Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chocolate roulade

I've got some frightening news, lunchbox dessert enthusiasts.  You might want to sit down.  Are you ready for this?  

Hostess, the maker of Ho-Hos and Twinkies, has filed for bankruptcy.

Noooooooo!  Ho-Hos just may be my all-time favorite packaged dessert.  I'd beg my mom to pack one in my lunchbox for school.  It wasn't a daily treat, or even weekly, but when it was there, by golly, I was one very giddy girl.

As if this comes as any surprise to you, I took my Ho-Ho eating very seriously.  I was methodical like a surgeon -- a sugary mastermind! -- when it came to that chocolate-covered cake roll.  

First, I'd carefully peel off the hard chocolate, ends first, piece by piece. 

I'd next unroll the icing-filled cake as gingerly as possible.

Then, I'd eat that now-much-bigger "sheet" of chocolate cake topped with creamy icing, bite by bite, until the whole thing was gone.  

Maybe the whole ceremony was a bit bizarre looking back on it, but I can't judge my young self too much... because I'd probably still eat a Ho-Ho in the same manner today.  Old habits die hard :)

Older and a bit wiser, I got to thinking: since the whole reason for the unwrapping and unrolling was to make the cake last longer, why not make a bigger cake that'll last even longer?  And hey, since Hostess may not be around much longer, why not make it myself?  (You know I love my copycat treats.)

I give you the chocolate roulade!

Same great tastes but kicked up a few notches.  Instead of a super sweet chocolatey exterior, this chocolate cake roll is dusted with cocoa powder.  The unsweetened cocoa creates an intensely chocolate flavor that balances the sweet and creamy vanilla filling.  And I played with the filling a bit and added yellow food coloring for a Steelers-themed dessert for our New Year's Day celebration.

Yes, I've had this waiting on the web for over two weeks.  And although the Steelers won that game against the Browns, they've since lost to Tebow and the Broncos, who have just been defeated by Brady and the Patriots.  

But guess who won?  Alllllllllll of us who enjoyed seconds and even thirds (ahem) chocolate roulade.

Listen, I don't care how old, married, and mature I'm expected to be.  This is a giant Ho-Ho.  And a glorious one at that.  Don't you agree?

One year ago: Sweet & spicy rubbed salmon

Chocolate Roulade
(adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe with a little technique help from Smitten Kitchen)

A few notes: While this does require some patience, it's certainly not rocket science.  Don't let the lengthy directions fool you -- I went the uber-detailed route just to make sure it's easy for even a novice baker.  And, hey, as you can see, my cake cracked.  Do you know how said cracked cake tasted?  Absolutely delicious!

7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brewed coffee (or water)
7 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt chocolate with coffee or water in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Let cool completely.

Whisk together yolks and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add chocolate mixture, whisking until incorporated.

Whisk whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture, using a rubber spatula, until combined, being careful not to deflate whites.  Spread batter evenly on lined baking sheet. Bake until cake is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Transfer sheet to a wire rack.  Cover the top with a light damp towel or two layers of damp paper towels for 10 minutes.  Gently remove the towels; don't fuss if they have a bit of cake stuck to them.  Run a knife around the edges of cake.  Sift one tablespoon of cocoa powder over the top of the cake and cover the cake with a thin tea towel (preferably not a white one) that is a little longer than the pan.  Place the back of a baking sheet over the towel and invert the cake and paper onto it.  Gently peel back the parchment that lined the pan.  Sift the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder over the top of the cake (that was, just a minute ago, the bottom). Using the towel underneath to help lift and roll the cake, roll the cake from short end to short end with the towel inside.  Let cool completely, encased in its towel.

Beat cream, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form.  Unroll the cake and spread filling evenly over top of cake, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges, and tightly roll, starting at 1 short side.  Transfer to a baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Lightly dust cake with cocoa powder before serving.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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