pear and chocolate roulade

I know that this look fiddly but it isn’t something you should be daunted by, it’s surprisingly simple to make.
I used to make roulades quite often, they are delicious, quicker and easier to make than you’d think and always look impressive.
Normally I fill them with raspberries or cherries but obviously these aren’t in season at the moment and frozen ones tend to leak too much juice and make the roulade soggy.
I know it’s a bit retro but I secretly really like Poire Belle Helene so I thought I would try to create the illegitimate offspring of these two classic desserts.
It works really well and makes a nice wintery twist on the traditional roulade, especially with the slight gingery heat in the pears.

Ingredients
Serves 6-8 (depending on greed)

Sponge
150g good quality dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa)
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp rum
4 eggs (separated)
140g sugar (caster if possible)
250ml double cream

Poached pears
2 ripe pears (I used Bartlett)
1 tbsp sugar
2-3 tbsp rum
200ml water
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
squeeze of lemon juice

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c.
Line a Swiss roll baking tin with grease proof paper. Mine is 9″x 12″ and this fills it nicely.
Melt together the chocolate, water and rum either by using short bursts in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Set aside to cool.
Next you need to separate all of the eggs, putting the whites and yolks into large bowls. Make sure the bowl for the egg whites is clean, dry and free of grease, otherwise it will be impossible to whip them up. Whisk the whites until they are really stiff and will hold a firm peak, like meringue.
Add the sugar to the egg yolks and whisk until they are pale and fluffy. Pour the cooled chocolate into the yolk mixture. If you add the chocolate to the eggs (rather than the other way around) then the mixture is less likely to seize up.
Using a large metal spoon, stir a spoonful of the whisked egg whites into the mixture to lighten it. Finally, quickly and lightly fold in the remaining egg white in two or three batches.
Pour this evenly into your prepared tin and bake for around 15 minutes until the sponge is firm but not browned. Leave it in the tin until it’s completely cooled but don’t be tempted to put it in the fridge at this stage as it can dry it out, making it trickier to roll up.

pear and chocolate roulade

Whilst the sponge is cooking you can poach the pears.
Peel and core the fruit then cut them, length ways, into eight. You can dice them if you prefer but be sure to keep the pieces fairly large and reduce the cooking time. Peel the ginger but leave it whole unless you want the fruit to be really gingery.
In a medium-sized saucepan mix together the water,  rum, sugar, vanilla and a squeeze of lemon to prevent the fruit from discolouring. This gives you a basic stock syrup.
Add the ginger and the fruit and let this simmer on a medium heat until the fruit is tender but not mushy, around 15-20 minutes in my case but it’ll vary depending on how ripe your fruit is and how big the pieces are.
Once the pears are cooked remove them from the pan and let them cool but don’t discard the syrup as it is really good in cocktails that require a simple syrup. You can get rid of the ginger though.
When the sponge and the pears are cool you can get ready to fill the roulade.
Whip the cream until stiff.
Lightly dust the top of the sponge with icing sugar and place a piece of grease proof paper, slightly larger than your sponge, on top. This next bit requires a bit of dexterity. Flip the whole thing over in one swift move, trying not to spill icing sugar everywhere. Once you’ve turned out the sponge remove the tin and carefully peel back the lining paper.
pear and chocolate roulade Cover the exposed surface with the whipped cream, but don’t worry about spreading it right up to the edges, it’ll only ooze everywhere when you roll it up if you do. Spread the poached pear over the top of this, so that they will be evenly distributed once the whole thing is rolled up.
pear and chocolate roulade Make a small cut along one of the short edges, about 1.5cms in from the edge, but don’t cut down completely through the sponge. Starting at this edge use the paper to help you to roll up the roulade, pressing very gently at you go. Don’t worry about any cracks that appear, it’s a sign of how light it is. Anyway if they are that bad then you can always strategically pipe some cream decoratively over them once you’re finished.
Once it’s all rolled up pop it onto a serving plate with the join underneath and decorate, or not, as you see fit. Refrigerate until you’re ready to wow your guests with it.

pear and chocolate roulade

Variations
If you aren’t so keen on fruit then omit the pears and add a little instant espresso powder to a tablespoon of Tia Maria and whip into the cream to make a mocha version.
Another alternative would be to swap the rum in the sponge for Cointreau and add the zest of an orange and a tablespoon of Cointreau to the cream for a chocolate orange treat.
Amaretto in the sponge and vanilla paste in the cream is also very nice for those with a particularly sweet tooth.