Rich treat is light enough to follow full Easter meal

Entertaining

You can make this lemon roll ahead and double the recipe if you're having guests

Entertaining

April 06, 2003|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

Around the world, Easter is a holiday in which food plays an important role. Europeans view it as a time to eat the first spring lamb. The British serve hot cross buns, while Russians bake a famous bread known as kulich and also make paskha, a sweetened molded cheese dessert. Baking breads and sweets is also part of Easter rituals observed in Scandinavia, Germany, Greece and countless other countries.

In America we, too, have culinary traditions linked to the spring holiday. In the South, baked and glazed ham is the piece de resistance of many an Easter meal, but a succulent roast leg of lamb offered with a bowl of shimmering mint jelly is just as popular in other parts of the United States.

Whatever you serve for Easter brunch, lunch or dinner, a special dessert is expected for the occasion. With this thought in mind, I spent the better part of a recent day working on a new Easter confection.

My goal was to fashion a dessert light enough to follow the heavy entrees that typically make up Easter menus, yet still rich and satisfying. I also wanted to be able to prepare this sweet completely in advance.

A luscious lemon roll garnished with fresh strawberries was the result.

The light and airy spongecake is baked in a jellyroll pan, cooled, then spread with lemon-scented whipped cream and finally rolled into a log.

The roll can be prepared several hours in advance and needs only to be dusted with confectioners' sugar and garnished with berries at serving time. It feeds eight generously, but the recipe can be doubled, if you are entertaining a larger crowd for your Easter celebration.

Distributed by Tribune Media Services International

Easter Lemon Roll

Serves 8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing parchment paper

3/4 cup sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

confectioners' sugar

4 egg large yolks

6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 pints strawberries, stemmed and halved or quartered, depending on size

2 to 3 fresh mint sprigs for garnish, optional

Line the bottom of a 10-inch by 15-inch jellyroll pan with parchment trimmed to fit. Butter paper and sides of the pan.

For the cake, sift flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat eggs with an electric mixer on high speed until light and foamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and gradually beat in the sugar. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until mixture is thick, light in color and almost tripled in volume, 8 to 10 minutes if using a heavy-duty mixer, longer if using a less-powerful hand mixer. Sprinkle dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold in. Fold in lemon zest and vanilla.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and place in a small bowl along with a tablespoon of the cake batter. Mix well and then fold into the cake batter. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake in center of 400-degree oven until cake is golden and springs back when touched, 8 to 10 minutes.

Spread a kitchen towel on a work surface and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Run a knife around the edges of the cake pan to loosen cake. Invert cake onto the towel and remove the parchment paper. Starting at a long side of the cake, roll up the cake along with the towel. Place the cake on a baking sheet and refrigerate until cool.

To make the filling, place egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon and is very thick, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a nonreactive mixing bowl and cool to room temperature. Whip cream with an electric mixer on high speed until firm. Remove a few tablespoons and stir into the lemon filling to lighten it. Fold in the remaining cream.

Unroll cooled cake and, using a spatula, spread 1/2 of the filling on the top of the cake. Roll cake into a log and place on a platter. Place remaining cream in a bowl to serve with the lemon roll. (The lemon roll and cream can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Keep roll and cream covered and refrigerated.)

To serve, sprinkle lemon roll with confectioners' sugar and garnish with strawberries and mint, if desired. Serve each portion with some berries and a generous dollop of cream.

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