Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Charlotte's Web: Wilbur's Ancient Jelly Roll

Wow... that jelly roll looks dusty, doesn't it?  Old, and dusty and leaking?  Well, it had just been made when the photo was taken, but if it looks old, that's ok, too.

We've all read E. B. White's Charlotte's Web, haven't we?  Who couldn't love Wilbur?  He's awesome!  And he gets so excited when he eats - hey, just like me!  Even slops sound good with the descriptions we're given.  On one memorable occasion, our piggy friend eats "leftover pancakes, half a doughnut, the rind of a summer squash, two pieces of stale toast, a third of a gingersnap, a fish tail, one orange peel, several noodles from a noodle soup, the scum off a cup of cocoa, an ancient jelly roll, a strip of paper from the lining of the garbage pail, and a spoonful of raspberry jello."

Is it me, or does that sound oddly appealing?  It's like a combo platter - a little breakfast, a little dinner, a little dessert... The ancient jelly roll always sounded so fancy to me, and when I had jam to use up (see the previous post about Bread and Jam for Frances) my friend Allen reminded me that Wilbur had one at slops.  Perfect!  (And thank you, by the way.)

I contemplated cotton candy cobwebs, and placing doughnut pieces and an orange peel on the plate for the photo, but I think the powdered sugar "dust" worked well enough to imply the age of it.  There's no need to put garbage with the food, after all, since we will be eating it later... though this project does make me want to make Templeton's Smorgasbord at some point, and I know that's mostly garbage.  Now, if I can only find a good way to make half a funnel cake.

Anyway.  I got this recipe out of the New York Times International Cook Book from 1971, which was actually owned by my great-grandmother before it was passed along.  My aunt and uncle actually cooked this one up for you, so all thanks are due to them for its yumminess and photogenic-osity. 

Wilbur's Ancient Jelly Roll
3 tbsp. butter, melted
4 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar, plus extra for rolling
3/4 cup sifted flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. confectioner's sugar, plus extra for dusting later
3/4 cup jelly or jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with edges) with half the melted butter.  Line the pan with a large sheet of wax or parchment paper, letting it hang over the sides of the pan.  Brush the paper with the remaining melted butter.
2. Break the eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the salt and 3/4 cup of sugar.  Beat until stiff "or until the mixture forms a ribbon and falls back on itself when the mixer is lifted from the bowl."  (I took that directly from the book, as I wasn't sure how to say that in any better way.)  Fold in the flour and vanilla.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it smooth with a rubber spatula.
4. Bake for 15 minutes.
5. Sift together the confectioner's sugar and white sugar.  Lay out a clean dish towel or cloth and sprinkle the sugar mixture over it.  Once the cake is done, when it is still warm, loosen the cake from the pan and lift out using the parchment or wax paper; turn it out on to the towel and peel away the paper.
6. Sprinkle the cake with sugar and quickly - but gently!! - roll it up like a jelly roll with the towel inside.  Let this cool for 15 minutes.
7. After the wait time is up, carefully unroll the cake and spread the jelly as evenly as possible on top.  Roll the cake back up (without the towel inside) and let it cool completely before cutting.  Lightly sprinkle with confectioner's sugar "dust" and decorate in any way you like.  There are times like these when I sincerely wish that I had a feeding trough to serve out of.  Yes, sometimes I'm a little strange.

Our cake didn't crack, but if yours does, please remember that whipped cream makes a lovely topping that hides many flaws, and the roll is supposed to be ancient anyway.  And if all else fails, I bet it would be really good in a parfait.

I have a confession to make.  I have never had a jelly roll before, and I didn't think I'd like it as much as I did.  I found this to be very tasty, and it wasn't too sweet.  I think it would be especially good with whipped cream, since that would add a creaminess that I love in desserts that just wasn't present here.

In my research, I found a recipe that would fix that problem by making the following addition: before spreading the jelly, spread a layer of a mix of 8 oz. of cream cheese beaten with 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Then spread the jelly on top of that and roll it up as planned.  I'd love to try this, but I have a whole list of other recipes to make, besides the Christmas cookies that are already starting to fill the freezer, so I'm going to rely on you, faithful friends, to try it out and let me know what you think.

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