Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blackberry Blanc-Manger, (TWD), a post including crushed bones, wobbly breasts, seaweed, rocks, and a delicious dessert

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!


Clivia said...

LOL. I see the similarity but I know the blanc manger was more tasty!
Love you dessert photo. The coulis also looks delicious.

Ms. PH said...

Actually, the agar doesn't look a whole lot different than my gelatin looked at that point. It would be interesting to taste if there was a texture or taste difference.

I love the rock comparison!

I tried my hardest to get the almonds really fine. It didn't work. Then I read about almond flour on the TWD site. Maybe I'll try that next time!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness your post is hilarious! The comment about panna cotta...I will never look at it again the same way. Your finished product is gorgeous.

isabelle said...

Your post is so funny!
This looks delicious!
I love your blackberry coulis.

Tracey said...

Great post - you're hilarious! I watched that episode of Top Chef Masters too and got a good laugh out of that comment :) Your blanc-manger is beautiful!

spike. said...

I like the description of how pana cotta should wobble, great visual. Almost as good as ground up animal bones. Glad all turned out well!

Kim said...

It looks wonderful. I so wanted to use agar because I'm a veggie too. No luck. Hopefully I can find some at Whole Foods. Great post.

Michele said...

Great post and I think your veggie version of the blanc-manger looks wonderful!

Anonymous said...

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Secret Server said...

Kim, I have also found agar agar in the Asian food stores in little packets and it is telephone brand.

Anonymous said...

How funny! Too bad about the texture thing. I like that you used agar.

Susan @ SGCC said...

I'm totally Lol about the "Malt-o-Meal"! :D Mine kind of looked like that too. Your final product looks dreamy, though. Well done!

Sarah said...

Your blanc manger looks great! I too used agar agar and blackberries, and found it very tasty. Love your post title.