An impressive dessert is an integral part of Christmas tradition. Chef Michelle Theron was inspired by the modern white beauty and the rich history of the Blanc Mange. This dessert has been written about in Europe from the middle ages.
Initially a savoury dish setting white meat such as chicken in almond milk, it is the sweeter version that has survived and is still served all over the world. The Italian version, for instance, is well known as panna cotta. In South Africa, Blanc Mange – or blankmaans, as it was known in Afrikaans – has traditionally been a very popular dessert. It is possible that its popularity was boosted when the British Settlers came to the Cape, as it also used to be a prominent dessert in British cooking.
The modern day version is usually made from milk set with gelatine and flavoured with almond or lemon peel, cinnamon or even cardamom. Complementing the white dish, fresh or stewed fruit is a popular accompaniment, but Chef Michelle shares a recipe for pecan and cranberry crisps to serve with the dessert. Not only do the nuts and cranberries add a wonderful festive flair to the dish, but the cookies are, simultaneously, crisp and chewy and add delicious texture to the smoothness of the Blanc Mange.Recipe: “Melkpons” Blanc Mange Ingredients
800 ml cream
240 ml full-cream milk
170 g sugar
3 gelatine leaves
1 vanilla pod
Bring the cream, milk, sugar and spices to a simmer.
Allow the mixture to simmer until approximately a quarter of the liquid has reduced out.
Bloom the gelatine leaves in ice-water.
Remove the gelatine from the water, making sure all excess water is squeezed out, then dissolve the bloomed gelatine in the cream mixture.
Strain the mixture through a sieve and cool over an ice-bath. When the mixture starts to thicken slightly, place into moulds or serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Pecan and cranberry crisp Ingredients
1 sheet shortcrust pastry
3 eggs, very lightly beaten
15 ml milk
250 g castor sugar
65 ml golden syrup
50 g butter
50 g chopped white chocolate
200 g chopped pecan nuts
85 g dried cranberriesMethod
Place the milk, butter, sugar and syrup in a heavy-base saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring. Once all the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and cool down. Once cooled to room temperature, add to the very lightly beaten eggs and whisk together.
Line a greased baking sheet with the rolled out sweet pastry – rolled out to approximately 3 mm.
Place the nuts, chocolate and cranberries into a mixing bowl, add the room temperature syrup to the nut mixture (if you want a more crispy, less “gooey” pecan slice, add only enough syrup to coat the mixture).
Spread the mixture evenly over the sweet pastry approximately 1 – 1,5 cm thick.
Bake at 170 ˚C for approx. 10 – 20 min until the nuts are golden and the pastry is cooked through.
Allow to cool and slice into fingers or as desired.Chefs note:
If you want to add more colour to the dessert, serve with a spiced plum sorbet and roasted spiced stone- fruit, or mixed berry sorbet and fresh berries.Wine recommendation:
2013 La Motte Méthode Cap Classique with its slightly fuller character and charming streams of minute bubbles is a delightful festive partner to the ever-so-elegant Blanc Mange, while La Motte’s Straw Wine, made from Viognier grapes dried on straw, to capture the intense sweet notes of this floral variety, is a perfect match for those who prefer something sweeter.