In the summer of 2004, I attended a pastry seminar in Las Vegas where I had the pleasure to watch some great pastry chefs in action. It was a jam-packed schedule with morning and afternoon classes and I ended up with a little bit of “pastry chaos” in my head but there was one pastry chef, one, that stole my heart and that was Olivier Bajard. I had been to one of his demos before when I was in culinary school but this class in Las Vegas was something special for me. The theme was “Petits Gateaux”. If you have been following my blog the last few months, you have probably noticed that I am very much about mini cakes and pastries in general. I admire sugar and chocolate work, cake decorating and the more artistic side of pastry, but flavor is what draws me. Probably because I am not very artistic myself, I have never wanted to go into cake decorating which most of my classmates and co-workers wanted to do.
So I fell in love with Olivier Bajard. He was quiet, patient and there was no trace of chef ego, although he is a MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) which is probably the highest rank a pastry chef one can achieve in France and in the world, for that matter. Is like wearing a Super Bowl ring, I suppose.
One of the desserts he made was called “Violet”. How can you not love anything with a name like that? It was white chocolate squares, with a cassis-violet coulis, vanilla cream, strawberry salpicon and sugar dough. Just out of this world. That was the first time I ever heard of violet extract and seen it being used in pastry. Ever since then, I have been wanting to use violet extract in something but it has been nearly impossible to find it in this country. But I did find a violet syrup used for cocktail making. It’s from a company called Monin.
This dessert is certainly not at the level of Bajard’s “Violet” but it’s inspired by those flavors. This seems like a strawberry shortcake with a French twist. I built it with some sable breton, fresh strawberries, mascarpone cream and marshmallow that I flavored with a little bit of the violet syrup from Monin. The syrup is not very concentrated and certainly not as potent as violet extract, but it worked. It gave the marshmallow a mild violet taste and it didn’t change the white color which I like. If you like color, you can most definitely add food coloring at the same time you add the flavoring. That’s personal preference.
430 grams sugar
16 grams corn syrup
175 grams water
53 grams powdered gelatin (2 full boxes of Knox unflavored gelatin)
175 grams water
2 egg whites
25 grams sugar
2 Tbs violet syrup
In a deep saucepan, cook the first three ingredients to 126 degrees Celsius (258 degrees Farenheit). In the meantime, bloom the gelatin in the other 175 grams of water.
While the sugar is cooking, start whipping the egg whites slowly. When they start to build a meringue, sprinkle the 25 grams of sugar over them and continue whipping. When the sugar has reached 126 degrees C, add the bloom gelatin to the saucepan and whisk. It will bubble up so be careful and continue whisking. Turn heat off but let the gelatin completely melt in the sugar. as soon as the gelatin has melted, turn the speed in the mixer to low in the mixer and start adding the cooked sugar in a steady stream on the side of the bowl. When all the syrup is added, turn the mixer to high and whip until light and very fluffy. Add the violet syrup.
The marshmallow will be a little warm still. Pour it into a half sheetpan lined with a silicon mat. Spread it evenly and let it cool. If we whip it until it is cold, it will be very hard to spread it when we pour it into the sheetpan so don’t whip it too much. It will be just as fluffy.
Dust some cornstarch on top of the marshmallow and cut it into squares. It will be sticky, especially if you live in a humid climate like I do, so dust your hands and knife with cornstarch when you are going to cut it.
Marshmallow makes a wonderful gift and since this pan makes a lot of it, plan to give some of it away. Share the love of fluffy violet pillows. Have a great weekend!