Let me start by saying that I have made blancmange many times before, but this time, when I decided to add creme fraiche to it, I realized that I found a really good substitute for the petit suisse I have been craving for so long.
For those of you who have never had blancmange, it is similar to panna cotta in the sense that it is sweetened heavy cream that is stabilized with the addition of gelatin. This recipe however, does not warm the heavy cream, it is whipped instead, resulting in a very light, mousse-like layer. The addition of creme fraiche adds that richness and bit of tang similar to petit suisse.
I have always liked a dollop of creme fraiche with roasted fruits so I decided to use it in the blancmange. After I spread some on my mousse cake, I had some leftover that I piped into shot glasses. That was going to be my mid-afternoon snack. When I tried it, I realized it tasted just like petit suisse and then the lightbulb turned on in my head… “That’s right! It makes complete sense!”.
After my first attempt to make petit suisse, which resulted in a nice fromage frais, I started reading more about the petit suisse making process. It’s very similar to the fromage frais but then at one point, after the milk has curdled, extra heavy cream is added. I wasn’t clear on how to proceed with those instructions so I left it at that, but this blancmange tastes just like petit suisse and now I know why. It is a cross between a fresh, soft cheese and sweet cream.
I built this cake with an almond and roasted plum sponge as the base. Then the roasted plum mousse is thinly spread over it, the vanilla bean creme fraiche blancmange and it is all topped with burnt swiss meringue. I also made some bubble sugar as decoration. I know it might seem very intimidating to work with sugar at home, and it can be, but this decoration is really easy to make and I think it’s a nice touch.
Plum and Almond Sponge
makes half a sheetpan
175 grams egg whites
90 grams sugar
150 grams almond flour
55 grams powdered sugar
30 grams flour
40 grams plum puree
In a bowl, sift together almond flour, powdered sugar and flour. Set aside.
Whip the egg whites to almost a full meringue. Slowly add the sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle a third of the sifted dry ingredients and fold. Add another third, fold and add the rest. Fold gently. Add the plum puree and fold.
Spread the sponge batter on a half sheetpan with an offset spatula. Spread evenly.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the top starts to turn color but not brown.
200 grams plum puree
20 grams sugar
2 gelatin sheets
200 grams heavy cream, soft peak
Warm the plum puree with the sugar. In the meantime, soften the gelatin in an ice bath. When the gelatin has softened, add it to the plum puree. When the plum puree is slightly cool, add the whipped cream into the base and fold gently until all ingredients are incoporated.
Spread the mousse evenly over the plum sponge and freeze right away.
Creme Fraiche Blancmange
350 grams heavy cream
2 vanilla beans
75 grams sugar
3 gelatin leaves
250 grams creme fraiche
Whip the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar to soft peaks. In the meantime, soften the gelatin leaves in ice water for about 5 minutes. Add about 3 Tbs of the whipped cream to the gelatin and melt it over a double boiler. Do not over heat it though. Stir so all the gelatin is dissolved.
Add about a cup of the whipped cream to the gelatin mixture and whip. We are tempering the gelatin. If we were to add the melted, warm gelatin to the entire batch of cold whipped cream, the gelatin would set right away and we would be left with chunks of gelatin in the cream. So temper a little bit of the cream into the gelatin and whisk. Then fold in the rest.
Finally, fold the creme fraiche into the cream base. Evenly spread the blancmange over the plum mousse with an offset spatula. Let it set in the refrigerator or freezer.
75 grams egg whites
150 grams sugar
Mix egg whites and sugar in a bowl and place over a double boiler. Whisk them together until sugar starts to melt. It will be hot to the touch and the color will change to white.
Transfer the bowl to the mixer and whip to a stiff meringue. Place the meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe some meringue on top of the blancmange. Burn the meringue with a blowtorch.
180 grams sugar
90 grams water
30 grams glucose
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook to 317F degrees. In the meantime, take a piece of parchment paper and make it into a ball with your hands. Open it up and flatten it but we want to keep the texture. Rub a little bit of alcohol on the parchment paper and when the sugar reaches 317 degrees, pour a little bit of sugar on one edge of the paper. Lift it and let the sugar run down. The alcohol will make the sugar bubble up creating the bubble effect.
This is very hot so be careful when you handle it. Once the sugar has hardened, peel the paper off carefully. Store the bubble sugar in an airtight container.
This is obviously not how petit suisse is made, so there will be more coming on this subject. Stay tuned… I have an accomplice on this!