Last night I made a couple of jelly rolls as part of our family dinner dessert. My grandmother used to make these and I think part of my appreciation for them comes from memory. In fact I only remember her cooking two meals, one standard in winter, one in summer. Hot meatloaf in winter, cold meatloaf sliced with home-made pickles in summer. She also made a wonderful mayonnaise for her salads which were always garden lettuce and radishes.
She was a Depression housewife and looking at her recipes now I see that they were all very economical, there's nothing much in the jelly roll (no fat but the eggs) and it is all about technique, not just the ingredients, and what you make with it.
Much like life. Just like sewing.
The other thing I know about my grandmother was that she ran her household on the money my grandfather gave her every week, which was limited, despite his business. I know that bothered her a lot, being subject, dependently to what she was given. In fact even when he died the management of his money was turned over to a nephew who worked in banking and he put her on an allowance, and there were always stern words about not "touching the capital."
Some man told her what she should live on her whole life, and I remember too that she wanted to work early in her marriage, she was a book-keeper, but wasn't allowed to, as it would "look bad."
The thing about her was that when she died, at 94, we discovered she had her own secret bank account where she had pieced together a surprising little sum, composed I suppose of the corners she cut over the years. I remember seeing a quarter of a pancake carefully wrapped up in her fridge.
So it doesn't take a lot to make a jelly roll, but you have to know how.
Here's how you do it.
Set your oven to 375.
Lay a tea towel on your counter and put a few tablespoons of icing sugar on it and using your hands rub the sugar into the towel to coat it well. Roll up the tea towel.
Get out a baking sheet and grease it. Then cut a piece of parchment paper or tin foil (I use parchment, my grandmother used tin foil she had saved) and lay that on the baking sheet and grease it well too.
Measure 5 tablespoons of water and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a cup.
Measure out 1 cup of flour into a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Get some jam or jelly ready with a knife or large spatula on your counter.
Put three eggs in a bowl and beat them hard until they are yellow and frothy. Then add 2 cups of sugar and beat that in nicely.
Add the water and vanilla from the cup and beat, add the dry ingredients and beat until a smooth batter.
Pour the batter onto the paper or foil lined pan and tip it around to move the batter over the whole surface. Don't stress about this, it doesn't have to be an even rectangle.
Now this is the secret, hit the pan hard down on the counter. This will make the bubbles in the batter rise to the top and not stay in as fault lines in your cake so it will crack up when you try to roll it.
Put it in the oven and set your timer for 10 minutes. Watch it carefully, it may need a couple more minutes than 10, you need it cooked but not too brown on the edges, remember the batter is thin. You don't want to overbake and end up with a dry jelly roll.
When it is done you have to start moving fast.
Take the pan out of the oven and immediately unroll the tea towel on it icing sugar side down. Then flip the pan over onto the counter and lift the pan off.
As quickly as you can peel the paper or foil off the cake, the longer you wait the harder this will be to do, but again don't get stressed about it, it's normal to have a few edges stay stuck to the paper.
Just as quickly spread the cake with jam (I use seedless raspberry) and using your tea towel to help you, roll it up. Again this is easiest right away the longer you wait the more likely it will be that the roll will crack.
Leave your little rolled up bundle on the counter to cool and when it has cut it up into slices. This will be best if eaten before the end of the day, which it will be.