" French loaf pan.

I didn't really need to make those 3 different sizes of cake -
thought it'd avoid having to cut it, but I still had to!

Making the dacquoise biscuit was pretty familiar for me after making batch after batch of French macarons last year. It's really the same formula with a bit of flour thrown in too. Though the resulting product is more cakey than chewy like a macaron. It got a little sticky as it sat out too.

I don't usually love chocolate mousse but with all the other
elements this was a very nice complement

The chocolate mousse is made with dark chocolate. You make a pate a bomb with egg yolks and a hot sugar syrup and then combine it with the chocolate and whipped cream. I decided to use a 70% cacao Scharffenberger dark chocolate, another local and even a bit more meaningful since they'll be going out of business soon. *Sniff*

So if you're following along and counting - that's four of the five "inside" elements. There was still a chocolate ganache and chocolate icing to make but those come later. At this point it was time to build my entremet and freeze it all together!

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an acetate transparency sheet. This allowed my otherwise roughly right angled loaf pan to produce a rounded top on my yule log. See above, how it forms a rounded U-shape in the bottom of the pan when you cut it just right and tape it to the sides?

So obviously we'll be filling this guy from the top to the bottom:

Fill the top with mousse then top it with the frozen
crème brûlée and push it down to embed it

After the crème brûlée I topped it with more mousse and carefully cut my praline feuillete to the correct size and shape. It's quite fragile!

Cutting the feuillete and piping more mousse over it after placing it in the mold

After a couple iterations, I had squashed in 7 thin layers by this point:
1. mousse
2. crème brûlée
3. mousse
4. praline feuillete
5. mousse
6. praline feuillete
7. mousse

and this is how much room I still had in my 3" tall loaf pan:

About 1/2" - 3/4" of space left at the top for the ganache and dacquoise

I froze those 7 layers until the mousse was firmed up on top. It probably took about an hour or maybe even less since the mousse has some stability on its own. Next it was time for the ganache!

Caramel + chocolate = yummerlicious ganache!

The ganache was truly decadent. Melt sugar, add cream - voilà you have caramel! Pour it over a combination of dark chocolate, chocolate chips and milk chocolate (I ran out of my Scharffenberger by this point but winged it with various other chocolate I had around - it was still fantastical!); add some butter and... mmmmmmm.

Glop on the ganache!

I still had some room at the top - you know what that means?
I could have added even more goodies!

And finally top with the almond dacquoise. I mentioned earlier that it got a bit sticky as it sat out - so next time I'd probably make sure the bottom of the cake was also the bottom of this mold (ie: put the top of the cake down first as you build from the bottom up). I found that the [sticky] cake stuck to my serving plate as I tried to dish it out.

Glazing is fun - as long as you wait until it cools and
thickens enough. Don't pour too early!

My mold sat in the freezer overnight and while I enjoyed my time at work the next day too. I got home Friday night and whipped up the chocolate icing. On the whole, I really am not a chocolate lover *GASP*SHOCK*BLASPHEME* I know, I know... but I'm just not! And while I enjoy an occasional dark chocolate, loads of bittersweet chocolate is just plain too bitter/strong for me. So since the icing recipe called for un-sweetened chocolate (eeks!) I decided to make it with half milk chocolate and kept the sugar amount the same. I really liked the result.

I let it sit on the counter for a little over an hour before cutting into it - perfect!

WHEW - are you tired of reading yet? Cuz by this point, I couldn't believe I'd been working on this thing for (honestly) the last 4 days! Saturday afternoon, I spun some sugar and totally forgot to non-stick-spray my mold, thus ended up with spun sugar shards (as opposed to a complete design) but I didn't care by this point. It looked just fine to me!

Surprising for someone who doesn't love chocolate: I loved this!

It. Was. Divine. I was even impressed with myself. Seriously I realize I'm tooting my own horn a bit - but it was amazing! And I fully admit that it's really not so much skill as it is organization which brings success with this dessert. Next time I have 4 free evenings in a row, I'll for sure make another!

Made 2 little guys with another half recipe of everything!

I made about half again as much during my 4 days - and was able to clog our arteries with a couple smaller versions over the last few nights. It's missing the ganache - but honestly, it's all so chocolatey I couldn't tell a difference! The one thing you absolutely can't leave out tho? That praline feuillete. YUM!

If you'd like to try your hand at it too - surf on over to Hilda's or Marion's blogs (our wonderful hostesses for this challenge) for the recipe.


  1. Can I have one?

    P.S. I also realized that in a previous comment, I somehow mistook your blog birthday for Lucca's birthday. Shows you how much I'm drawn to photos, rather than the writings.

  2. I bet that's the best turd/twix combo looking dessert of all time!

  3. Oh. My. Goodness.

    I read this entire post with such interest! I cannot believe you spent so much time on one dessert. Kudos to you. It turned out beautifully. And from someone who LOVES any and all chocolate, it looks divine! :o) I'm glad you enjoyed the process.

  4. lol for Bassel's comment.

    That is a crazy amount of work for one dessert. And you did it again?!??!

    It does look delicious though. And excellent use of FINE local chocolates. We was just at the Scharfen Berger (correct spelling, the wine is Scharfenberger :) factory this weekend. The chocolate is Berkeley factory is closing but the chocolate will be made back east. We are still bitter about it, since we have a friend a the factory.

  5. That looks unbelievable, I'm so hungry now!