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 à 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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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bavarois á L'Orange - Orange Bavarian Cream

In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia usually begins with a "master" recipe and then offers two or three variations on the theme. So far, I've made all the variations of Bavarian creams but have neglected the master recipe -- until now.

Actually, I've recently learned that it was Julia's co-author who was solely responsible for the Bavarian creams in Mastering. So, kudos to Simone Beck.

First, a trip down a Bavarian memory lane. Here's the voluptuous Bavarois aux Fruits (Strawberry Bavarian Cream):

 And her handsome cousin, the almond praline Bavarian cream:

Bavarois á L'Orange is a molded dessert in which egg whites and whipped cream are folded into an egg custard that is flavored, and into which gelatin is added. As I've mentioned before, I've never really enjoyed desserts or sweets very much, but these Bavarian creams have truly made me a convert.

What's really remarkable about the orange Bavarian cream -- and I didn't notice this until I tasted it -- is that you get a full-on orange experience with this ochreous puppy. Orange is highlighted in this recipe in four different ways: The custard is flavored with orange juice, grated orange peel and orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier). Then, orange segments that have been marinated in Grand Marnier and sugar top the dessert and also serve as a side sauce.

But it's not all orange-orange-orange-orange. It's all involved in that eggy-rich custard as well. (The recipe calls for seven egg yolks.) Due to the massive and recent egg recall, and being that I try to avoid poisoning my guests, I played it safe. I used organic, free-range, pasteurized eggs from chickens that were into natural healing, meditation and yoga.

Yes, with these Bavarian creams, you'll need to make an investment of time and effort but the orange variety requires the least. (The almond praline Bavarian cream is, by far, the most labor-intensive but it's also my favorite.)

Julia writes: We have concluded that this particular masterpiece cannot be achieved in seconds; a cooked custard, well-dissolved gelatin, stiffly beaten egg whites, properly whipped cream, perfect flavoring, and then the right blending of one element into another at the right time seem to be the requisites for a true Bavarian cream. 

Do not be daunted. Once you make this masterpiece, it becomes considerably easier each and every time from there on out. That's not to say I've made mistakes along the way. I've had custard split from overheating it. One time, I poured the cream into my KitchenAid to whip, left it unattended for a moment, and soon returned to a whirling mass of butter and whey. (It only calls for a half cup of cream to be whipped -- best to crank that out by hand and forgo the heavy machinery.)

The best part is, it can be made a day in advance and takes seconds to assemble. Your guests will already, no doubt, be impressed with your meal. You can slip away into the kitchen and with careless ease, magically re-appear with your masterpiece at hand.

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