My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken √† l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .


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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bavarois aux Praline

Almond Praline Bavarian Cream

I think I'm in love.
Pure, head-over-heels, Ali-McGraw-in-Love Story in love

I recently made Julia's Bavarois aux Fruit which is a Bavarian Cream flavored with fresh strawberries and it was incredible. It was one of those desserts where everyone sort of has this stunned look on their faces upon taking the first bite; it's that good.
Here's a photo:


As with most recipes in Mastering, there's a main recipe and then several variations. The strawberry Bavarois was so luxurious and impressive, I decided to try the variation flavored with an almond praline.

Holy-Mother-of-God, I didn't think it was possible, but it was even better. Seriously, this is one of those recipes you must have in your culinary repertoire. After you're long gone, your great-nieces-and-nephews will sit around the Thanksgiving table with their grandchildren and they'll all reminisce about your Almond Praline Bavarian Cream.

It's that good.

Yes, this recipe sounds pretty involved and there are a number of steps to it. But aren't all legendary feats worth the effort? Besides -- and trust me on this one -- once you've made it a couple of times it won't seem nearly as intimidating. You'll be whipping out Bavarian creams with insouciance; with careless ease.

First, there's the almond praline which I've told you about here. Yes, there's carmelized sugar involved along with toasting slivered almonds. If that seems too daunting of a beginning, make it the day before and be done with it.

The almond praline is ground in the food processor and you're on to the Bavarian cream. A custard is made with seven egg yolks, sugar, hot milk, and flavored with vanilla. To set up this molded dessert, gelatin is dissolved in a half cup of strong coffee. (The coffee gives it another layer of flavor that really doesn't say "coffee", but rather, just another dimension that makes this dessert so appealing.)

If you're making this dessert all in one go, now would be the time to tackle the almond praline while the hot custard is cooling.

Five egg whites are whipped and folded into the custard. Then, fresh whipped cream is folded in along with the coffee/gelatin and the crushed almond praline.

The whole thing sets up in the fridge -- I use a 9-inch springform cake tin lined with plastic wrap.

Julia did always say, "Everything in moderation; including moderation."

So, in the vein of obligatory immoderation, another batch of custard is prepared as the topping. Yes, there are, indeed, fourteen egg yolks in this recipe and that's what your ancestors will be remarking about after you've left this good Earth.

The dessert is unmolded onto a serving platter, about half the custard is swathed on top along with the remaining praline. Serve the remaining custard on the side.


Trust me, this is food from the angels. You need to make this dessert.

Now.

I mean it. . . . Go.

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