Monday, May 08, 2006

Going Out on a Limb with a Raspberry Vacherin

When I read food blogs I like to read about failures, as these are always instructive. So it's my turn to contribute a semi-failure. Ideally I would aslo be able to describe how I fixed the problem, but I haven't found the solution yet. (Comments with suggestions are welcome)

It all started because I wanted to try something new and festive for a dinner party. I first tested a kind of chocolate mousse on almond dacquoise (meringue), decorated with ganache. Sounds nice, no? No. I put gelatin in the mousse to be able to unmold it, but it ended up... gelatinous. And the dacquoise was soggy. I thought the sogginess was because I hadn't baked it long enough, so I didn't give up on the concept.

My next and final attempt was a kind of vacherin. I didn't follow a single recipe, but I thought this would be simple enough: I baked three meringue layers, then filled them with homemade raspberry sorbet, and decorated the top with a mixture of whipped cream and italian meringue (the recipe for this garnish I found in my old Larousse dictionnaire de cuisine et de gastronomie, no longer in print).

The whipped cream didn't take very well, but after letting it rest in the fridge I was able to scrape the top off and get something pipe-able. Then I realized I had no idea how to pipe cream, and didn't have the time to practice as I did this at the last minute. I hurriedly threw raspberries around the cake, as I was afraid the sorbet would melt before I served it.

The sorbet was very good. But the meringue layers vanished into thin air! I had thought the ratio of meringue to ice cream might be a bit excessive, but with the moisture from the sorbet they practically dissolved, leaving only a little bit of moist chewiness. Not what I had been looking for. I guess you should only assemble a vacherin at the last minute?

As a result, I'll just post the recipe for the sorbet. It's both delicious and very easy to make. I made it with an ice cream maker but the recipe seems to suggest a variant using egg white for still-freezing.

Recipe: Raspberry Sorbet

Serving Size : 4
- 450 g (1 lb) fresh raspberries or frozen raspberries thawed.
I always use frozen, it makes my life easier and there's no surprise in the flavor. However I use fresh raspberries for the garnish
- 100 g (3,5 oz) caster sugar
I think that means regular granulated sugar...
- 150 ml (Quarter pt) water
- Juice of one lemon
I used half a lemon
- 1 Egg white (optional)
I didn't use one, but I guess it helps the texture if you don't have an ice cream maker.

1. Puree the raspberries and sieve if preferred. I first pureed them with a vegetable mill (is that the term?) then sieved the results again.

2. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil fast for 5 minutes until a sticky syrup forms. When the syrup has cooled,

3. Mix it with the fruit puree and lemon juice.

4. Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator (I left mine overnight).

5a. Freeze in an ice cream maker for 20 minutes. (I freezed it longer, more like 40 min. I think).

5b. (Variant if you don't have an ice cream maker) Alternatively, place the mixture in a bowl in the freezer until beginning to freeze around the edges. Whisk the egg white and fold into the part-frozen mixture. Return the sorbet to the freezer until frozen.


zinnur said...

Dear Astrid, i had a very similar experience very recently. I made a dessert alternating dacquoise and butter cake layers with some cream filling in between the layers. I was hoping to achieve the kind of crunch we enjoyed in the Aztec Cake from Cocolat. When i cut into it the next day, i saw that my dacquoise layers had vanished into thin air! i think that this happened because i incorporated half the sugar gently at the end. This yielded a tender and delicious meringue with light caramel flavor and chewy interior when baked (P. Herme recipe) but i think you need cement like meringue (with high sugar to egg ratio) if it will be in contact with cream, ice cream etc for a prolonged period. So i think i should have beaten all the sugar into the egg whites. i don't know if this helps you in any way, as i did not see your recipe. The only other thing i can think of is the right baking time (can be as long as 2 hrs.) and the drying (overnight in the oven).

i hope we'll be happier with the results next time we make meringue layers.

Astrid said...

Hello Zinnur,

Thank you so much for the helpful comments! I myself don't remember the recipe I used (that's what comes from browsing so many different sources) but I think there wasn't that much sugar in my recipe, even though I didn't fold sugar gently as you did. But the resulting meringue was very light indeed. So next time I'll look for a more dense recipe, thanks for the tip!