STRAWBERRY ROULADE

If you haven’t thought about what you’re taking to the Easter get-together that’s fast approaching, I think I have just the dessert that’s going to make you sparkle in the crowd. This strawberry meringue roulade with hazelnuts and hint of orange is the answer to all my dessert dreams. And in light of it’s lusciousness, I couldn’t think of a better dessert to welcome the most wonderful time of the year for me, Spring.

How I love spring-time! In the season of rebirth, so many of our best loved fruit and veg say  pronto once again and none more notably than strawberries. One cannot simply take a casual stroll down these cobbled streets without succumbing to the strawberry seduction. These temptresses dressed in passionate red, line the sidewalks by the dozens in cartons, carts and crates and if it’s not their presence that makes you ogle, their irresistible perfume will have you parting with your pennies in no time. Luckily there’s always a fountain nearby so strawberries can be washed before its  juices trickle down your lips in quiet seclusion under the warm Italian sun for a small taste of La Dolce Vita.

And because I love strawberries so much when I do find the willpower to let them accompany me home, I feel obliged to give them a more respectable end. There’s so many ways to love strawberries and none more sublime than through a meringue roulade. Meringue roulade flavour combinations are endless and you can make your very own unique variation by using what’s seasonal to you. The only unspoken rule to flavouring a roulade is to remember that meringue is exceptionally sweet and will always need the help of something that balances the sweetness to make it a pleasure to eat. A variety of berries usually fair well in desserts featuring meringue, for the reason that berries are often tart. Lemon curd is famous in lemon meringue pie for this same reason and has been known to make a great tasting roulade as well.
In my variation the berries are marinated with a dash of orange liqueur while the unbaked meringue is flecked with orange zest for an additional citrus bouquet. Prompted by the addition of orange, crushed hazelnuts makes an appearance for that perfect hazel and orange combination. The meringue is then baked just enough for the outer layers to crack when rolled and for the nuts to toast and bring out their maximum nuttiness creating a beautiful, crumbly meringue shell and a soft, melt in your mouth interior. Fresh cream and naturally sweet mascarpone are whisked to billowy clouds to be dolloped over the eager meringue before the blushing strawberries add their glamour. Rolling it all up is about the most intimidating part of making a roulade but with the help of a piece parchment paper, just about anyone can be taking this gorgeous dessert to the party.

You can’t go wrong with this dessert, it has everything the heart desires. The sharp, freshness of fruit, to the sweetness of meringue, to the crunchy nuts against the soft whipped cream, these contrasting textures and flavours form an incredibly harmonious   balance that’s literally rolled into one. And saving the best for last I ought to tell you that it takes less than an hour to put this all together from start to finish, it couldn’t be simpler. And if you want to get a head-start you’ll be pleased to know this dessert is great to freeze and can be made days in advance. Can I sing it’s praises more than I already have? I probably can but I’m hoping you’ll soon taste it for yourself.

STRAWBERRY ROULADE 01

 


Ingredients (serves six-eight)
  • 4 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 225 castor sugar
  • 30g crushed hazelnuts
  • 200g strawberries
  • 250ml fresh cream
  • 150g mascarpone
  • 2 tsp Grand Marnier/orange liqueur
  • zest of 1 orange
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting
Preparation
  1. Grease and line a 33x23cm sheet pan or oven tin with parchment and then grease the top of the parchment with a little canola oil to prevent meringue from sticking to the parchment.
  2. Preheat oven to 180°C gas fan / 190°C electric fan / 210°C conventional.
  3. Set aside a few strawberries for decoration before slicing the rest into small pieces. Place in a bowl, add liqueur, cover and allow to marinate in the fridge till needed.
  4. In a grease-free bowl whip egg whites for two minutes before adding in the sugar a tablespoon at a time. Don’t rush the addition of the sugar, each addition must dissolve before the next so continue whisking while slowly adding the sugar, cleaning the sides of the bowl from time to time.
  5. When the meringue reaches stiff peak stage, where the beater forms upright peaks when lifted, feel the mixture between two fingers. If it feels sandy, whisk some more until it feels smooth.
  6. When meringue is ready, add the orange zest in and fold it through until combined.
  7. Transfer the meringue onto the prepared baking dish and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle over the crushed nuts.
  8. Bake for ten minutes then lower the temperature by 20°C and bake for a further six minutes.
  9. While the meringue is baking, place a sizeable piece of parchment onto a work-top and dust it with confectioners sugar. The baked meringue will be turned out onto the parchment so ensure that its large enough and well dusted so the meringue doesn’t stick to it.
  10. When the meringue has completed baking time, turn it over onto the dusted parchment by carefully holding the tin and allowing the meringue to drop down. The nut-side should be facing down with the underside on top. Gently peel off the baking paper attached to the meringue, roughly cover the meringue again with the paper and let cool.
  11. Meanwhile beat mascarpone in a chilled bowl until smooth. Add fresh cream and whip together until firm but still soft enough to smear onto the meringue with ease. (Medium peak stage).
  12. When the meringue feels to cool to the touch, spoon on the cream, leaving the edges bare to make rolling easier.
  13. Spoon the marinated berries over the cream.Begin to roll the meringue into a roulade from top to bottom using the parchment paper underneath as a guide. The meringue will crack and break along the folds but that is perfectly normal, keep rolling using the paper and gently roll it from the paper onto a serving plate.
  14. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Refrigeration will help to keep the shape.
  15. Decorate with sliced strawberries and dust with confectioners sugar.
  16. Best served cold.

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Maestros Need to Know

*Meringue is basically a combination of sugar and egg whites that has vast amounts of air incorporated into it by vigourous whisking. During the whisking process the meringue reaches various stages from soft peak stage to stiff peak stage. For traditional meringue dessert, this aerated mixture is dried out in the oven for a long baking time and a low temperature. Unbaked meringue mixtures are often used to lighten and aerate a variety of batters.

*For this recipe, the meringue mixture uses the French method which is one of the easiest and simplest meringue methods to use. Unlike Italian meringue where the sugar is dissolved in the form of a syrup or Swiss meringue where the sugar is dissolved with the whites over a bain marie, French method meringue simply relies on the addition of sugar in small measures during the whisking process to ensure that the sugar crystals dissolve properly. So remember to be mindful about adding the sugar. Always make sure that one addition of sugar is dissolved before next when whisking the egg whites. If the sugar is not dissolved properly, the meringue will start to give off moisture while baking in a process known as weeping. Weeping is a sign that the undissolved sugar is now melting with the heat. This results in floppy baked meringue instead of stiff baked meringue.

*Always remember that when making meringue the most important lesson is to keep everything that comes in contact with the whites, grease free. Starting from the moment that you separate the eggs. Do not allow any yolk whatsoever to come into contact with the whites. If you are not skilled at separating eggs I advise that you separate each egg individually before combining the whites all together. In this way if you make a mistake and some yolk ends up falling into the whites, you do not have to lose the entire batch. Also ensure that the beater and bowl are grease free. To double-check this you may rub everything down with drops of lemon juice to cut out the grease. All of this is to ensure that the meringue will form, any presence of oil or grease causes egg whites to lose its capacity to hold air.

*With regards to how crumbly you want your meringue to be, that will depend on the baking time. If you want a really cracky shell, try baking it for a little longer. Every oven works differently so it's unlikely that every bake will yield the same result. Gas ovens especially tend to be more humid than electric therefore the drying out process that meringue needs may take a bit more time. It all depends on your oven. Follow the baking instructions here but once that time has passed, open the oven and touch the meringue and decide for yourself if you prefer the outer shell a bit more stiff , if so extend the baking time by five minutes. 

*Remember that this meringue is not baked to its full potential, it's a rapidly baked meringue for the reason that it needs to be rolled, if it's baked for too long it will not be flexible enough to roll. By removing it from the oven prematurely it will begin to deflate. This happens because of the change of temperature and when making a roulade the deflation is perfectly normal so don't be alarmed by it. When meringue is baked for traditional meringue it is dried out or baked on a lower heat for a longer time and never taken out of the oven immediately. Instead it is allowed to drop temperature gradually by keeping it in the oven while the oven is switched off and the bake is complete. Rapid temperature changes deflate meringue.

*Certain recipes call for the use of cornflour and vinegar for a "squidgy" result. This however is not traditional meringue but rather Pavlova. The addition of these two ingredients prevents the egg whites from drying out completely with the heat, resulting in a soft, gooey interior. For roulade however, because of its rapid bake the interior is always soft regardless of the addition of vinegar and cornflour and therfore not used in this recipe.

*As you have probably seen from the preparation instructions, the parchment paper is greased on both sides. One side is greased to prevent the paper from slipping when smoothing out the meringue before baking. The upper side is also greased to make doubly sure that the meringue will not stick to the paper after baking.
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