I have a tendency to make things really complicated on myself. When I complete something small, it’s as if a green light goes off to try and accomplish something tediously complex. Sometimes this doesn’t work out as well as the dreamed up plan. It usually ends in stress, disappointment, and sometimes the idea will cease because of sheer boredom for the tedious task.
Generally this is my problem when it comes to art. I’ll concoct these elaborate ideas and pieces in my head, full of color and abstract angles. Pieces that would generally take weeks to complete, but I imagine it to be smooth sailing- a frameworthy picture in days. The concept is hilarious. For one, I’m a heavy user of graphite, and quite afraid of colored pencils and paints. And two, because I work mostly in realism and photo references, most dreamed up fantasy work would explode and turn to mush once I transfered it from brain to paper.
For whatever reason though, even if every art project I tried disintegrated before my very eyes, I still go full force at the next idea that pops into my mind. Maybe it’s incredibly foolish, maybe it’s brave, or daring. Or perhaps it’s because, once in a blue moon, I am able to complete some sort of crazy idea in my head.
I’ve always been into drawing human anatomy, from brains, to bones, to the heart. If my other career choices didn’t work out, I wouldn’t mind going into medical illustration.
In my human biology class, we were given a project that required a diagram of the human heart. I decided to go all out in trying to complete a full blown, realistic interpretation of a heart, while doing two things I normally never do- use color, and have it poster sized. I dusted off my tin of colored pencils, all still sharpened and arranged in rainbow order. It took over 12 hours, a lot of frustration, and layers and layers of shades of blue and red. After all the work, it ended in a product I was immensely proud of, and received a total of three extra credit points. While the payout wasn’t quite as satisfying, it was being able to complete something that I normally do not that made it all worth it. A picture of the finish product can be found here.
Baking this roulade was similar to the drawing of the heart. The task was evidently lined up for failure, being such a complex and daunting cake. From start to finish the whole thing took much longer than anticipated, a big jump from baking simple cupcakes several weeks ago. However, it is yet another experience to tuck away. I mean, how many people can say they know what a roulade is, as well as baking one?
Chocolate Roulade with Raspberry Filling
Adapted from Absolutely Chocolate
For the chocolate sponge cake:
- 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 Tbs. warm water
- Softened butter for the pan
- Flour for the pan
- 9 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1-1/8 oz. (6 Tbs.) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted; more for dusting
- 1/8 tsp. table salt
For the raspberry filling and sauce
- 12-oz. package frozen raspberries, thawed
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. granulated sugar; more to taste
- Table salt
- 5 oz. (10 Tbs.) unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice; more to taste
For the chocolate glaze:
- 3 Tbs. heavy cream
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 1-1/2 Tbs. water
- 1-1/2 oz. (1/2 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1-1/2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the warm water. Let cool to room temperature.
Grease the bottom of an 18×13-inch rimmed baking sheet (a standard half sheet pan) with the softened butter. Line the pan with parchment; butter and then flour the parchment.
With an electric mixer, whip the egg yolks in a large bowl on medium-high speed until light in color and beginning to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes in a stand mixer, or 3 to 5 min. with a hand mixer. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and whip until very thick and pale yellow, about 2 min. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cocoa and salt until blended.
In a clean, dry bowl with clean, dry beaters (any grease will keep the whites from whipping), whip the egg whites with an electric mixer at medium speed until they’re frothy and begin to increase in volume, about 30 seconds. In a steady stream, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Increase the speed to medium high and whip until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 min. in a stand mixer, or 4 to 6 min. with a hand mixer.
With a rubber spatula, fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in two equal additions. You can fold in the first half vigorously to lighten the yolks, but fold in the second half gently, mixing just until the batter is evenly colored with no streaks of white. Don’t overmix. Scrape the batter into the baking pan, gently spreading and smoothing it to make sure it’s level. Bake until the top springs back lightly when touched, 22 to 25 min.
Meanwhile, spread a clean dishtowel (at least as big as the cake pan) on the counter. Using a sieve, dust the towel with cocoa powder, completely covering it (this will keep the cake from sticking to the towel as it cools).
Filling and Sauce:
Put the thawed raspberries in a food processor and process until completely puréed. Pass the purée through a fine sieve to strain out the seeds. You should have about 1 cup of purée.
Fill a wide pot or straight-sided skillet with 1 to 2 inches of very hot water. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites, 1/2 cup of the sugar sugar and a generous pinch of salt until blended. Set the bowl in the pot of hot water; make sure the water comes up to at least the level of the mixture in the bowl. Whisk until the mixture is almost hot (about 120°F), about 90 seconds. Take the bowl out of the water. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whipe the whites until cool and thick, 2 to 3 min. Reduce to medium speed, add the butter, 1 Tbs. at a time, and mix until the butter is completely incorporated. The filling should be soft and loose; it will firm up as it chills. (If it seems very runny, refrigerate it for up to 20 min.) With the mixer on low speed, blend in 2 Tbs. of the raspberry purée and the liqueur. Set the filling aside.
Make the sauce by stirring together the remaining raspberry purée, the remaining 2 Tbs. sugar, the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add more sugar or lemon juice to taste.
In a large saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, 1/2 cup of the water, and the cocoa. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, whisking often, until very thick, like hot fudge sauce, 8 to 10 minutes from when the mixture began simmering. Pay close attention: This mixture boils over easily. Remove the pan from the heat. While the mixture is cooling, bloom the gelatin in the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. of water. Melt the bloomed gelatin over very hot water or in the microwave. Whisk the gelatin into the chocolate mixture and strain the glaze through a medium sieve into a metal bowl. Let the glaze cool at room temperature until thick but still pourable, about 5 to 10 min.; the glaze should be about 110° to 120°F. (If you’ve made the cake ahead, unwrap it and put it on a rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet.)
Pour the glaze over the roulade, using an offset spatula to help the glaze cover the top and sides evenly. Don’t worry about covering the ends; they’ll be trimmed later. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 30 min. or up to 4 hours.
The glaze will have “glued” the roulade to the rack, so slide a metal spatula between it and the rack to release it. Transfer the roulade to a serving platter, using two large offset spatulas to get underneath and pressing the spatulas against the rack as you go. Trim the ends of the roulade. Fill a tall container with hot water and have a dishtowel handy so that you can clean and dry the knife after cutting each slice. Using a long, sharp knife, cut 3/4-inch straight slices, or cut pieces on an angle, rinsing and drying the knife after each slice. Garnish with raspberry sauce and a spoonful of whipped cream.