Cookbook Stack I own a lot of cookbooks. Coming from good German and Scandinavian stock, owning a lot of anything, especially something which I think my aluminum-foil-saving, plastic-wrap-washing, rubber-band-saving maternal grandmother would have considered frivolous, weighs on me as a source of guilt. I’m just glad it isn’t pride weighing down on me, because the Comes-From-Good-Stock Code of Ethics would require me to donate every cookbook to charity.

I was controlling my cookbook “habit”, feeling relieved I’d finally kicked it, until we discovered New England libraries hold fabulous bi-annual book sales of books, donated or culled from library shelves. I – we, my husband was in on this – can’t say “No!” when the prices are “only” $1, sometimes $2 for cookbooks that are still in print, sold in brick ‘n mortar stores like Barnes & Noble for 10 to 20 times more! When I – we – realized I could either purchase 1 $25 book, OR 25 $1 books at library sales, well, I’m afraid that was the last little shove off the No-More-Cookbook-Wagon. My husband, bless him, has never expressed any desire for me to cease and desist. “I’m the beneficiary of your experiments”, he’s always said with a grin.

The root cause of my cookbook guilt is that less than 10% of my 200+ cookbooks contain more than three time-tested Family Favorites – those recipes that my family loved, remembers and asks for again. A $25 cookbook that yields 3 trustworthy favorites, means each recipe costs a little over $8 each. But a $1 or $2 cookbook? Pennies per recipe!

It gets more depressing when I look at the remaining books, with only 30% containing two Family Favorites, and 50% one Family Favorite. The remainder are books we no longer use – church recipe books where canned soups and boxed cake mixes are mistaken for real cooking. Then there are those that are now worthless to me, having discovered eating good fat is healthy, culled and waiting for a good bonfire opportunity – “Vegetarian Delights”, “Low-Fat Cooking”, “Fat-Free Baking”, and “Cooking with Soy”.

The following recipe – a breakfast roulade – is an example of a one-and-only-family-favorite recipe taken from Sara Moulton’s, Cooks at Home, Broadway Books, 2002, unfortunately, not purchased at a library sale. That makes this recipe worth $14.99, the price I paid for this book. Having learned this technique, I can wholeheartedly say this recipe is worth it!

A roulade is egg-based, a souffle-type batter but spread in a jelly-roll baking pan, baked, layered with a selection of meat, vegetables and cheese, then rolled up like a jelly-roll, baked for another 5-7 minutes, just until the cheese is melted. Cut into slices, 1 to 2-inches.

slicing roulade Moulton’s recipe suggests a filling of Serrano ham – a Spanish version of Italian prosciutto – and Manchego cheese, along with roasted red peppers, but that is only the beginning of many possibilities. Following are some of our favorite fillings, any one of which is easily individualized to suit your own tastes.

Roulade Filling Suggestions

  • sauteed, crumbled breakfast sausage, sauteed sliced mushrooms, diced green olives and cheddar cheese
  • wild smoked salmon, capers and finely diced red onions, blue cheese crumbles
  • ham, sauteed red peppers and onions and shredded cheddar and asiago cheese
  • fried and crumbled bacon, sauteed onions and shredded cheddar cheese
  • prosciutto, sauteed leek, diced olive variety, with shredded Parmesan and Gruyere cheese
  • thinly sliced turkey, ham, thin layer of mustard, along with shredded swiss – don’t forget to serve a side of strawberry jam, a classic topping for Monte Cristos
  • thinly sliced corned beef, freshly-made sauerkraut fermented the traditional way, shredded swiss cheese with home-made 1,000 Island Dressing

This morning’s roulade included prosciutto, sauteed leek, shredded Manchego, and a variety of diced, pitted olives. I forgot to include leek with the other filling ingredients, so when serving time came, I simply placed the roulade slices on the bed of sauteed leek. Everyone loved it!

Moulton suggests this is a great make-ahead dish, baking the roulade to the point of filling, then refrigerating, and filling/baking it just prior to serving. I’ve not yet tried this technique, but judging by the leftovers, which refrigerate and store well, I have no doubt the make-ahead is fail-safe! Like a well-made frittata, the roulade is also tasty when served at room temperature.

removing paper

This recipe easily doubles. The technique in making the roulade batter is the same as for making gougeres, pate chioux, roux or bechamel – melting the butter, whisking in the the flour, cooking for a period of time (there’s nothing worse than the taste of “raw” flour, so make sure the mixture cooks for the recommended time – always stirring!), whisking in milk, cooking once again to thicken, then whisking in egg yolks, one at a time. Don’t become impatient, dumping them all in at once, or they will cool the batter down too quickly and it will become rigid and ruined. Egg whites should be folded in with a gentle, yet thorough touch. Patience is also a virtue when it comes to removing the well-buttered parchment paper, from the baked egg sponge.

Roulade Slice Photo Breakfast Roulade

Roulade Egg Sponge:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 1/4 cups whole milk, heated
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups coarsely grated Manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 ounces thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
1 large roasted red bell pepper, seeded, peeled and cut into thin strips, optional
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Making Egg Sponge

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a buttered 15 by 10 (1-inch) jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
  3. DO NOT SKIP THE NEXT STEP: Butter the paper, dust with flour, and tap out the excess.
  4. Separate eggs, placing whites in bowl of stand mixer; place yolks in a glass measuring cup or bowl; set aside.
  5. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
  7. Increase the heat to high, whisk in the milk, and bring to a boil. (Sharon’s note: Truth? I don’t heat my milk, but instead, just use room temperature. I can’t tell the difference in how the batter forms, but it is critical to whisk the milk into the flour.)
  8. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring MOST of the time, making sure you scrape the bottom so the mixture does not burn. Take a few seconds to turn on the stand mixer, whisking egg whites.
  9. Beat egg whites until medium peaks form. (Moulton recommends soft peaks, but I’ve found that medium works better.)
  10. Remove flour/egg yolk batter from heat; thoroughly whisk egg yolks into batter, 1 at a time.
  11. Season with the salt and pepper.
  12. Gently fold 1/3 of the medium-peak whites into the yolk mixture and then carefully dump the flour/butter/egg yolk mixture into the remaining egg whites. Fold together very gently.
  13. Pour the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan and smooth gently – with the lightest possible touch – with a metal spatula. You do not want to deflate the egg whites.
  14. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and firm to the touch, about 15 minutes.
  15. While egg sponge is baking, prepare fillings.

Assembling the Roulade

  1. Cover the egg sponge with a buttered piece of parchment paper, buttered side down.
  2. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and invert onto a work surface.
  3. Peel off the paper from the top.
  4. Sprinkle the cheese over the sponge, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides.
  5. Arrange the ham and pepper strips on top and sprinkle on the parsley.
  6. Place a flat baking sheet next to the sponge. Starting with 1 of the longer sides, use the towel to help roll the sponge up jelly roll fashion.
  7. Carefully roll onto the baking sheet pan.
  8. Return the roulade to the upper third of the oven and bake until the cheese has melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
  9. Use a serrated knife to cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.