Blackcurrant Bavarois with a biscuit Joconde base, topped with blackcurrant jelly and British berries
This is a really pretty pudding with a fresh, summery and tangy taste. I'm not always a huge fan of blackcurrants as they can sometimes be a bit grainy, but I used delicious dessert blackcurrants, which are slightly sweeter, but still tart, and amazingly juicy. Although this pudding has quite a lot of components to it, it's well worth the effort. Much of the work can be done in advance, so you can enjoy your dinner party safe in the knowledge that you have a beautiful pudding waiting for you to whip out of the fridge when the time comes, with no last minute prep work, apart from the washing and slicing of a few berries.
Biscuit Joconde is a classic French almond sponge, named after the Mona Lisa and is used as a basis for many desserts such as Charlotte Russe. I much prefer making summer pudding with biscuit joconde instead of stale, sliced white bread, as I find that bread can often end up unpleasantly slimy. The biscuit Jocande soaks up the fruit juices without any sliminess and provides a more pleasingly sweet contrast to the tartness of the berries. The amount of biscuit Joconde you will make here will be far too much for your blackcurrant bavarois puddings, but wrap the rest in clingfilm and freeze. It keeps for ages and is such a useful pudding-making staple to have handy in your freezer.
Preheat your oven to 180 C (160 C Fan) and line a large roulade tin with baking parchment.
3 whole eggs
5 egg whites
A pinch of salt
2 oz/ 50 g caster sugar
1 1/2 oz/ 40 g melted butter
2 oz/ 50 g plain flour, sifted
7 oz/ 175 g icing sugar, sifted
7 oz/ 175 g ground almonds
Whisk the whole eggs and icing sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the ground almonds and continue whisking on high speed for about 6 minutes. Stir in the melted butter and flour until throughly incorporated. In a separate, clean and oil-free bowl, whisk the eggs whites and salt until at the soft peak stage. Whisk in the caster sugar in two stages and continue whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add a third of the meringue to the almond mixture and vigorously stir in to slacken the batter. Fold in the remaining meringue and pour the mixture into your prepared roulade tray. Use a palette knife to smooth the mixture out - it should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Bake in your preheated oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until the biscuit Joconde is no longer sticky to touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in its tin on top of a wire rack for about ten minutes before turning out of its tin on to the rack to leave to cool completely.
Blackcurrant compote/ puree
I used 3 punnets' worth of dessert blackcurrants, which is about 450 g. Simply wash the blackcurrants and top and tail them to remove their stalks and pop them in a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar, a mug of water and the juice and zest of half a lemon. Simmer gently until all the sugar has dissolved and your blackcurrants are soft but still mostly whole in a beautiful bath of purple syrup. Leave to cool and reserve a dessert spoonful or two per pudding and blitz the remaining compote into a puree and push it through a sieve into a bowl and reserve for later.
I absolutely love custard - hot, cold, thick or thin - but there is something particularly delicious about this vanilla scented, runny custard sauce that can turn the dullest of days into a special day for me; such are the powers of this vanilla hug on a spoon. You can have it on its own, pour it over almost any pudding or use it as a base for transforming it into something else - just as I'm going to do with this batch.
4 egg yolks
4 oz/ 100 g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways or 1 tsp vanilla extract
12 fl.oz/ 350 ml single cream, whole milk or half and half
Place the cream/milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod (if using) and gently bring to the boil. In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy and pop a sieve over the bowl ready. Once the cream has come to the boil, pour it through the sieve over the eggs to strain off the vanilla pod and any woody bits that have come off it in the cream. whisk the eggs, sugar and cream together and pour back into the saucepan. Add the vanilla extract at this stage if using. Place the saucepan over a gentle heat and whisk constantly until the custard thickens enough so that it can coat the back of a spoon and if you draw a line through the custard with your finger, the line remains. The creme anglaise should be runny and will thicken slightly more on cooling, so don't be tempted to overcook it if you think it's a bit on the watery side, as you'll be on a short, sure path to curdlesville. Once it's ready, immediately remove the creme anglaise from the heat and pour it into a cold jug or bowl. Cover the top with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool completely. It will happily sit in the fridge for a couple of days until you need it.
Blackcurrant compote and puree reserved from earlier
4 sheets of leaf gelatine, cut into strips
Cooled creme anglaise
330 ml double/ whipping cream
Using a pastry cutter, cut out a small circle of biscuit Joconde and use it to line the bottom of a martini glass. Push it down until it is right at the bottom. You can add another circle on top, if you like. Top the biscuit Joconde with a spoonful or two of your reserved blackcurrant compote and some of the juices, so it soaks through some of the spongey base.
Soak 4 sheets of leaf gelatine in cold water for about ten minutes until soft. Gently heat your reserved blackcurrant puree in a saucepan. Remove the gelatine from its water and squeeze off any excess and stir it into the warm blackcurrant puree. Take the pan off the heat and stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved. Pour in your creme anglaise and mix together thoroughly to make a pretty purple sauce. Allow to cool, but not set, and whisk a small tub (330 ml) of whipping or double cream until fairly stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the blackcurrant custard and spoon a generous amount of the bavarois into each martini glass on top of the blackcurrant compote. Leave enough room at the top for the bloackcurrant jelly and place the glasses in the fridge to set.
Make sure your glasses of bavarois have completely set before starting your jelly.
4 sheets of leaf gelatine
250 ml creme de cassis
1 tbsp caster sugar
Cut the gelatine into strips and place in a heatproof bowl and add about 1/3 of the cassis and leave to soak for about 10 minutes or until the gelatine has fully softened. Add the sugar to the cassis and gelatine and place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until the sugar and gelatine have dissolved. Be careful to ensure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining cassis, stir and ladle some jelly over the top of each of your martini glasses of blackcurrant bavarois and carefully place the glasses back in the fridge to set. They can stay in the fridge until you are ready to dress them with a few washed and sliced seasonal* British berries and serve.
* B night took place in the middle of July, so all produce was seasonal at the time. I've just been a bit slow with keeping up to date with writing up my dishes due to heavy work commitments.