Brazo de Gitano Cake with Persimmon Jam
Finally, we are sharing the amazing desserts we cooked up for our Catalan Dinner. Desserts are always a huge element of the meal for me. Baking was my first passion after all…and as an artist, it gives me the best opportunity to create something beautiful and artfully designed.
This is the thought process that created our Brazo de Gitano. I saw a lot of rolled cakes during our trip to Barcelona. This cake, sometimes referred top as the Swiss Roll, is as the name implies, from Switzerland, but has made its way into French, Spanish, and Pan-European cuisines. Each culture alters the fillings based on tastes and local produce. In Barcelona, the flavor of the day is Persimmon. I love persimmon and figured it would be a beautiful flavor to finish our dinner.
Persimmons are a bit large to decorate with, so I found some similarly colored and delightfully tart golden berries to decorate our cake.
Ever since our trip to Barcelona last December, I have been planning and daydreaming about cooking Catalan food for our friends. After a month of menu-planning and experiments, I was ready!
We had a bunch of friends over for a four course Catalan dinner this Saturday, and I think it was one of our best efforts. In traditional Spanish fashion, we did not want to serve the main course until late, so we served the courses slowly and did not finish dessert before midnight. Doesn’t everyone love a good 5 hour dinner every once in a while?
I loved eating Manchengo and Iberico Ham in Barcelona, so I made sure to include them in our first course, with an assortment of olives, of course! We had the opportunity to try a variety of fish stews in Barcelona. The weather was scheduled to be quite chilly this weekend, so a stew sounded just right, I decided to serve it on toasted Ciabatta with our Catalan Sardines on Toast with Susquet. Seafood is a really important element in Catalan dishes, since the Northern Spain region harvests seafood and relies on it.
To keep the seafood starters going, we also served Mussels in Escabeche, a mixture of seafood, veggies, and acid. Delicious!
For our second course, I am proud to say that we hosted our own traditional Calçotada! Calçots are similar to green onions and leeks and are in season in the Catalan region for a short time during the winter. From January to April, Catalans feast and celebrate these mild green onions by grilling them up on a fire and serving them with a delicious Romesco sauce made of fire roasted peppers, tomatoes, almonds, and toasted bread.
Our main course, served at 10:30pm in Spanish fashion was a pretty impressive effort, if I do say so myself. We had a Rabbit and Artichoke Paella, a Squid Ink Rice with Prawns, an Escalivada of beautiful veggies, and Sea Bass roasted in a salt shell served with a delicious citrusy salad of Oranges, Radicchio and Pickled Red Onions.
At midnight, we finished our meal with a traditional Crema Catalana, a Brazo de Gitano filled with Persimmon Jam and Whipped Cream, and a simple but delicious Homemade Fresh Cheese with Honey (Mel & Mato).
I am incredibly proud of this meal and look forward to sharing the rest of the recipes with you in the coming days, so stay tuned and enjoy the Mussels in Escabeche recipe below!
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1 rounded cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup pastry or all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 16 ounces heavy cream
- confectioner’s sugar to dust
- persimmon compote:
- 5 ripe persimmons, mashed
- 1 small pear, cored and chopped up
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 cup sugar
- zest and juice of a lemon
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease a 12×16 inch high-sided cookie sheet.
Line with parchment paper.
- Beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla until pale and a bit fluffy.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
Mix flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
Separately, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add a pinch of salt or cream of tartar to help it along if needed.
Fold 1/3 or egg whites into the dough.
Fold in the remaining egg whites, carefully!
Spread onto lined cookie sheet.
Bake 10-15 minutes until baked through but not browned.
While still warm, cover with a piece of parchment and roll into a towel to form the roll shape. Set aside to cool.
- Combine all compote ingredients (except lemon) in a pot and cook until thickened. Mash with an immersion blender if the fruit doesn’t break up completely on its own. It should take 10-15 minutes.
Add lemon juice and zest. Cool completely.
- Whip heavy cream until firm peaks form. Add a bit of vanilla extract if you like.
- Unroll cake, cover surface with compote. Cover with whipped cream.
Roll back up. Wrap in plastic to keep overnight if needed.
When ready to serve, dust with confectioner’s sugar.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.