The yule log is the most widely recognized Christmas dinner dessert to come out of the European tradition, but most people regard it as being too complicated to make at home. For that reason, most people who serve a yule log buy it at a bakery and may pay $50 or more for a 10-inch cake.
The yule log's forbidding reputation is undeserved. I'm here to tell you that a cook who has a sense of adventure and a jelly roll pan can make a perfectly tasty yule log in his or her own kitchen.
I like the following recipe, which comes from "Peachtree Bouquet," a cookbook published by the Junior League of DeKalb County, Ga., because the filling is walnut, rather than simply frosting.
If you really want to dress up the log to look like a wooden log, you can forgo the glaze and substitute a recipe for a stiff chocolate frosting. Using a spatula in horizontal strokes, you can make the frosting look like bark. As a seasonal touch, you can set a sprig of holly around the candle you'll place in the center of the log.
The log is uncomplicated to make, yet the process is time-consuming because the roll has to chill for eight hours after being assembled. Even so, you might consider baking more than one, and giving away extras as gifts.
Walnut Yule Log
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1/4 cup sweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease 15-inch-by-10-inch-by-1-inch jelly roll pan. Line bottom with greased waxed paper. Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder into small bowl. Beat eggs in medium bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating constantly until mixture is very thick. Stir in water and vanilla; fold in flour mixture.
Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 12 minutes, or until center springs back when lightly touched.
Loosen cake around edges and invert pan onto clean towel lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Peel off waxed paper. Starting at one of the short sides, roll cake and towel up together. Place seam side down on wire rack; cool completely. Unroll cake carefully; spread with about 2/3 of Walnut Filling. Roll, lifting cake with end of towel. Place, seam side down, on small platter. Spread remaining Walnut Filling over roll.
Chill 8 hours or overnight. Spread Chocolate Glaze over roll or drizzle on top. Garnish with chopped walnuts. Chill until time to serve.
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon powdered instant coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Combine egg yolks, granulated sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan. Blend in half and half. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Let cool and then chill.
Meanwhile, in medium bowl of electric mixer, beat butter until soft and smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat until smooth. Dissolve coffee in vanilla; add to filling in mixer bowl. Gradually add chilled egg-yolk mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until light and fluffy. Fold in nuts.
4 1-ounce squares semi-sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon half and half
In double boiler over hot, not boiling, water, melt chocolate with butter and milk, stirring occasionally until smooth. Let stand 5 minutes.