Cocoa, Fig, and Peppercorn Roulade |Good Eats
July 31, 2018
It should be no surprise that food is one of the essentials mentioned in this three part series. I think to many people, food is simply a means of nourishment and an essential survival component. Obviously, it does provide us with the nutrients to survive, but food is so much more than that. Think about your last meal. Whether it was a humble plate of wok-fried bak choi or a perfectly grilled cut of steak, each dish has its own story, its own origin. I’ve always been curious about the “origins” of dishes in terms of both its physical and cultural history.
One example that really highlights this point of view is my all-time favorite show, The Great British Bake Off. Of course, I first fell in love with GBBO because of my idol Mary Berry and I’m sad she decided to leave it. However, the show is much more than its name suggests. Not only is it intense and recruits quality participants, but the show also incorporates the historical significance of certain bakes, making it more than just another baking show.
A Gastronomical Evolution
Personally I have always thought understanding what you are eating can never hurt you, and it’s always a good idea to expandyour knowledge regarding a certain subject matter. When you know the history behind a certain dish, you expose yourself to more than just a new flavor bomb for your taste buds. You begin to revel in the relationship between humans the origins of the dish. Food is created for a reason. These days, this reason is geared more towards satisfaction and leisure, but back then, it was the evolutionary key to survival. For example, our ancestors used their taste buds to determine which berries were poisonous, developed a penchant for sugar & fats to prepare for the winter, and developed preparation techniques to ensure safe consumption of food. Every dish has a story, and that story contributes to why each and every one of us exist today.
I hope that this post opened some eyes to the importance of foods both in a physical and metaphorical sense. Cherish the food that you surround yourself with because it is said food that makes up a part of your history and your future. That is why I consider good eats to be one of The Essentials to a positive lifestyle.
The Bake (+NEWS!)
As I've mentioned before, understanding the origins (of food) is one of the most important foundations of experience. I have always wanted my bakes and shakes to have more relevance to the content I write. Thus, after much though (and with the help of a dear friend), I've decided to organize my future posts and content through creating a focus each month.
Every ending is a new beginning. While this post is the last of The Essentials series, it is also the beginning of the theme for the next month. Yup, you guessed it: origin. In the next month, I'll be diving into my past to discover the origins behind the bakes and shakes that make up my own origin.
To finish off The Essentials series and kick off next month's theme, I'm putting a twist on one of the classics: The Swiss Roll. Many have heard of flavors inspired by the combination of chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, which makes for a delicious conconction. However, I wanted to put an Chinese twist on this spicy flavor profile by substituting the cayenne pepper with Szechuan Peppercorns.
Szechuan Peppercorns are a staple ingredient in many Chinese dishes, and also serves as a key ingredient in Chinese five-spice. Rather than being straight up spicy like typical peppers, these small capsule like jewels have a slight citrus flavor and create a numbing sensation on the tongue. In Chinese culture, spicy foods are often consumed during the hot summer months because it serves as a temperature regulator for the body (via your sweat glands). Thus, these peppercorns often become the star of the show during this time of the year.
Growing up, I was never a fan of spicy foods, but I always found some pleasure in the numbing sensation of the Szechuan peppercorn. As the weakest member of my immediate family when it comes to spice, I was able to take some sense of pride in enjoying such flavors. I still remember the days when I would make a fool out of myself by biting into the peppercorns themselves (not a good idea) to prove to my family I could handle spice.
Today, we use Szechuan peppercorns to promote the umami flavor of meat in certain soups and in certain dishes for their distinct fragrance. I wanted to use this ingredient in a way that would be absolutely foreign to Chinese cuisine and ended up realizing that there was no better way to do so than creating a dessert out of it. Although this flavor combination is a play on Mexican Hot Chocolate, I still wanted to stick with the origins of the original Swiss Roll and include a fruity component. Since strawberries aren't in season, I decided to go with a fig jam, which is complemented by the zesty flavor of the peppercorn.
So here she is! The product of reaching into my origins and creating something that is significant to me, my beliefs, and my culture.
For Spiced Cocoa Sponge
50g of granulated sugar
20g of all-purpose flour
12g of unsweetened cocoa powder
2g of cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. of melted butter
1 tsp. of peppercorn oil
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
For the Whipped Cream
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 tbsp. of powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
For the Peppercorn Fig Jam
- 3-4 figs, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/2 of a lemon, juice only
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1/2 tsp. of peppercorn oil
Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk by hand over a bain marie until the sugar has dissolved.
Remove the egg mixture from the bain marie and whisk until the mixture thickened and tripled in size. You should be able to make a figure eight with the mixture.
Carefully sift and fold in the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Fold in the melted butter and peppercorn oil.
Pour the batter in a parchment-lined, rectangular cake pan, tilting the pan to spread the batter.
Bake in a preheated 210C/410F for approximately 5-6 minutes or until the sponge springs back when lightly prodded.
Once baked, flip onto a piece of powdered sugar dusted parchment paper and roll up with the short side facing your body. Cool until ready to assemble.
Peppercorn Whipped Cream
Bring the cream and peppercorns to a boil in a saucepan.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Let cool in the fridge.
When the cream is cold, whisk the infused cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla extract to medium peaks.
Refrigerate until ready for assembly.
Peppercorn Fig Jam
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan except for the peppercorn oil and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the jam from burning.
Add the peppercorn oil and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.
Refrigerate until ready for assembly.
- Unroll the cooled Cocoa Sponge.
Spread a thin layer of the fig jam and a layer of the infused whipped cream over the sponge, leaving about an inch of sponge from each edge unconvered.
Carefully roll the sponge back into a log, using the parchment paper to guide the process.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
*If you can't get your hands on peppercorn oil, simply take whole peppercorns and grind them into a fine powder using a spice grinder. Alternatively, you can also try extracting its flavor by boiling it in liquids and discarding before discarding the peppercorns (this would work with the fig jam).