What an interesting Tuesdays With Dorie recipe this week. Susan, of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy chose Dorie's Raspberry Blanc-Manger. I found this to be such an and intriguing recipe. First, I needed to learn to pronounce blanc-manger. I failed French I in high school. "Blah-mahn-jhay". Répètes. "Blah-mahn-jhay". Très bien!
Next, I needed to learn what the heck it was. It looks to me like a panna cotta. Only with ground almonds in it. In fact, Dorie calls it the kissing cousin of panna cotta. This wasn't extremely helpful to me either, since I don't have a lot of experience to with panna cotta, except one near successful attempt at a coconut milk panna cotta made with agar agar. But I did learn something about panna cotta last week. According to Jay Rayner, on last week's Top Chef Masters, "A good panna cotta, if it's set right, is meant to wobble like a woman's breasts." Just thought I'd share that, in case you missed it.
So the blanc-manger may have been around for a couple thousand years. Today's version uses gelatin instead of crushed bones. That's great, unless you are a vegetarian who doesn't use gelatin because it is made of crushed bones. (Me!) So I decided to use agar agar as my gelling agent. Agar Agar is "a gelatinlike product of certain seaweeds, used for solidifying certain culture media, as a thickening agent for ice cream and other foods, as a substitute for gelatin, in adhesives, as an emulsifier, etc.". I substituted agar agar powder 1:1 for the gelatin in the recipe and followed the recipe instructions.
I questioned my judgment on that after I microwaved the agar powder with three tablespoons of water for 15 seconds. I ended up with a glob of what looked like an eraser.
Once I added it to the milk/almond/sugar mixture, it dissipated and was OK, but in the future, I might try just adding the agar powder directly to the milk on the stove. When I started to cool my mixture in the ice bath, the agar started to jell really quickly. My almonds were not ground very finely, and I was really worried because at this point, this recipe looked like Malt-o-Meal.
I quickly mixed in whipped cream and blackberries and was pleasantly surprised that it turned out really well. I made a blackberry coulis and was very pleased with the result.
The only aspect that maybe wasn't quite right was the texture of my almonds. I had whole almonds that I blanched and ground in the food processor. I have had trouble getting the skins off before, but this time followed these easy instructions from Amanda. I recruited my grandma to help with the almonds, but I couldn't get them ground very fine and the texture in the final blanc-manger was like rice pudding.
Speaking of pudding, this is really off topic, but it was a great "ah ha" moment for me. I am a rock hound and every year I assist with a class at a summer camp that teaches kids about rocks and fossils. The instructor has a PHD in geology and oceanography and is a great mentor, but sometimes explains things in really technical terms and doesn't show examples of what he is talking about. One of the rocks I have yet to find is a puddingstone, a "metaconglomerate of large dark crystals in a lighter fine grained matrix, that looks like a pudding". What? With that description I have never really been able to picture what I am looking for. However, when Jennifer brought her blanc-manger to book club, and cut it, as soon as I saw the way the berries were suspended in her "pudding", I immediately pictured the elusive puddingstone!
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