Sunday, August 7, 2011
Vanilla Bavarois with Raspberries
Bavarois is a delicious cream dessert, made with gelatine and softer than a pannacotta, but firmer than a mousse. I first came across this unctuous dessert at the French Kitchen Restaurant - a Canberra institution which very sadly closed a few years ago when the owners retired. I used to eat there with my parents when I was little and it was where I first tried pate (picking out the pepper corns and aspic as I went), then French onion soup, then venison, and then creme brulee studded with blackberries.
Finally, when I was university I worked for the Gerembeaux family as a waitress. Michel, the owner, decided it was high time for my culinary education to begin, and he set to broadening my foodie horizons with steak tartare, frog's legs, escargot and steak cooked medium-rare. I will never be able to thank him enough for the dinners he served for all the staff before the dinner shift started. It helped kick-start my love of food.
And what I didn't learn at the table, I did in the kitchen just by watching. How to flip a good crepe with your fingers, the perfect heat to sweat onions for soup, that the best way to saute young green beans was in butter and, finally, the beauty of classic desserts like bavarois, crepe suzette (flambéed at the table, no less) and creme brulee made thin so the custard is warm all the way through and you get far more of a toffee-to-creme ratio in every spoonful.
The bavarois at the French Kitchen were served in tall martini glasses with a topping of pureed raspberries, which cut through the creaminess of the dessert and provided a striking colour contrast with the whiteness of the bavarois. I have spent a number of years trying different bavarois recipes in an attempt to get the same texture and flavour as the French Kitchen dessert - I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Serve it with raspberry coulee or a handful of fresh raspberries scattered on top.
- 500 ml milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 cup white sugar
- 4 leaves of gold gelatine
- 2 vanilla beans
- 500 ml thickened/whipping cream
For once there's absolutely no need to preheat an oven or line tins! Take your gelatine leaves and soak in a bowl of cold water - just enough to cover them properly. If you can't find gelatine leaves (try Essential Ingredient) then substitute 1 tablespoon of powdered gelatine. This also needs to be soaked in cold water at this stage.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, then set aside. Place the milk and vanilla beans in a saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil (not a fast boil, just a slow boil).
Add the heated milk to the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour this back into the saucepan and put on a low heat - do not neglect the custard while it thickens, it needs to be stirred the whole time. Be patient, this happens slowly. Don't put it on too high a heat or it will curdle (I know this because it's happened to me!). When it thickens to the point that it coats the back of a spoon.
Take the saucepan off the heat. Remove the gelatine leaves from the water and squeeze to remove excess liquid. Add to the hot custard and stir until the gelatine is dissolved in the custard.
Next, strain the custard through a sieve, removing the vanilla beans. Slice the beans in half on a chopping board, scrape the vanilla beans from the pods and add them back into the custard. I whisked them in to make sure the little black specks were evenly distributed throughout and didn't form little 'clumps' in the custard. Now, cover the bowl with cling wrap and place it in the fridge until it is cool to the touch (approximately an hour in my fridge, but yours may be colder, so keep an eye on it).
Whip the cream in a stationary mixer or with hand-held beaters, then fold the cooled custard through just until combined. Spoon into some ramekins or martini glasses if you have them, cover with cling wrap and place back in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours.
Top with raspberries or other fruit that has both a good colour contrast with the whiteness of the creme and enough acidity to cut through the sweetness of the dish.