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If I had to pick one thing to say to sum up the December 2008 Daring Bakers’ challenge, not to mention all the other challenges that we faced this year, it would be go big or go home!

Our lovely hostesses Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and Marion of Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux threw down the gauntlet big time by challenging Daring Bakers everywhere to make a French Yule Log. Their inspiration for the challenge comes from Flore of the site Florilege Gourmand.

Not to be confused with the Yule Log that the Daring Bakers tried last December, a French Yule Log is very reminiscent of an ice cream cake. For this particular challenge, our log had to have six distinct components: a dacquoise layer, a mousse layer, a creme brulee layer, a praline crisp layer, a ganache layer and an icing layer. The layers are assembled and then the entire creation is frozen. Hilda and Marion very kindly provided us with numerous variations for each element and also gave us the freedom to create whatever shape we liked.

As you can imagine, trying to juggle the preparation of such a dessert in the midst of all the preparations for the holidays was challenging to say the least. While I did find the time to make the French Yule Log, I’ll be honest, I rushed it and didn’t put the amount of effort into it that I would have liked.

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As a result, I chose the very basic versions of each of the component recipes. My dacquoise was the original almond version. I made the chocolate mousse and the dark chocolate ganache insert. I went with the basic creme brulee layer and I used Rice Krispies to make my praline crisp layer. For the icing, I used a mixture of chocolates that I had left over from other baking endeavours this month which means there were bits of dark chocolate and bits of milk chocolate in there.

One day I’d love to own a proper French Yule Log mold but I used an 8 x 4-inch loaf mold instead. Because I rushed everything, my layers (while they’re all there) were not nearly as defined as the layers that you’ll see in some of the other amazing logs out there.

Also, my icing layer just wouldn’t set for me. I ended up having to soften more gelatin, which I added to the icing to help it along. To further complicate the icing, my chocolate pieces didn’t melt very well so you can see some chocolate lumps in the finished product.

It’s a shame and certainly a poor reflection on me as far as this month goes because in the end, the log was truly delicious. Everyone loved it and when you slice into it, you can’t help but be impressed by the look of the layers. I walked away thinking that I really would like to try this one again when I have the time to take each step slowly and seriously.

Hilda and Marion are featuring the recipe on their respective blogs. I’d like to extend my thanks to both of these wonderful women who really came up with an exclamation mark for 2008 for the Daring Bakers.

I’d also like to extend my thanks to a few other members who are invaluable. First of all, Helene of Tartelette is a constant source of patience and knowledge. Whenever we’re stumped with a baking question, we know we can turn to her.

Without Natalie of Gluten a Go Go, I don’t know what our alternative bakers would do. Lis and I would probably end up in a corner somewhere crying. With infinite patience, Natalie just keeps coming through for us.

And then there’s Mary of Beans and Caviar (and her son) who have dramatically changed the way that this group operates with the blog-checking program. Mary has also been invaluable in sorting through any discrepancies.

I’d like to give a shout out to Courtney of Coco Cooks who is our “events coordinator”. She very generously posts any events that Daring Bakers’ might be interested in and keeps us all up-to-date.

And then there’s Lis. Where would I be without my co-founder and partner in this crazy and wondrous thing we call The Daring Bakers?! Thanks, Lis!

To all our DBers out there, we love you! We would be nothing without you! Keep up the daring spirit and let’s make 2009 our best year yet.

And finally, a thank you to all of you! Without the thousands of readers who show their appreciation each month for the bravery shown by Daring Bakers everywhere, it just wouldn’t be the same.

Here’s to a great year for the DB in 2009 (something tells me it’s going to be incredible … )!

Ciao!