Proust dipped a madeléine into his tea and wrote about the all-powerful joy of remembering the past. I paged my stained and wrinkled family cookbook and “the memory revealed itself”. I discovered my own exquisite pleasure, my own memory, “the remembrance of things past”.
My Dad in the kitchen baking. Eggs whisked. Flour folded. A fragrant tray of cake baking. The memory, the absolute delight of watching a tender sponge cake spread with homemade jam then rolled in gritty sugar become a jelly roll. The very name made it seem like a cake especially made for children. A cake you would take on a picnic and have a jolly jelly roll time.
A teddy bear’s picnic for one.
I’m three and styling in my new blue silk ruffled dress my mother brought back from England.
Three years later and the first picnic of the season, a spring picnic. It’s chilly so the drinks were hot and we three sisters are wearing beautiful cable-stitch sweaters knitted by Mum. Behind us is the playhouse our Dad built complete with veranda and fake chimney.
Those were happy times and I’ve recaptured them in the kitchen with an old fashioned jelly roll. If you have eggs and flour and jam in your pantry you are half way there. It is good for the soul, and delicious with tea.
OLD FASHIONED JELLY ROLL
This recipe seems long enough to be a novel, but it is really simple to make. I am passing along a few tips that will ensure this dessert a complete success. Just read it carefully before you start.
3/4 cup sugar (plus about 1/2 a cup for coating the cake)
1/2 cup water
5 large eggs (at room temperature as always)
Minced zest of one lemon
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
Scant 3/4 cup all-purpose flour measured after sifting once
About 1 1/4 cups thick jam. It should be very spreadable.
Place a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 375F. Line an 18 x 12 inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly butter the paper or brush with oil.
Combine the 3/4 cup sugar and the 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar over low heat, then bring to a boil, and boil for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat, immediately turn the mixer on high-speed, and slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl as you whip the eggs. (The syrup must be poured slowly down the side of the bowl-avoiding the whisk-so as not to spatter.) The eggs will turn runny and loose, then will whiten and lighten. Continue whisking on high-speed until completely cool, about 5 minutes. The eggs will more than triple in volume and turn pale.
Remove the bowl from mixer. Add the zest and the juice, then fold in the flour, 1/4 cup at a time. ( I keep a rubber spatula specifically for folding egg whites. Over time oil from other baking can permeate the spatula and deflate your whites)
Pour the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes , or until the cake is pale with touches of brown at the edges and is pulling away from the edges of the pan. Remove from the oven, and set aside for a moment.
Rinse a tea towel in cool water, then wring it out thoroughly. Lay the cloth flat on the counter, with a long side facing you, and sprinkle on about 1/2 cup sugar in a rectangular area the size of the cake. Carefully flip the cake out onto the sugared towel, with a long side toward you and the underside of the cake facing up. (It may feel a little scary the first time you do it, but in fact the cake just drops easily out of the pan and onto the sugar.) Peel off the baking paper. (The surface of the cake that is on the sugar will eventually be the outside of the roll.)
Spread the filling in a thin layer all over the cake, leaving a 1/2 border along the far side.
Grasp the towel under the front edge and use it to start rolling the long end of cake away from you. Once you get the first edge turned, roll carefully, then pull the towel tightly around the outside of the cake and tuck in to hold the roll in shape. Let stand for 3 minutes. ( I must confess. I got carried away with what I was doing and started rolling the cake from the short end. You get less slices but it is still good.)
Unwrap the roll and place seam side down on a long platter. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with tea while reading Proust.
You can fill your jelly roll with thick custard, home made jelly, lemon curd or even whipped cream.