What Is Roulade?

Karen Frazier
Sweet Roulade

The word roulade is derived from the French word rouler, which means "to roll." In the culinary world, a roulade has a number of sweet and savory applications that make visually appealing and delicious dishes.

Roulades Explained

In cooking, roulade is a term for a rolled dish. Typically, one food is rolled around another and sliced lengthwise into pinwheels. Roulades can have pastry applications, such as those made from a cake and filling, or they can be savory, with meat wrapped around some type of filling or stuffing.

Pastry Roulades

Pastry roulades are also called jelly rolls or Swiss rolls. The most common outer layer in a pastry roulade is a flat sponge-type cake rolled around a sweet filling. The cake can be any flavor.

Preparing the Cake

When you bake a roulade, you don't cook it in a traditional cake pan. Instead, you use a jelly roll pan so the cake is long and flat. When baking a roulade:

  1. Grease the pan. Next, line the greased pan with parchment. Then, grease and flour the parchment. This allows the cake to release easily.
  2. After baking the cake, lay a large cotton tea towel on the counter and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. The powdered sugar will keep the cake from sticking to the towel.
  3. Run a butter knife gently around the edges of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Then, invert the pan immediately onto the towel.
  4. Carefully peel away the parchment paper.
  5. Roll the towel around the cake into a loose spiral. Set it on a wire baking rack with the seam side down to cool completely.

Filling the Roulade

Inside, it may contain different types of fillings including:

  • Jam or jelly
  • Fruit
  • Mousse
  • Pudding
  • Cream filling
  • Nuts
  • Lemon, lime, or orange curd
  • Buttercream
  • Flavored whipped cream
  • Cream cheese

Filling the roulade with one of these fillings is easy.

  1. Unroll the completely cooled cake and lay it flat on the counter.
  2. Using a rubber spatula, spread the filling evenly across the cake.

Rolling the Roulade

Rolling the roulade requires careful attention to detail. Some people use the towel to help guide the rolling, but it isn't necessary. To roll the roulade, you use the width (the short edge) of the cake.

  1. Rolling Sweet Roulade
    Start rolling along the bottom short edge of the cake. Start with a tight spiral.
  2. Continue rolling along the length, keeping the cake tight around the filling, until you roll it into a long spiral. Don't roll so tightly that you squish out all the filling, but roll tightly enough that there are no air pockets in the spiral.
  3. When you finish, turn the roulade onto a platter with the seam side down.

Garnishing

The most common garnish for a pastry roulade is a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar. However, some roulades may have glazes, as well. It depends on the recipe. To garnish with powdered sugar, put about 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar in a fine mesh sieve. Tapping the side of the sieve, sprinkle the sugar evenly over the whole roulade.

Slicing

Slice the roulade across the width so each slice has a lovely pinwheel effect. Slice your pieces at about one to one and a half inches thick. To make slicing easier:

  • Consider freezing the roulade for about an hour so it sets up firmly and is easier to slice. If you do freeze it, don't put the powdered sugar on until after you take it out of the freezer.
  • Use a serrated knife, cutting with a gentle back and forth motion.
  • Dip your knife in warm water before each slice.
  • Do not press hard with the knife, or you might squish the roulade.

Pastry Roulade Flavors

There are so many flavours of pastry roulade, the sky's the limit. A few to consider trying include:

  • Pumpkin roulade with cream cheese filling
  • Lemon chiffon roulade with lemon curd
  • Chocolate roulade with chocolate mousse filling
  • Vanilla roulade with strawberry purée
  • Tea flavored roulade with orange curd filling

Meat Roulades

Meat Roulade

Meat roulades feature some type of meat, fish, or poultry wrapped around a savory filling.

Types of Meat

How you prepare the meat depends on the type of meat you choose. Some meats you might use include:

  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey breast
  • Duck breast
  • Roast beef
  • Beef tenderloin
  • Pork loin
  • Veal loin
  • Salmon
  • Halibut

Preparing the Meat

To prepare the meat, you need to give it even thickness throughout so that it rolls evenly around your filling. You may start with a piece of meat that is thin and even and rolls perfectly. However, more frequently you'll need to flatten the meat by butterflying it and then pound it to an even thickness.

To butterfly the meat:

  1. Lay the meat flat on a cutting board.
  2. Place your hand on top of the meat to hold it in place.
  3. Using a chef's knife and working along the length of the meat, slice the meat horizontally at the halfway point into two layers, stopping before you cut all the way through to the other side.
  4. Unfold the meat like you would open a book, leaving the intact seam in the center.

Next, you need to even out the thickness of the meat. To do this:

  1. Cover your cutting board with plastic wrap. Lay the meat on top of it.
  2. Now lay a second piece of plastic over the top of the meat.
  3. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound the meat until it is of even thickness, about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick.

Seasoning the Meat

Seasoning the meat is simple. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper on both sides of the meat.

Filling

Fillings in meat roulades are extremely variable. For example, you may create a filling out of a soft cheese and herbs, out of sautéed vegetables, out of other thinly sliced meats like prosciutto, or you may create a traditional bread stuffing. Some examples of stuffings for meat roulades include:

  • Goat cheese and herb
  • Prosciutto, spinach, and cream cheese
  • Pesto
  • Cornbread stuffing
  • Sweet potato purée
  • Walnut and fig purée
  • Sautéed mushrooms and shallots
  • Pâté

When filling the roulade, it is important that if you are using a cooked filling, it has cooled completely before spreading it on the meat. This is a safety issue because warm filling may bring the meat up to an unsafe temperature that encourages bacterial growth.

Depending on the type of filling you use, you can either spread it evenly over the meat (for a purée), or place it in a long "log" shape lengthwise along the center of the meat.

Rolling

If you are using a stuffing that sits along the center of the meat in a log:

  1. Rolling Meat Roulade
    Fold the sides of the meat up and over the filling, covering it completely.
  2. Tie the meat at even intervals to hold its shape.

If you are spreading a purée or cheese type roulade, then roll it as follows:

  1. You will roll the roulade starting along the length (the long edge). Roll the long edge in a tight spiral around the filling, working your way along the width of the meat until it is completely rolled in a pinwheel fashion.
  2. Use butcher's twine to tie it shut at regular intervals.

Cooking the Roulade

For a meat roulade, you will get the best flavor if you brown it in a saute pan first and then finish cooking it in the oven. Cooking times and temperatures will vary depending on the type of meat you use. To brown the roulade:

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  2. Without overcrowding the pan (which will cause the meat to steam instead of brown) brown the roulade on all sides, about four minutes per side. Work in batches if necessary.
  3. Transfer the roulade to a roasting pan and bake until the meat reaches a safe temperature. This varies depending on the type of meat and the cooking temperature.

Resting and Slicing

Once you've removed the roulade from the oven, set it aside, tented with foil, and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes.

To slice the roulade:

  • Use a very sharp chef's knife.
  • Do not slice until the roulade has rested for those 10 minutes, which gives the filling time to set and the juices from the meat to reabsorb into the meat's fibers.
  • Slice the roulade across the width, cutting it into half-inch to one-inch thick pinwheels.

Garnishing

You can leave your roulade as is, sprinkle it with a few fresh herbs for flavor, or make a lovely pan sauce. To make the pan sauce, put the pan in which you cooked the roulade in on the stove over medium-high heat.

  1. Add one cup of liquid, like wine, stock, vinegar, or lemon juice. Use the side of a spoon to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the liquid to simmer. Add any herbs you wish.
  3. When the liquid has reduced by half - about 10 minutes of simmering - swirl in about 1/4 cup of very cold butter cut into pieces, one piece at a time.

Beautiful Dinners and Desserts

Whether you make a sweet or savory roulade, or both, these visually appealing meals are easy to prepare and beautiful on the plate. Try making one for your family for a meal that is certain to impress.

What Is Roulade?