In the past decade, Americans have been going through a culinary schizophrenia. On one hand, the country is obsessed with eating less fat and cholesterol, while on the other, according to recent restaurant surveys, we are consuming desserts, especially those rich in chocolate, at an all-time high.
Obviously, I'm not the sole gourmand who feels that if I deprive myself during the meal, I deserve to indulge in a decadent grand finale. When you come to my house for dinner, you may munch on crisp vegetables and a yogurt-based dip, grilled fish or chicken and steamed fresh vegetables. But when it comes to dessert, I always serve a show-stopper like white chocolate strawberry shortcake roll. It's not just that a meal is incomplete without a great dessert, it's that dessert is the final impression your guests take home with them.
So, no matter what menu you are planning for your next get-together, here is a beautiful springtime dessert that not only looks spectacular but melts in your mouth. And in spite of its sensational appearance, it is much easier to make than you would think.
It's little wonder that with America's love affair with chocolate, white chocolate has been dubbed "the darling of the dessert world." If you've been shopping for white chocolate, you may have noticed that it is never sold under that name. Since it contains none of the chocolate liquor -- the unsweetened, fat-free chocolate solids extracted from the cocoa bean -- the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made it illegal to sell it under the name white chocolate. Instead, it is labeled "white coating" or "white confectionery."
Foreign manufacturers also are prohibited from exporting any product labeled white chocolate, so they give it a range of exotic names. My favorite bars are Lindt Blancor and Tobler Narcisse.
According to food professionals, pure white chocolate contains only sugar, cocoa butter and milk, while confectionary chocolate often includes other ingredients. A simple way to check if the product is truly white chocolate is to read the ingredient list on the label. The products that contain other, less expensive vegetable fats than cocoa butter are considered to be a confectionery or summer coating and often come in chips and pastel colors. Since these products do not possess the flavor and texture of real white chocolate, they are best used for molding and decorating.
The ribbons and roses garnishing my cake are made by melting confectionery chips with a small amount of light corn syrup. When this mixture comes to room temperature, it becomes pliable and can be rolled and molded as desired. I call it adult play dough. But remember, it works just like chocolate. If it is too warm, it will be sticky and will need to sit longer in order to dry and harden. If it breaks and cracks, it is too cold; rewarm in the microwave for just a few seconds. You can store your completed decorations for several weeks covered in the refrigerator.
The spongecake roll is filled with fluffy white chocolate mousse made with raw beaten egg whites and whipped cream. During the past few years, health officials and spokesmen for the U.S. Department of Agriculture have warned that raw eggs are increasingly responsible for outbreaks of salmonella enteritis food poisoning. Those people at risk are the very young, the elderly, pregnant women and those whose immune systems have been compromised by illness. For people who are in good health otherwise, a bout of salmonella is uncomfortable, not dangerous, and some mousse lovers are willing to take the chance.
If you are worried about using raw egg whites, leave them out. The filling can be made simply by folding the room temperature )) chocolate into the beaten cream. The entire dessert may be assembled and decorated the day before serving.
Now that you've denied yourself for the rest of the meal, go ahead and splurge. Lighten up. Indulge. It's good for the psyche. DAnd if you still are ridden with guilt, run an extra mile tomorrow.
White chocolate strawberry shortcake roll
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
WHITE CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY MOUSSE:
6 ounces white chocolate
1/3 cup milk
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup whipping cream
2 pint boxes small strawberries, hulled (cut in halves or quarters if large)
WHITE CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
5 ounces white chocolate
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup whipping cream
hot water, if needed
Satin strawberry sauce (recipe follows), if desired
L White chocolate curls and roses (recipe follows), if desired
To make the spongecake: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 15 1/2 -by-10 1/2 -by-1-inch jellyroll pan. Line with parchment paper and grease the paper.