I remember, not so long ago, someone making a comment about meringue being boring. I suppose, if you think about it, there isn’t much more that can be done, which hasn’t be done to it already. I, however, find meringue to be fascinating. The idea that egg, mixed with sugar can support a range of shapes and provide a crunchy exterior for the soft gooey middle. It is just magical.
I came across this recipe in a free supplement when Ottolenghi brought out his second vegetable only based cookbook. (Yes, I do read and make recipes from other chefs!) Two recipes jumped out immediately, the first a chicken recipe based on the famed Chicken Marbella (from the Silver Palate) and then this roulade.
We were heading to a family Christmas dinner which was expected to be a selection of light eats, and I was tasked with supplying a dessert. As I knew no one wanted anything heavy and I still wanted something to feel a little special, I thought this would be a perfect solution.
We had travelled back to Vancouver for the holidays, which made acquiring the ingredients for this recipe exceptionally more easy. They have a great selection of Persian food shops on the North Shore which not only offered up every ingredient I needed, but also did so at a considerably lower price to what I was used to in the UK. Armed with rose water, raspberries, mascarpone, cream and rose petals, I was on my way.
I began the preparation on the day and was surprised at how quickly the meringue took to come together and then bake. It was not like I was expecting. It was so very much easier. The filling too, came together in just a few whips of my whisk. I didn’t even need the electric beater. Thankfully, as this was my first assembly of this nature, my lovely Aunt, assisted me with the rolling of the meringue using a clean tea-towel. She also introduced me to the palate-knife. Yes, until now, I had never used one! I was immediately in love with it. (Seriously, the back of the bread knife had worked for me for years. I just didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Now that I know otherwise….! Bless her, she bought me one for my birthday just a few days later.)
This dessert came together so well and tasted so light and heavenly. The use of rose-water makes the dish. It is so delicate and at the same time exotic enough to make this dish stand out as something special. I wouldn’t want to admit how many times I have now made this dessert, since my first attempt a couple of Christmas’ ago. I did make it again this past year for Christmas eve, as I hope to again next year. It is a deceptively light and you feel compelled to have a second helping. Or maybe even a little bit more, just because it never really tastes the same the next day, right?
Adapted from Yotam Ottlenghi’s recipe in Plenty More
- 4 Egg Whites
- 250g Caster Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp White Wine Vinegar
- 1 tsp Cornflour (Corn Starch)
- 100g Mascarpone
- 1 Tbsp Icing Sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Rose Water
- 400ml Whipping Cream (or Double Cream)
- 150g fresh Raspberries (although, admittedly, I have used frozen ones and popped them in frozen, without any issue)
- 2 Tbsp Dried Rose Petals (I have also read about an adaptation which uses fresh petals, painted with egg white and a dusting of caster sugar and then dried carefully in a slow oven. Achieving a similar effect. I sometimes just omit them.)
- 1 tsp pistachios, crushed
Oven 160C / 140C Fan
Line a baking sheet (33 x 24 cm) with parchment. Ottolenghi recommends a swiss roll tin, I just use a baking sheet with a shallow edge.
In a large, clean, bowl, whisk the egg whites until they start to form stiff peaks. (In case you have limited experience with the joys of whisking egg whites – you need to ensure your bowl is free from any grease, otherwise they will never firm up. As a precaution, I always rewash my bowl just before using it, and use a new, clean towel to dry it.) Once the egg whites have started to firm up, begin adding in the sugar, a spoonful at a time, until it is all incorporated and you are left with a glossy looking meringue. Sprinkle the vanilla essence, cornflour and vinegar over top and use a metal spoon to gently fold it in. Spoon the meringue onto the baking sheet and use a palate-knife to spread it to the edges and smooth the top.
Place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. A crust should form over the top but it will feel a soft if you press on it. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool in the tin. This can be done a couple of days ahead, in which case, ensure you wrap the cold meringue well with cling film and store somewhere cool and dry.
When you are ready to assemble your roulade, place the mascarpone in a large bowl with the rose water and icing sugar. Gently blend them together before adding in the cream. Blending this well with the mascarpone mix and then beating it to form soft peaks. I recommend doing this by hand as it is too easy to over mix, and it really only takes a few minutes to do.
Place a clean tea-towel onto a flat surface and lay your meringue over this, with the parchment facing up. Carefully, peel back the parchment until it is all removed. Spoon most of the whipped cream over the meringue (reserving a few spoons for the top decoration) and using a palate knife, spread this close to the edges and level it off. You will want to leave a little bit of space around the edge to allow for the cream to spread once it is rolled up.
Setting aside a small handful of raspberries to top the meringue, scatter the remaining over the levelled off whipped cream on the meringue. Add a few rose petals too, if using. Taking a long edge, carefully, using the edge of the tea towel, begin rolling up the roulade over itself. Use the towel to help transfer this to a serving dish where you can top with the remaining cream, raspberries, rose petals and the chopped pistachios. Trim the edges and set aside somewhere cool, or in the fridge, for half an hour or so for the cream to firm up.
This dish is best eaten on the day.