For all you non-Jews out there, Passover is an important holiday celebrating the escape of the ancient Jewish people from the life of pain and hardship they endured as laborers in Egypt. They wandered the desert for 40 years as outcasts, and baked Matzah, a hard, flat cracker, under the heat of the scorching sun. To commemorate this, Jews do not eat anything that is leavened or that contains flour during Passover.
And so, this provided the PERFECT opportunity to test this new recipe that apparently came from Joan (of Joan's on Third) herself. The inspiration to make this particular dessert stemmed from an amazing dinner I had at Joan's on Third the week before. The dinner is always incredible there, but the dessert in particular stood out more than usual. Of course, their flourless chocolate roulade was formed in a flawless, perfect spiral (to which my pitiful later attempt could only aspire). The chocolate cupcake I had also ordered paled in sheer proximity to this masterpiece. I knew I had to have it again, whether I was able to go to Joan's on Third or not.
Joan's on Third Version, AKA perfection
Initially, I had thought: How hard could this be? It's only a flourless base, which has notoriously few ingredients, and a sweet cream filling, which is also extremely simple. Boy, was I wrong. I slaved HOURS over this, only for it to crack during my attempt to roll it up and end up flat, rather than round and perfect like the one at Joan's. To improve its appearance (because let me tell you, it was against my better judgment to show up to a seder, where there would be people OTHER than family, with something so hideous), I covered it in a thick layer of cocoa powder, piped a hot fudge ribbon along its sides, and decorated it with strawberries. Those improvisations made it presentable enough! Yet, when I bit into it, all this dissatisfaction melted away... not only did it taste exactly like the one at Joan's on Third, but the thick fudge and strawberries had elevated it to a whole other level. Needless to say, the entire 16-inch roll was gone within 10 minutes at the hands of greedy seder-goers. That was a proud moment! So, I insist, you MUST make this - it is not only amazing, but slightly healthier for you due to the lack of some usually omnipresent ingredients, like flour, eggs, and butter. The fresh taste is unbeatable! But, of course, if you don't have a couple hours to spare or a dinner party to impress, you could always just go to Joan's on Third. ;)
Adapted from Joan's on Third recipe, but found at: http://www.ladlesandjellyspoons.com/2011/12/flourless-chocolate-roulade-buche-de-noel-recipe/
8 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, melted in a double boiler and then cooled to room temperature
8 eggs at room temperature, separated (**NOTE: to "separate" eggs, for those of you who don't know, means to separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, i.e. put them into separate bowls**)
1 c. sugar (I used 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. brown sugar)
1 Tbspn. unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Sweet Cream Filling
1 c. heavy cream
3 Tbspns. confectioners sugar, sifted so that no lumps remain
1/2 tspn. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large shallow baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough so that paper hangs over the edges of the pan.
1) Whisk the egg whites until mixture is opaque and soft peaks form. Add half of the sugar and beat until peaks are stiff and silky. Set aside.
2) In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks. Add the remaining half of the sugar and keep beating the mixture for about 5 minutes until it is thick and pale.
3) Add the melted chocolate to the egg yolk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.
4) Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolks/chocolate to lighten the mixture, then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 until just incorporated.
5) Spread the cake batter into the baking pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until cake has puffed up and the top is dry.
6) Remove cake from oven and cover with damp paper towels. Let stand for 5 minutes, remove towels, and allow the cake to cool completely. Loosen the edges with a knife.
7) Dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder and then cover with a cloth or kitchen towel. Invert the pan onto the cloth and remove the parchment paper lining from the back of the cake very gently.
8) To make the filling: Beat whipped cream, sugar, and vanilla until thick, with stiff peaks.
9) Spread the cream filling over the cake and, using the cloth to help lift, roll the cake up. Transfer to a platter seam-side-down and dust generously with cocoa powder.
10) Decorate the cake with strawberries, ganache, or whatever your heart desires! Please comment if you would like a recipe for the thick, rich chocolate ganache that I used to pretty-fy this, and enjoy!
PS: For anyone who is curious, below is my failed attempt at rolling the cake into a spiral and also the reason why it had to be decorated so extensively. I wish you success in this endeavor, and a better-looking cake than I! (Although rest assured that no matter how it turns out looks-wise, the taste is OUT OF THIS WORLD.)