This is the last of my marathon of strawberry desserts (more are coming, just not at marathon pace 😮 ). Today: a Strawberry and Creme Mousseline filled Swiss Roll:
Now if you know anything about Swiss Rolls, you know that the above photo bears very little resemblance to any other Swiss Roll out there. I had grand visions for this, really: a rich, buttery pastry cream (the Creme Mousseline), sliced strawberries, all drizzled with some strawberry coulis, wrapped artfully in a light as air sponge cake. I mean honestly, that sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it? Every step of making this dessert went wonderfully and each component tasted amazing, but at the very last step–the most important step–eh, not so successful.
The last step, you see, is where you roll this up into a beautifully presented cake, the roll in Swiss Roll. Basically, you have a large, rectangular sheet of cake with the filling spread out on it, and then you roll it up tightly to get a nice, pinwheel kind of look. I had a tough time getting it to roll properly and the fillings would slip out of place a bit. I was nervous, trying to support the gentle cake so it wouldn’t rip, adjusting things slowly and deliberately, hoping that somehow I could get this thing to roll up. These cautious movements didn’t get me very far, so instead, I thought that like other desserts that require fast, decisive movements, I would just go for it. So in one swift motion, I rolled that damn thing as best I could, and then, in slow motion, I watched as it came crashing down on itself, vomiting its delicious contents all over the counter top and unrolling into a sweet, sticky mess of what wonderful things could have been.
Normally, when things go sour in the kitchen, I might have a bit of a temper. However, this time, standing there with pastry cream and strawberry spread everywhere, I wasn’t mad. I just laughed and thought of picking a sprig from my pathetic mint plant to stick in the middle of it for a photo, you know, to dress it up a little. 😉 So here’s how things looked after a bit of clean-up (sans mint):
I’ve had a tough time naming this dish. Sure, I set out with the goal of making a Strawberry Swiss Roll, but the result was more of a humble pie. Fail cake? Strawberry Swiss Unroll? Strawberry shortcake cobbler? Strawberry pastry crumble? Strawberry disaster? I’m very open to suggestions–surely the photo inspires you? Throw some names out there–you won’t hurt my feelings. 😉
But an important note about not judging a book by its cover: while this looks like hell, it tasted awesome. Flavor-wise, I wouldn’t change a thing–the cake was incredibly light and fluffy, letting the pastry cream and strawberries really shine while absorbing any errant juices. Strawberries and cream are a natural combination, but going a step further with Creme Mousseline was really quite a treat because that stuff is rich (if you’re not sure of what it is, think rich, buttery pastry cream). I would most certainly revisit this dessert, just armed with a better plan for how to assemble it, perhaps not in swiss roll form.
This also, is the last of my numerous entries to Strawberry Seduction, an event focused on strawberries. I derived some portions of this dish from Le Cordon Bleu’s Complete Cooking Techniques (which as far as cooking books go, is an incredible reference for…everything. Brief, but thorough).
- Sponge cake
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- Creme Mousseline
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 Tbsp flour
- 4 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2.5 cups milk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- Optional: vanilla bean
- 1 lb strawberries
The ingredients to the cake are pretty minimal, so a big part of actually fluffing this cake up is beating air into the eggs. Of course, without any cream of tartar, baking soda, or other leavening agents, that could be a tricky one. The trick? Patience and gentle heat. And a good mixer–either you take steroids and can beat the hell out of eggs for an extended period of time, or you have an electric mixer. Guess which category this software engineer falls in?
Before you do anything, prepare a pan by greasing the bottom/sides and press in a piece of parchment paper (for easy cake removal) against the bottom of the pan. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
So begin by adding the eggs and sugar into a heat-safe bowl. Set this up over a pan of hot water (very gently simmering) such that the bowl is not making direct contact with the water (just like you would for melting chocolate). With this all set up, using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs on high speed until fairly thick–thick enough, that you can lift the beaters and do a figure eight, sort of like you see in the above photo. This could take several minutes, so don’t panic if nothing seems to be happening right away.
Once the eggs have thickened nicely, take the bowl off of the heat and continue to whisk as it cools down for about 3-5 minutes until it is very thick. After this, very gently fold in the flour in batches, doing as little as necessary to avoid beating out all of that air you’ve worked on beating in.
Carefully pour this into the prepared pan, keeping the handling to a minimum, and transfer this to the oven for about 5 minutes. The cake should turn golden, rise, and be spongy when pressed lightly. Once done, get this out of the oven, knife the sides free, and carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack so that it can cool off.
In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. If you’re using the vanilla bean (I didn’t bother, but its always a nice touch), slit the bean, scrape the insides, and place all of this in the milk pan. Drop the heat and let the vanilla steep in the milk for about 30 minutes before you continue, after which, you should raise to boiling again.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until well mixed, at which point, you should then whisk in the flour and cornstarch. Once the milk is boiling, slowly mix it into the egg yolk mixture (temper it first with a small amount of the hot milk or risk scrambling the eggs!). Mix this well and transfer the entire mixture back into the hot saucepan.
Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring all the while (it will be tough, that mixture thickens up quickly!), stirring until large bubbles begin to breach the surface. Drop the heat to low and just keep stirring until the mixture becomes very thick, and just when you decide you’re done, add in the butter bits at a time, mixing until entirely melted down and incorporated. Let this cool off a bit before you continue–life will be easier and it will become more pastry-cream looking (since right now, its not so attractive or easy to work with).
The strawberries were very simple to prepare: hull and slice the berries thinly. I pureed some of them (about 1/4 of them) and reduced the puree for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat to be more syrupy and reserved the slices.
Putting it all together
This is where things have the opportunity to go south–I would know. 😉 So you have the completed cake, which has cooled off, the creme which has also cooled off a bit, and the strawberries and puree. First, spread the creme out as best you can evenly over the cake, after which, lay out the strawberry slices and drizzle on the puree.
And here we are. The moment of truth. This is where, with great ease, you should roll the cake along the shorter side (so you’d have a long thin roll). We’ll just say mine came out very close to this photo. 😉 Some pointers: put a towel or something that won’t slip underneath the cake, followed by a layer of wax paper. Use the wax paper to help you roll and grip the cake, rolling as tightly as you can. If you think “just going for it” will do the trick, go back to the top of this post and look at my photos. 😉 If you successfully roll it up, sprinkle some powdered sugar over the top, have a drink to celebrate, tell me the secret, and enjoy! If it falls apart, have two drinks and enjoy!