Since this blog is supposed to be about cooking my way through my cookbooks, it seems that I have to admit a failure when I have one. This is the Chocolate Hazelnut Roulade from Alice Medrich's Chocolate Holidays, and it's the dessert my fiance requests for his birthday every single year. Medrich describes this roulade as "rustic-looking" which is always a draw, since that means it doesn't have to be perfect. However, this has been a hit or miss recipe for me, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. This time it didn't.
It never totally fails, because it always tastes delicious, but sometimes I can't get it to roll properly. Medrich says not to worry about some cracking at first, but I don't think by cracking she means falling to pieces, which is what happened this year. We ended up with more of a chocolate blob smothered in cream. And I've made successful roulades before, ones that actually roll, including this one. I think the problem was that I baked the cake for a bit too long, causing it to shatter rather than roll. Next time I try this (and my fiance will make sure there's a next time) I'll cook it closer to 10-11 minutes. We'll see if that helps.
Chocolate Hazelnut Roulade
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and cooled, skins rubbed off (the easiest way to do this is to put the hazelnuts in a dish towel, fold it up bean-bag style, and just start rubbing everything together)
2 tablespoons flour
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (for domestic chocolate it should be bittersweet or semisweet, for an artisan or imported chocolate the percentage should be between 50-72 percent)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2-3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 teaspoons instant espresso or coffee powder (I love Medaglia D'oro)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons sugar
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Oven preheated to 350, one 16x12 or 17x11" jelly-roll pan lined with parchment or was paper, or foil.
For the cake
Pulse the nuts and the four in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Set aside. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until the mixture is pale and thick, stir in the warm chocolate and set aside. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer set on medium speed to the soft peaks stage. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating at high speed until stiff but not dry.
Fold about 1/4 of the egg white mixture and all of the hazelnut mixture into the chocolate. Fold in the remaining egg whites. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared jelly-roll pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle come out with moist crumbs, about 12-15 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
Once the cake is cooled, sift a dusting of cocoa over a 16" sheet of foil (reserve the remaining cocoa) and invert the cake onto the foil. Peel off the pan liner.
Whip the first three ingredients until the mixture begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until it holds a soft shape. Spread the cream over the cake and, starting at a short end, begin to roll the cake, using the foil to help you. If the cake cracks at first, that's okay because it will diminish as the roll gets thicker. Wrap the rolled roulade in foil and refrigerate until serving.
To serve (I never really made it to this part, since my roulade is sitting on a plate in a big pile of chocolate shards and espresso cream!)
Sift a little more cocoa powder over the roulade, or use a little powdered sugar, or both. Dig in.