Summer’s here – even though today, looking out of the window, it certainly doesn’t appear that way.
And yet only a couple of days ago I was flat on my back soaking up the glorious Lakeland sunshine. It was positively cracking flags (as we say round these parts). Heck, I even ditched the heavy kitchen whites in favour of a plain white tee.
And there lies the problem. With weather as changeable as ours it can be difficult to compile a solid summertime menu. Custom dictates that everything should lighten up for summer – clean, fresh flavours to complement the weather – yet today’s weather has me craving a rich beef stew with plenty of starchy carbs. If you think I’m exaggerating, listen to this: on Wednesday’s dinner menu we offered a chilled gazpacho; by Friday we’d switched it to seafood chowder. That, my friends, is the great British weather for you.
But that’s our job as chefs, to stay on our toes and alter accordingly. It’s all part of the game. For the larder and sauce it’s often a case of adjusting the garnish, taking the same main ingredient and twisting the volume up or down as needed – a slightly richer sauce, or the addition of a carb element to bolster a dish; poaching rather than roasting, dressings instead of sauces to freshen up a plate. It’s not too difficult. But it’s a little more tricky when it comes to pastry. Especially if, like us, you don’t have a dedicated pastry chef.
Pastry takes time. Desserts are often days in the making, so you need to know your menu well in advance, even if you don’t know your weather. And this was the case for us last week. We had a good balance of choice on the dessert front – hot and cold options, sticky puddings and fresh fruit flavours, simple staples and more extravagant offerings – but one of those choices had to be removed. Our trusty rhubarb dish had been forced into retirement due to the supply of good, tender rhubarb drying up. So we needed a replacement, and fast.
At this point the weather was still stunning and forecasted to stick around, so the dish swap would be like-for-like: one light, fruit based dessert to replace another. It had to be beautiful to look at, even better to eat, and I had to be able to make it in only a few hours. I had a glut of Scottish raspberries in the walk-in, so after a quick scan through my trusty blue book I decided on a good old-fashioned delice.
A delice is basically a custard or set cream, often on a sponge, pastry or biscuit base and topped with a glaze or jelly. My raspberry version uses a sponge base, a raspberry bavarois filling, and is topped off with a raspberry and Champagne jelly. Add in a little chocolate work garnish and you have an indulgent, yet light dessert with bags of ripe fruit flavour.
So, the plan of action:
- Raspberry purée
- Sponge base
- Raspberry bavarois
- Raspberry & Champagne jelly
- Chocolate glass
This was a simple case of passing the fresh raspberries through a fine mesh sieve and adding sugar as needed. As it’s still quite early in the season my berries were rather sharp, so I decided on more of a coulis treatment and gently heated them in a pan with a little caster sugar. Once they’d begun to break down I then passed them through a chinois to remove the seeds. I only used a little sugar and very lightly cooked the raspberries so the result wasn’t a true, sweet coulis and the purée retained a good amount of tartness.
You will need 500 ml of purée for this recipe, which equates to about 750g of fruit.
I wanted a good light sponge, but something with plenty of flavour. A genoese would give me the lightness but not the flavour, so I opted for a jaconde – a meringue based sponge containing ground almonds. It’s quick, simple to make and doesn’t absorb moisture as readily as a genoese.
- 255g egg white
- 67g caster sugar
- 202g ground almonds
- 202g icing sugar
- 255g eggs
- 34g plain flour
- 45g melted butter
- Preheat the oven to 170°C.
- Place the egg whites in a clean, dry mixing bowl. I like to wipe around the bowl using a piece of kitchen paper dipped in a little lemon juice or wine vinegar (even better, raspberry vinegar!) before adding the egg whites. This helps to remove any residual grease and encourages the egg whites to whisk properly. Whisk the egg whites until light and voluminous, then slowly add the caster sugar in a steady stream. Continue until you have a good stiff meringue that holds firm.
- Unless you buy from a speciality confectioner or pastry supplier, the ground almonds will not be particularly finely milled. This can result in an unpleasant grainy texture to the finished sponge. For this reason, I like to place the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and process them on a high speed for a minute or two. Then add the flour and sift the whole lot into a bowl.
- Add the eggs to the almond-icing sugar-flour mixture and, using a spatula, work them together to form a batter.
- Fold the meringue through the batter in three stages, ensuring that each one is incorporated before adding the next. Once all of the meringue has been folded in, add the cooled melted butter and fold that through as well.
- Line a baking tray approx. 50cm x 30cm with greased baking parchment or silicone paper, and pour in the jaconde mixture. Gently spread it until even, and bake in the preheated oven for approx. 20 minutes. It’s done when it’s lightly coloured and retaining a very slight tremble at its centre. Remove it from the oven leave it to cool.
Once the jaconde has cooled, it’s time to cut it to size. As the bavarois, which is a loose mixture, will be poured on top of the sponge it needs to be placed in a suitable container that will allow the bavarois (and later the jelly) to set whilst holding its shape. You could use individual mousse rings or frames, or one large one that can be portioned later. I opted for an expandable frame, rather like the one shown here. Trim the sponge to fit the frame/ring, making sure that it’s quite a snug fit (so that nothing leaks out!). Then, on with the bavarois…
- 400 ml raspberry purée
- 100g caster sugar
- 200 ml framboise or Champagne
- 100 ml ginger syrup
- 6 leaves of gelatine
- 250g natural yoghurt
- 1 litre semi-whipped double cream
- Place the purée, sugar, framboise/Champagne, and ginger syrup in a saucepan and gently heat them. The ginger syrup is just the syrup taken from a jar of crystallised ginger (essentially, a stock syrup flavoured with ginger root). Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water.
- Once the gelatine has softened, wring out the excess water and add the leaves to the saucepan. Stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved – but don’t allow the mixture to boil as this will jeopardise the integrity of the gelatine. Pass the mixture through a chinois and set aside to cool a little.
- Once cooled to room temperature, add the yoghurt to the mixture and stir until it has fully incorporated.
- Whip the cream until it is only just beginning to hold, then carefully fold it through the raspberry mixture. You may find that the cream forms little pockets within the mixture, but persevere with the folding until the mixture is good and smooth.
- Pour the mixture over the sponge (which is in the frame/ring) and place it in the refrigerator to set – approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
Raspberry & Champagne jelly
Whilst the bavarois is setting in the refrigerator, you can make the jelly. Once made, it needs to sit and cool to room temperature before being poured over the bavarois, so make it straight away and it’ll be ready to pour as soon as the bavarois has set.
- 100 ml raspberry purée
- 100 ml Champagne
- 100 ml stock syrup
- 3.5 leaves of gelatine
- Gently heat the purée, Champagne and stock syrup in a saucepan up to around 65°C – again, do not let it boil.
- Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until softened, then squeeze out the excess water and add them to the saucepan.
- Stir until dissolved, pass through a chinois to remove any undissolved gelatine, and set aside to cool.
- Once cooled, carefully pour the jelly over the set bavarois to give a good even layer. Then return the delice to the refrigerator to set – approximately 45 minutes.
Once set, the delice can be removed from the mould (always a tense moment!) and portioned if necessary.
I served the delice on top of bruléed meringue with a simple garnish of fresh raspberries dressed in a little of the purée, and finished it with a dark chocolate glass tuile.
I use a basic Italian meringue recipe, which calls for 121°C sugar syrup to be poured into whisked egg whites. This gives a firm meringue that is already cooked, so it can be used with out baking. Brulée-ing it with a blowtorch gives a nice contrast of colour and a crisp finish.
- 100g caster sugar
- 30 ml water
- 75g egg white
- Heat the sugar and water to 121°C, brushing down the inner sides of the pan with cold water as you do so – this stops the mixture from crystallising.
- Place the egg whites in a clean, grease-free machine mixing bowl (again, wiping with a little lemon juice or vinegar helps). When the sugar syrup reaches 115°C , set the machine to high and whisk the egg white until voluminous.
- As the syrup reaches 121°C the egg white should be whisked and ready to take the hot syrup. Reduce the speed of the machine and carefully pour in the hot syrup, aiming for the area between the edge of the bowl and the whisk – be careful, this syrup is seriously hot!
- Continue to whisk the meringue at high speed until the mixture has cooled.
The meringue can now be used in a variety of ways – piped, quennelled, spread on a plate, or as the basis for a bombe or baked Alaska. For this dish, I spoon a little onto the plate and spread it using a palette knife. A quick pass of the blowtorch then gives a lovely golden finish.
This is a really effective garnish which has the added bonus of being very quick and easy to make. The recipe is actually for pulled sugar shards, which also make a lovely garnish; once set, I simply take the mixture and blitz it to form a powder (which can also be used as a garnish), and then use that powder to make a chocolate glass.
- 80g isomalt
- 100 ml water
- 40g dark chocolate
- Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie.
- Heat the isomalt and water to 120°C.
- Add the chocolate to the isomalt syrup and mix well. As it cools it can be stretched into shape to form shards or other abstract forms.
- To make the chocolate powder, pour the mixture onto a silicone mat and allow it to cool and set. Once set, blitz it to a powder in a food processor.
- To make chocolate glass, sift the powder onto a silicone mat – or over tuile stencils – and bake/grill the mixture until melted. Remove the glass from the mat and shape whilst still warm.
This same recipe can be used to make a variety of fruit delice. Simply replace the raspberry element with a purée of choice and adjust the garnish accordingly. I’ve had great success with passion fruit, green apple, mango and lemon variations. For the lemon version I find the whole lemon method works best as it gives a good balance of oil and juice, so I place whole lemons in simmering water and cook them that way for an hour. By the end of cooking they’re very soft and much of their bitterness has been removed; I then place the whole fruit in a food processor, pass through a chinois, and add sugar as necessary to achieve a good tart purée.