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TWD: Raspberry Blanc-Manger

I’ve heard it said, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”   And yesterday, it did!

I went to bed on Sunday night pleased with the fact that this week’s TWD selection was already made and resting comfortably in my fridge. All I needed to do was take some glamour shots the next morning and I’d be good to go.  I was psyched!   After fifteen months, it was finally my turn to host our little weekly TWD soiree.  The recipe I had chosen was Dorie’s Raspberry Blanc-Manger.  As I leafed through the book one day, I fell in love with the picture of that lovely white cloud of fluffy perfection.  I also fell in love with the fact that this recipe could be made without turning on my oven.  In the middle of July in a sweltering Florida summer, that was a very good thing!  

I woke up on Monday morning and I immediately knew something was amiss.  Aside from a heavy rain rhythmically pelting down on the roof and the distant sounds of rumbling thunder, it was eerily quiet.  No humming from the air conditioner.  No gurgling from the aquarium.  No sputtering from the coffee maker.  The power was out and I had no idea for how long!

Oh $#*&!

I dragged myself out of bed and called the electric company.  We lose power so frequently around here, that I actually have FPL on speed dial on my cell phone!  The computer generated voice on the other end of the line told me that my power would be restored by 10:45 a.m.  Okay.  It was 8:00.  That wouldn’t be too bad.


Despite repeated scathing phone calls from me and several empty promises from them,  the lights did not go back on at my house until after 4:00 that afternoon.   To add insult to injury, the only excuse they could give me for the outage was that it was “due to stormy weather conditions”.

Stormy weather conditions??? WTF!

Well, suffice it to say that my beautiful blanc-manger was a jiggly, goopy mess! I couldn’t risk using the milk and the cream left in there either.  I had used up all of my raspberries too.  So, last night after dinner, and another trip to the grocery store, I made another Raspberry Blanc-Manger.  Of course, I then had to let it set up in the fridge for several hours before I could unmold it for photographs.

Can you believe this? Of all the weeks for this to happen, it had to happen this week – when it was my turn to host!

I’ve also heard it said, “Better late than never.”, so I present to you here, at last, my Raspberry Blanc-Manger, as well as a little chocolate/hazelnut version that I whipped up with all that extra nervous energy!

Blanc-Manger (pronounced “blah-mahn-jhay”) is a sweet, creamy dessert made with milk, cream and sugar, thickened with gelatin or cornstarch. Most versions are also flavored with almonds, as is this one.  The true origin of the dish is unclear, but it is believed that it was a result of the introduction of rice and almonds in early medieval Europe, perhaps around the mid 13th century.  If I had to compare it with something more familiar, I would say it is similar to a Bavarian or a panna cotta.  Dorie’s version also includes fresh raspberries, although any berries will do.

I followed the recipe in the book to the letter.  I also glazed the top of of the blanc-manger with the red currant glaze Dorie suggests in the “Playing Around” section.  I really liked that little bite of tartness from the currants. It was a nice counterpoint to the rich and velvety sweetness of the dessert.   Though I haven’t served it to anyone else yet, I think that this Raspberry Blanc-Manger will be a big hit!

My chocolate/hazelnut concoction is actually kind of a misnomer, as the term “blanc-manger” literally translates to “white dish” or “white food”, and we all know that chocolate isn’t usually white.  Maybe I should call this one “brune-manger” instead.  To make it, I substituted toasted ground hazelnuts for the almonds in Dorie’s recipe. I also added about 2 ounces of melted unsweetened chocolate to the batter.  To be honest, it was very good, but not nearly as dreamy as the original.

Be forewarned!  I had quite a bit of trouble unmolding both of my blanc-mangers.  If you do decide to try this recipe at home, line your mold with plastic wrap.  I didn’t because the recipe didn’t say to, and I wish I had!

If you’d like to try your hand at making this special dessert, I’ve included the recipe below.  You can also see how the rest of the gang made out with this dish by visiting the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll [1].

Raspberry Blanc-Manger
Baking: From My Home To Yours [2]

Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4-ounce packet unflavored gelatin

3 tablespoons cold water

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup raspberries (or assorted berries), or soft fruit cut into small pieces

Raspberry Coulis, for serving (optional)

Have an 8-x-2-inch round cake pan at hand. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water, and set out a smaller bowl that fits into this ice-water bath.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream until it holds soft peaks. Refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the dessert.

Put the milk, almonds and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make certain the sugar dissolves.

Meanwhile, put the gelatin and cold water in a microwave-safe bowl or a small saucepan. When the gelatin is soft and spongy, about 2 minutes, heat it in the microwave oven for 15 seconds, or cook it over low heat, to dissolve it. Stir the gelatin into the almond milk and remove the saucepan from the heat.

Pour the hot milk into the smaller reserved bowl and set the bowl in the icewater bath. Stir in the vanilla and continue to stir until the mixture is cool but still liquid — you don’t want the milk to jell in the bowl.

When you’ve cooled down the milk mixture, use a large rubber spatula to very gently fold in the cold whipped cream, followed by the berries. Spoon the blanc-manger into the pan and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. (If it’s more convenient, you can keep the blanc-manger in the refrigerator overnight; just make sure it is not near anything with a strong odor.)

To unmold the blanc-manger, dip the cake pan up to its rim in hot water for 5 seconds, wipe the pan dry and invert the blanc-manger onto a serving plate. Serve with the raspberry coulis, if desired.

SERVING: The blanc-manger, which must be served cold, can be presented plain with no accompaniments, but it is particularly attractive and extra delicious when it is served with the raspberry coulis. It can also be served with additional fresh berries or a spoonful of fruit salad. Pineapple goes well with the sweet, shimmery cake, but because fresh pineapple reacts with gelatin, put it on the side of the serving plate, if you want to use it, not in the dessert.

STORING: The blanc-manger can be kept in the refrigerator overnight. Keep it well covered in its pan and unmold it at the last minute before serving.

PLAYING AROUND: There are two little things you can do to make your blanc-manger a dead ringer for a patisserie offering. One is to glaze the top of the cake with a thin gloss of jelly. If you want a clear gloss, use apple or quince jelly; for a pink glow, use red currant jelly. Whatever jelly you choose, bring a couple of tablespoons of the jelly to a boil with a splash of water — you can do this in a microwave oven or in a small pan over direct heat.

Using a pastry brush, spread a very thin layer of the jelly over the very cold cake (the cake must be fully set and cold before you put hot jelly on it).

Then, if the cake looks as if it may have melted a tad, just put it back in the fridge to chill a while before serving.

The second thing you can do is put the blanc-manger on a base: The traditional base is a thin disk of sponge cake — … any white or yellow cake, homemade or store-bought, would be good; just remember that you want a round that’s between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick, not a whole layer. … If you decide to use a base, you should build the blanc-manger in a springform pan. Put the cake or baked dough layer on the bottom, then pour in the blanc-manger mixture and chill.