Today, it's my very own hero Jen of Use Real Butter keeping you company. I discovered Jen through the Daring Bakers and our friendship has grown in the most delicious way this past year. She is funny, bubbly, and sincere. She gives it to you as it is, has a very opiniated opinion (her words), a mouth watering blog and brilliant food photography. We have a say in our house "Jen's...that's what for dinner!"
I am positive I will go to my grave with a long list of desserts trailing behind me... I don't mean my gluteus maximus (hey, I'm keeping it clean since this isn't my blog), I mean a list of dessert recipes that I want to make. For every new recipe I master, there are at least three or four that I add to the list. Oh, who am I kidding? I don't master recipes, I just make them, shoot them, post them, and pawn them off on friends and neighbors. Despite this sisyphean endeavor to work my way through The List, imagine my delight and astonishment when I am introduced to a completely new dessert.
I think Tartelette will laugh when she learns that the first time I ever heard of Blancmange was when I was in junior high and listened to the British synthpop band by that very name. It wasn't until 20+ years later *gasp* that I sunk my teeth into the dessert, blancmange, at my aunt's house. Utterly delightful stuff.
If you told me that I could not eat chocolate ever again, I would not be heart-broken. I like to make things with chocolate, but I am okay without eating it. Now, if you said the same thing about cream-based desserts, I might sit down and have a cry because I actually enjoy eating them almost as much as I enjoy making them.
Having tried blancmange once before, I found a recipe for a modern variation on the dessert in one of my cookbooks. This one contains ground almonds - enticing! Based on other recipes I've perused, it looks as if blancmange is typically very smooth - a thickened cream-based dessert that is served unmolded. I ran into one discrepancy in the recipe, which was to use 1.5 cups of blanched almonds and in parentheses, the recipe said 4.5 ounces. That's not right at all. 1.5 cups yielded 7.5 ounces. In hindsight, I think I'd go with 4.5 ounces and I'll make a note of that in the recipe.
Even with a lot more almond than I think the recipe should have had, it was delightful. I would probably grind the almonds down finer than I did for a creamier consistency in the future. The process of folding in the whipped cream lends to the airy texture of the dessert. I made individual servings in ramekins, which unmolded with some stubborness. That may have been due to the high almond content.
The resulting texture was slightly thicker than mousse. If unmolding had not worked, I could have easily served the blancmange in lovely quenelles (although I'm not sure that would fly if I had made the recipe with less almonds). Either way, the important accompaniment is the fruit. Any combination of berries, drupes, you name it, pairs lovingly with the almond and cream. It also looks as stunning as it tastes. A simple and elegant recipe to serve.
Modern Almond Blancmange Recipe:
from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup cold water
1 envelope (2 1/2 tsps) unflavored gelatin (powder)
4 1/2 oz. almonds, blanched, sliced or slivered (just under 1 cup)*
2/3 cup sugar
4 tsps kirsch or Amaretto (ummm, I think I could definitely use more of this)
*the recipe says to use 1 1/2 cups which 66% more than 4 1/2 ounces, so if you want a really almondy dessert, go for it, otherwise I think 1 cup is sufficient.
In a small saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup of cream and the cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface and let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir over low heat until the gelatin dissolves. Set aside. Pulse the almonds and the sugar in a food processor until the almonds are very finely ground. When the gelatin mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the kirsch or Amaretto. Add the ground almond mixture and stir until combined. Whip the remaining 1 1/4 cups cream to soft peaks (do not overbeat). Fold the cream into the almond mixture in thirds. Rinse a 6-8 cup mold or 8 4-ounce ramekins (I did 6 6-ounce ramekins) in cold water. Pour in the mixture and cover with plastic wrap (but don't let the wrap touch the mixture). Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the mold. Dip the mold quickly in and out of hot water. Invert the mold onto a moistened plate and unmold. [Or, if you're me, cover the ramekin with plastic wrap after loosening the sides and dipping in hot water, then turn it over and smack it on a kitchen towel on the counter several times. When it finally comes out, use another piece of plastic to cover the top, then invert it again, remove the first piece of plastic, then invert it once more onto the serving plate.] Garnish with lots of fresh fruit (berries, peaches, etc.).