On holiday, one tends to think there are never too many side dishes or desserts.
Cocoa Bean Almond Roulade
Serves 10 to 12
A simple filling of blackberry or black raspberry preserves and fresh whipped cream in a soft meringue studded with toasted nuts and lots of toasted cocoa beans makes a light and sophisticated dessert with intriguing flavors and textures. Or dress it up with a cloak of chocolate ganache glaze.
For the Roulade
1½ cups (7½ ounces/215 grams) unblanched whole almonds
1½ tablespoons (12 grams) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (45 grams) roasted cocoa nibs
6 large egg whites (about ¾ cup), at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar for dusting
For the Filling
Scant ½ cup blackberry or black raspberry fruit spread or jam
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Ganache Glaze (below; optional)
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Spread the almonds on a cookie sheet. Toast them in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly colored. Let cool completely.
3. Combine the toasted almonds, flour, and ½ cup (100 grams) of the sugar in a food processor and pulse to a medium-fine texture. Add the nibs and pulse to a fine meal. Set aside.
4. In a clean, dry mixer bowl or other large bowl, combine the egg whites with the cream of tartar and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Increase the speed and gradually add the remaining ¼ cup (100 grams) sugar, then beat until the meringue forms stiff but not dry peaks. Pour the nut mixture over the meringue, and fold it in with a large rubber spatula just until evenly dispersed. Spread the batter evenly in the lined pan.
5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and springy to the touch. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack. (The cake can be prepared up to 2 days ahead; cover the pan tightly with foil or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.)
6. To assemble the cake: Using a fine-mesh strainer, shake a very light dusting of powdered sugar over the cake. Run a small knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan. Cover with a sheet of foil. Holding the foil and pan edges together at both ends, invert the pan onto the counter. Remove the pan and peel off the parchment liner.
7. Spread a very thin layer of fruit spread evenly over the cake. In a large bowl, whip the cream with the vanilla until it holds a good shape without being stiff (it will stiffen further when you spread it). Spread the cream over the jam. Starting at one short edge, roll the cake up like a jelly roll. Wrap the roll in the foil and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The roulade can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)
8. To serve, unwrap the roulade and transfer to a serving platter. Sift additional powdered sugar over the top, if desired, or frost with the ganache glaze, pouring it or spreading it over the roll.
Ganache Glaze or Frosting
Makes 11⁄2 to 13⁄4 cups
Pour it warm for a beautiful glaze, cool it and slather it like a frosting. Of the two amounts given for the cream, use the smaller quantity if making the glaze or filling and the larger if making frosting. This may seem counterintuitive, but spreading cool ganache makes it harder after it sets.
8 ounces (225 grams) 54% to 60% chocolate, chopped into small pieces (see Chocolate Notes)
¾ to 1 cup heavy cream, plus extra as necessary
Pinch of salt (optional)
1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer and immediately pour it over the chocolate. Stir briskly until the chocolate is melted and smooth. If the glaze is too thick or looks curdled, stir in a little extra cream. Taste and consider adding the salt.
2. To use as frosting—or for crumb coating a cake before glazing it—let cool, without stirring, to a soft frosting consistency. To use as glaze, reheat gently in a pan of hot water (or let cool if just made) to 90°F to 100°F (for optimal shine) before pouring. The consistency of the glaze or frosting can be adjusted at any time with more cream as necessary.
(The glaze can be kept, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week; or freeze it in a sealed container for up to 6 months. Soften or defrost in a pan of hot water or in the microwave.)
To use a higher-percentage chocolate, adjust the recipe as follows.
To use 61% to 66% chocolate: Increase the cream to 1¼ to 1½ cups. Pour only half of the cream over the chocolate and stir well before adding the rest.
To use 70% to 72% chocolate: Reduce the chocolate to 7 ounces (200 grams) and increase the cream to 1 to 1¼ cups. Add about 1 tablespoon (13 grams) sugar to the cream before heating it. Pour only half of the cream over the chocolate and stir well before adding the rest.
You can adjust the sweetness of the ganache by adding more sugar after you make and taste it.
"Excerpted from Seriously Bitter Sweet by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Deborah Jones."