Chocolate Roulage

Every so often my 40yo sweet tooth with kick in and I’ll start craving a decadent treat. Growing up in Alabama, it was always a treat to eat at Cobb Lane and get chocolate roulage for dessert. The whole “jelly roll” concept always appealed to me; even the Little Debbie Swiss roll was a childhood favorite.

Chocolate roulage looks hard to make; most people see this dessert and think there’s no way they can pull this off, but it’s really quite simple. The cake is basically a sponge cake. It’s baked on a “jelly roll” pan but I’ve never owned one personally. I simply use a sheet pan. The trick is to cover the baked cake with a cold, wet towel until the cake is completely cool. This keeps the cake moist and allows you to roll it up without it breaking, but I’ve eaten “broken” roulage in some of Birmingham’s finest restaurants, so if yours breaks, don’t worry about it. Some sifted powered sugar will cover any mistakes!

  • 5 large eggs at room temperature, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 6oz dark, semi sweet chocolate melted with 3 tbsp water
  • Dark cocoa
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the egg yolks thoroughly; add 3/4 cup of sugar to the yolks and continue to beat until thick. Blend the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolks, then fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.

Butter a sheet pan or jelly roll pan. Line pan with wax or parchment paper and butter the paper. Spread cake mixture evenly on the buttered paper and bake at 325F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300F and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven, cover the cake with a cold, wet towel and let cool completely.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the towel and loosen the cake from the paper. Sift cocoa all over the cake, then turn the cake onto a fresh sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Peel off the old paper. Whip the cream with the vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and spread liberally over the cake. Roll the cake lengthwise. Dust the top with more cocoa or with powered sugar. Slice to serve.

Cake can also be frozen once the whipped cream is added and the cake is rolled up. This will make the cake easier to slice with a more “set” filling.

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Fancy Chicken Salad

I grew up eating chicken salad. Not “Fancy” chicken salad, just good old chicken salad made with chicken, celery, egg, dill pickles and mayo and to this day, that’s the way I prefer mine. Over the years, I’ve made different versions of chicken salad for my customers and all have been a hit, but nothing like the response I get from this version of fruity chicken salad that I began calling “Fancy” chicken salad on our menu at work.

I owned a catering business in Birmingham and this was a most requested recipe. At the Birmingham News, I’d make Fancy Chicken Salad, usually at least 20 pounds, and be sold out within 45 minutes of opening our doors for lunch. Customers would order it by the pound to pick up on Fridays and take home for the weekend. They liked the recipe so much, it was published in The News’ food section once. After leaving The News, I’ve worked in several corporate accounts (that’s what I am, a corporate chef) and at every account, customers line up for this recipe. I can never make enough; it sells out long before lunch ends. Every time my company moves me to a new account, the customers at the old one email talking about “missing my chicken salad”. So I’m posted this recipe for all my faithful customers, friends and readers. Like every recipe I prepare at work, this one is easy. Once you’ve chopped up the ingredients, that’s it. There is no “special ingredient”, nothing out of the ordinary that I do. The only 4 things I can say that make my recipe different from other’s chicken salad are these:

  1. Never put the chicken in a food processor, instead, tear it with your hands. We aren’t making cat food so it should resemble something from a can, which leads to the second note.
  2. Don’t use canned chicken. Take the time to boil some chicken. If you take a shortcut, it won’t taste the same. As for the chicken I use, any cut. But at work, because of what’s in inventory, it’s 95% of the time boneless, skinless breasts.
  3. If you’ve had my chicken salad before and you want yours to taste the same, use KRAFT mayonnaise. I’m not knocking Duke’s, or whatever you like, and if you’ve never had mine personally, use whatever you like, but there is a difference in mayo. I’ve made mine at work and home with KRAFT because I grew up eating KRAFT. The few times I’ve made it with Hellman’s, in my opinion, it wasn’t as good, and I don’t normally buy Duke’s because I can’t afford to pay $5 for a jar of mayo when I can get KRAFT for $2.50
  4. NEVER under any circumstances, load the chicken salad with mayo. You want just enough to hold it together. How much is that? You’ll just have to see. I don’t put a measurement because it’s hard to say. It depends on the chicken, the size pieces your chicken is, the size you cut up the ingredients, etc. You can always add more mayo but you can’t take it out. That’s a good rule of thumb for any cooking!

So now that I’ve told you my “secrets”, here’s the recipe for Fancy Chicken Salad:

  • Cooked, pulled apart chicken (about 4 cups total)
  • 1 Red Delicious Apple & 1 Granny Smith Apple
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped (I prefer to use the tops also, so don’t discard those. They have the celery flavor and the leaves add color to the chicken salad)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried, sweetened cranberries (I usually just use a whole bag from Oceanspray and don’t even measure)
  • Mayo (amount needed will depend, but will be at least 1 cup)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or candied walnuts (optional)

That’s it! Cook chicken and shred/dice in a large bowl. Cut apples into a small dice (leaving skins on) and add to the chicken. Add the celery and dried cranberries. Mix in mayo, just enough to hold all ingredients together. You don’t want it “swimming in mayo”. Toss in some nuts if you like (I do sometimes, don’t others. Depends on my mood and who I’m serving. A lot of people have nut allergies). Season with salt and pepper (this too is up to you and your taste buds.. add some, taste it, add more if you think it needs it).

It’s great to eat on top of a green salad, made into a sandwich or wrap, or splurge and enjoy it on a buttery croissant!