me Try to embark on these columns with an open mind: to engage the spirit of strict scientific impartiality in the pursuit of culinary perfection. This week, however, as I rolled roulade after roulade, whipped cream quietly spilled onto the counter in front of me, I realized I wasn’t just striving for perfection, but trying to recreate a very specific sensory memory from decades ago. The first mention of Roald’s chocolates in the archives of British newspapers came in 1976, but references peaked in the late 1990s, when they also seemed to pop up at every special occasion I attended as a greedy teenager, often accompanied by a trendy fruit collie.
Strictly speaking, of course, roulade simply refers to anything wrapped—beef olives are roulades, as are Involtini, French cream cheese flavored with herbs and garlic—but these rolls have always been sweet and rich enough to react poorly to malnutrition. It is advisable to take glasses of wine in advance. It was also so delicious that we didn’t care. But even if you don’t have the same fond memories, roulade has several things to recommend it as a festive dessert: It’s best made in advance, it’s often gluten-free, and it looks amazing. So embrace retro this Christmas — it’s a classic for a reason.
As if to enhance the old-school nature of the mission, the recipes recommended by mothers of school friends include all-time greats like Delia Smith, Mrs. Claire MacDonald, Mary Berry, the late Joyce Molyneux, and the Leith Baking Bible, all of which I pass on to you in the spirit of seasonal generosity. .
“For some reason, I seem to be surrounded by people with special dietary requirements,” Chantal Coady, founder of Rococo Chocolates, explains in her 2003 book Real Chocolate. Her roulettes are gluten- and dairy-free, using ground almonds instead of flour. In fact, it turns out that all the recipes I try are gluten-free: Perry and Leith leave out flour entirely, while Harry Eastwood’s version, in her book Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache, uses rice flour and — in keeping with the healthy baking theme of her book — grated sweet potatoes for moisture. Eastwood is the lightest, full of flavor but flexible enough to roll without a single crack, and Quady is the denser and richer, with a slightly grainy sweetness, and nuts that work well with chocolate. However, unless you want a perfect spiralizer, I recommend keeping things simple by leaving out the flour component entirely; Perry’s recipe gets particular praise for its melt-in-the-mouth texture, while some testers loved Roulette Leith’s subtle coffee notes.
Having said that, none of these recipes hit the right notes for me—I remember the rolls of the old days with the crisp, sugary crust and slightly sticky interior, like rolled meringues, while all of these recipes are more like Swiss rolls. Tempting to cover with chocolate icing and decorate like a charming rustic trunk. I spent some time fruitlessly trying to prove the technical difference between a Swiss roll and a roulade (and concluded that a Swiss roll is simply a type of roulade), before I came across a recipe by Melbourne baker Nat Powell that seemed to fit the bill. It is similar to Berry and Leiths, in that it uses whipped egg whites flavored with sugar and chocolate, but instead of folding the yolks in as well, for a fluffier result, Paull leaves it in the form of a meringue, which makes it sweeter, but almost fat-free. this is It’s the roulade I’ve been looking for, with a sugary, crunchy exterior that makes a nice contrast to the rich, sweet creaminess of the filling, both of which temper the bitterness of the chocolate. Accurate hit on the target.
Note that making such a roulade is a good way to free the yolk from the custard, which is always welcome, but if you’d rather not mess with leftover yolks, you can buy egg whites in cartons at big box supermarkets.
Berry and Leiths both use melted chocolate in their doughs, while Eastwood and Coady use cocoa powder (Molyneaux writes in The Carved Angel Cookery Book that “many years ago I used melted chocolate in the sponge mixture for my chocolate roulade and very well it was. But now I I use cocoa instead, which I think is even better, which gives it a bittersweet taste.” If you’re making a spongy version, melted chocolate will make it richer, because it adds fat as well as flavor. But for the meringue version, which I’m going to make, cocoa butter would be Kiss death, because this fat will blow out the air bubbles you whipped into the egg whites, and leave you with the end result. Based on the advice of Anna Higham, pastry chef and author of The Last Bite, though, I couldn’t resist adding some chocolate chips too, plus some Mixed Spices: Well, it’s Christmas, after all.
The simplest option is Whipped Cream of Berry, though my testers prefer Leith’s slightly sweetened version. Keep in mind that cream is a blank canvas, however – I try whisking in some ginger wine in one batch (drink from ginger jars will also work well, as would rum, whiskey, or brandy) and orange zest in another. Alternatively, double the chocolate element with an ultra-rich chocolate mousse from Molyneux, or a condensed water (and dairy-free) ganache from Coady’s, which can also be flavored with tea, coffee, or indeed “cardamom, orange flower water, a drop of essential oil or some Pieces of fruit or some wine.”
I love the contrast between the tenderness of the cream and the meringue sugar, however, and I’ve kept the filling quite simple, except for the chestnut puree Eastwood uses, which adds festive flavor without adding too much sweetness, and Paull’s fruit, which adds a welcome sharpness and splash of color. Stores are full of lovely plump fruit this time of year, although thawed berries can also be useful. happy birthday!
The perfect chocolate roulade
to equip 10 minutes
cook 1 hour
Cold 2 hours +
To prepare the meringue
50 grams of cocoa powderPlus more dust
1 teaspoon mixed spices (my choice)
50 grams of dark chocolate or chocolate chips (my choice)
180 grams of egg white (for example, from 5 large eggs or 6 small eggs)
a pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartaror 12 teaspoons neutral vinegar or lemon juice
300 grams of soft sugar
250 ml double cream
200 grams of local chestnut puree (or use plain puree with whipped powdered sugar to taste)
A handful of fruits of your choice – I used cherries in brandy
Preheat oven to 160°C (Fan 140°C) / 325°F / Gas 3, and line a shallow 22cm x 30cm oven tray with greaseproof paper.
Sift cocoa and mixed spices, if using, into a bowl and set aside. Chop the chocolate into chips, if necessary.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl or food mixer with the salt and cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form, then gradually beat in the sugar until the meringue mixture is thick, glossy, and falls in ribbons from the whisk.
Add the cocoa and most of the chocolate chips, then add the cocoa until well blended, being careful not to let out too much air.
Pour the meringue onto the lined pan in a single layer and smooth the top gently, to flatten it, while keeping as much air out as possible.
Sprinkle the remaining chocolate all over, then bake for 30-40 minutes, until the meringue is dry and textured on top but still squishy underneath. Take it out and leave it to cool on the tray.
Once the meringue has cooled, start with the filling.
Whisk the cream until it is puffy and softened, then add the chestnut puree and taste—it shouldn’t be too sweet, because it will pair with the meringue, but adjust if necessary.
Lay a large sheet of clingfilm (you can also use greaseproof paper or a tea towel, but I find clingfilm easier here) on a work surface and dust it all over with cocoa powder.
Carefully flip the meringue onto it, so that the long sides are parallel to the long sides of the film, then flip it over so that one of the short sides is facing you. Cut a shallow piece across the width of the meringue, about 2cm from the end closest to you.
Spread the cream all over the top of the meringue, then drizzle it over the fruit, if using, and place a line of fruit roughly where you scored the cut: this will be the center of the roulade later.
Use tape to help you tuck the closest end of the meringue over the fruit line, then roll everything up as tightly as you can, finishing with the seam underneath. The roulade should be completely wrapped in clingfilm, and can now be refrigerated until ready to serve, ideally for at least 2 hours.
Transfer the roll seam-side down to a plate, carefully unwrap it, top with more cocoa powder, and serve.
Does this roulette game bring back happy memories of the past century, or have you just never stopped making them? Are you a swiss roll team or a meringue team, and what are your favorite flavors?