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My unrelenting love of period melodramas continues with a second installment of my Downton Abbey Jelly Series. The first Downton Abbey post, Mr. Molesley’s Prize-Winning Rose Blancmange, was historically correct and visually lovely, but disappointing taste-wise. It turns out adapting Victorian/Edwardian recipes to modern-day ingredients and measurements is not as easy as I hoped.
For the second installment of the series, and to prevent another taste disaster, I decided to not create my own recipe but follow in the steps of my own culinary hero, Julia Child. Lucky for me, Mastering the Art of French Cooking has several recipes for the pinnacle gelatin dessert of Edwardian England – the Bavarian Cream. A Bavarian Cream (Bavarois if you’re fancy) is essentially custard with whipped cream added just before setting, a touch of gelatin to maintain shape, and a touch of flavoring and booze.
If you’ve ever made a recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you know they are not simple or straight forward. Instead they are convoluted and complicated, resulting in many tear stains on my beaten up copy. This recipe pushed my limited culinary skills to their breaking point. Needless to say, the Bavarois à l’Orange was the most work I’ve put forth for a gelatin dessert.
Let me summarize what is required for this recipe – you must separate a bunch of eggs, whip egg yolks in sugar, cook egg yolks without scrambling (I’m still shocked I pulled this off), dribble boiling milk into egg yolks, whip egg whites and fold into yolks, stir egg mixture in a bowl sitting into another bowl of ice, whip cream, and fold cream into everything else. Grating and juicing the oranges was just the easy part. Get the idea?
Complaining aside, the work put into this dessert is worth it. This is, without a doubt, the most delicate and flavorful dessert I’ve ever made. Egg yolks created a taste more rich and complicated than typical panna cottas, and addition of whipped cream and whipped egg whites created a delicate and fluffy texture that transcended – well – anything I’ve ever tasted. Since I’ve never had a Bavarian Cream before, I have no idea how “authentic” mine turned out, but I do know it was a hit at my French-themed birthday party.
A note on this recipe:
Since it would be a breach of copyright law to replicate the entire recipe on my blog (and I really hate breaking copyright laws), I will not post the recipe. However, if you’re the type of person who wants to make such a complicated and fantastically delicate dessert, you should bite the bullet and just buy Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Good news: After some research, I discovered most Bavarian Cream recipes are not nearly as complicated as Julia’s. So if you’re looking for an easier recipe, Google away!
Since November I’ve been experimenting with pumpkin panna cottas – while most tasted alright, they never turned out the way I wanted. Even the mold seen here turned out strange – notice how some cream separated from the pumpkin? Oh well – it still tasted good.
I finally decided to let go of my nagging pumpkin panna cotta perfectionism and post my favorite – Cardamom Pumpkin with Cognac. To create this mold, I adapted this Mark Bittman recipe published in the New York Times by adding a cardamom simple syrup and cognac. By the way, have I mentioned how much I adore cardamom? It’s a shame many American’s have yet to discover what South Asians have known for centuries – cardamom is a distinctly lovely spice that takes deserts to an entirely different level of, well, spicy fantasticness. The combination of cardamom, pumpkin, cream, and cognac tasted like a unique boozy pumpkin pie without the crust.
Recipe for Cardamom Simple Syrup
Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add cardamom pods. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning strain the syrup and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Recipe for 4-cups
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup pureed pumpkin
- ½ cup cardamom simple syrup (see above)
- ¼ cup Cognac (a nice brandy will also work here)
In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¾ cup milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. Using a blender, blend the cardamom simple syrup, cream, pumpkin, and cognac. After blending, put mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat (Do not boil). Once steam starts to come off of pumpkin mixture, pour the mixture into the bowl with gelatin and milk. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Pour into mold(s), and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.
Needless to say, Halloween is a fantastic time of year for gelatin molds. My goal was to create tasty (but disgusting looking) desserts from scratch using no food coloring. Overwhelmed with yummy/revolting possibilities, I only had time and money to pull off a few. Except for the Bloody Mary heart (which tasted bland), these were a hit at parties. I can’t wait for next year…
Raspberry Cream with Cognac and Raspberry Syrup
Recipe for 5.25 cups
- 3 packets Knox gelatin
- 1 cup water (for blooming gelatin)
- 1 ½ cup water (for boiling)
- 1 cup puréed fresh raspberries, seeds strained (approx. 2 cup whole)
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ cup cognac
Put 1 cup of water in a large bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Set aside. Put water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in raspberry purée, sweetened condensed milk, and cognac. Pour into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.
Raspberry Syrup (adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)
- 1 cup fresh raspberries
- 1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
Combine raspberries, cornstarch, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until syrup thickens. Strain. Spoon over set gelatin mold.
Zombie Matt (artist and future gelatin mold collaborator) enjoyed the boozy brains.
Blancmange, meaning white food or white dish, is a European stiff pudding dating back to the Middle Ages. Originally made with cream, almond milk, and shredded meat, the blancmange eventually became a popular dessert with the European aristocracy. Typically white or pink in color, blancmanges were thickened with gelatin or cornstarch and set in elaborate molds.
I based this blancmange on an English recipe I came across in a used bookstore. The recipe called for fresh puréed raspberries (seeds strained), heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and gelatin. I adjusted the ingredient proportions and added cognac for flavor. The fresh raspberries were tart and sweet, and the whipping cream tasted rich and creamy. I served this mold (see picture right – yup I’m wearing pearls!) at a French Dinner Night I hosted with my friend Monti.
This Raspberry and Cognac Blancmange lacked the lush, smooth texture of molds made with sweetened condensed milk – but that may be because I used too much gelatin. I need to experiment more with heavy cream-to-gelatin proportions. I will continue this experimentation when I start my boozy panna cotta series.