Thursday, 21 August 2008

The baking battle cry

As human beings, it is our duty to undertake great labours, take risks, push boundaries, strive ever harder, ever further, for enlightenment. That is what separates us from animals. Well, this and Topshop. The time has come for me to undertake just such an endeavour.

Readers, I invite you to join me on a epic journey that will take place over the next few weeks  – I, Miss Jones (34), will attempt to bake a Swiss Roll.

I believe I have been specially chosen to undertake this mission, and I will tell you for why. I was given a sign. I walked into the kitchen at work this afternoon and there on the worktop was the box of a Marks & Spencer Lemon Swiss Roll. And suddenly, at that point, in that kitchen, there was nothing I wanted more in this world than a slice of that Swiss Roll. But there was none. The box was empty. So why had it been sent to test me thus? It was a mystery until I remembered that a couple of weeks before I had been in East Dulwich's most upmarket French-themed salon de thé, and there, on display amid the everyday tableau of fruit tart and carrot cake, was a Swiss Roll. At the time, I only noticed the mere novelty of it - Swiss Roll? who serves Swiss Roll? – but today I realised it was another jam-filled voice joining in with The Calling. And The Calling said, 'Miss Jones, you must bake a large flat sponge, spread it with jam and buttercream, roll it up using all your skill and strength, and do not allow your bones or your spirit to be crushed in the attempt.'

Like all baking warriors, I developed my fear and respect for the Swiss Roll as a tiny child, watching Mrs Jones, the mistress of many kinds of cakes and biscuits, wrestle with the spongey beast, amid much under-the-breath mum-swearing and nervous breath-holding by the rest of the family. If I had been writing this last summer you would have heard about me scaling a previous personal Matterhorn as I emerged flushed but triumphant from the battle of Miss Jones v Meringues – pavlova, to be precise. I feared the making of them no longer. Now I sweep the challenge of meringues aside as though they were brittle castles of sugar, and I am ready for a new adversary. A creature that has fallen out of fashion, and is more elusive, but no less dangerous, with its knack for collapsing utterly in your grip during the critical rolling process.

I need only choose my weapons – raspberry jam or rhubarb jam? buttercream or fresh cream? go kamikaze with an Arctic Roll? – and It. Is. On.


Anonymous said...

A swiss roll is a virtuous cake but does a "roulade" have a touch more flamboyance? I have tackled a roulade myself, a savory version (yes, this is a little wrong) but I would never have the guts to embark upon an actual swiss roll. Why Miss Jones, you are very brave indeed! LB

miss w said...


Miss Jones said...

Mmmm, a chocolate sponge with fresh cream and raspberries. Or - ooh! - fresh cream and black cherries, thus making a BLACK FOREST SWISS ROLL. Could anything be more sublimely retro? Je pense que non.

LB, I know of your superior skills in the kitchen, so I am unsurprised by your prowess with the roulade, which I would consider to be very advanced. Is a roulade sometimes made with meringue? This, for me, is doubly terrifying, and only some kind of supreme baking ninja would be qualified to attempt it.

This is all making me think that there is a need to make many varieties of roulade and swiss roll, to compete in a Rolled-up Food-stuff Olympics.

Anonymous said...

A roulade has a souffle-like sponge so is less likely to crack on rolling than a swiss roll. I also believe you can get away with simply folding it twice and it still looks good. A Black Forest roulard would be superb! LB

Jane said...

A clean, non-fluffy tea towel is your friend. That and a deft flick of the wrists. Apparently. I have no idea whatsoever and think people should be grateful to eat anything cakelike I make. My sister, on the other hand, did Cooking GCSE and spent 2 years mastering swiss rolls and pizza.