A Sip of Summer

June 29th, 2009

 

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 Whenever I'm in the mood for summer holiday, my mind always drifts to soft sandy islands afloat in glass-clear seas, bare feet dangling over hammocks, and tropical fruits hanging lush and ripe from the trees. 

Alas, no island getaway for me this summer, but fortuitously, I received a sample of The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley in my mail – in mango!  Although it's certainly great to be able to take advantage of seasonal produce, it's nice to have a quality alternative. When I was working at the bakery and we were making raspberry and passionfruit pates de fruits year round, fruit purees like these were a lifesaver: the consistent quality of good fruit purees takes one less variable out the complicated calculus of pastry.

I had also just gotten these adorable little dessert glasses – perfect for making verrines, those gorgeous French desserts that look like captured rainbows. Verrines are meant to be a feast for the senses – a beguiling combination of colors, textures, and tastes. I got out one of my favorite inspirations, a book on verrines by Stéphane Glacier, and there, as if pulled right out of my daydreams, was a mango-and-coconut striped number, ready to quench my thirst for a tropical getaway.

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The coconut cream uses pastry cream lightened with whipped cream, one of my very favorite techniques. Although pastry cream has a glorious multitude of uses, sometimes I like to mix it with whipped cream to give an airier texture and soften the flavor. With intensely rich and creamy coconut milk added, the whipped cream also prevents the final mixture from becoming too cloying or sweet.

I combined the mango puree with a little sugar and gelatin to create a jelly layer. Glacier's original recipe combines mango and passionfruit purees, if you want your tropical verrine to be a veritable orchard of fruit. One note with using purees: as with using fresh fruit, the amount of sugar to add depends on the existing sweetness. Some purees are presweetened, so be sure to taste before putting extra sugar in.

I've made mango mousses before, but I like this mango jelly because it preserves the brilliant golden-sunset hue of the fruit, and provides a nice contrast to the coconut cream. Also, since it's a jelly, you only want to have a thin layer (unless you're going for Jell-O-esque cubes), so it makes for an elegant visual.

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The very lovely photo in the cookbook showed the verrines decorated with chocolate curls, but since it was nearly 90 degrees in the city (yes, in SF, no joke!) I decided against the pain of tempering chocolate in high heat and opted for some chocolate wafers instead. I think it makes them look like little ice cream sundaes – sipping up summer, indeed!

Although San Francisco is not exactly the ideal place for outdoor unheated swimming pools, all the bodies of water I passed by this shimmeringly hot weekend looked mighty tempting. I hope you all get to enjoy a splash in the pool this summer!

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Tropical Verrines

adapted from Verrines et Petits-Gateaux

makes 12 verrines


Coconut Cream

2 cups milk

10 tablespoons sugar

6 large egg yolks

4 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 1/2 ounces coconut milk

8 1/2 ounces whipped cream

Mango Jelly

10 1/2 ounces mango puree

2 ounces sugar

6 grams (1 packet) powdered gelatin

For the coconut cream: heat 1 1/2 cups of the milk and 4 tablespoons of sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat until it comes to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and the egg yolks together in a medium bowl.

Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch together in a small bowl, then add to the eggs and whisk to combine.

When the milk on the stove has come to a simmer, pour in a slow stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens into pastry cream, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.

If you see any lumps or cooked bits in your pastry cream, press it through a strainer. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming and let cool.

Whisk the coconut milk into the pastry cream until combined and smooth.

Gently fold in the whipped cream into the mixture into combined.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip for ease of filling the glasses.

Combine the mango puree and sugar in a small bowl.

Bloom the gelatin with about 1/4 cup of water, then microwave for about 10 seconds until it is liquid.

Add liquid gelatin to the mango puree and stir to combine. Let sit for about 5 minutes to cool.

Pipe some of the coconut cream into the glasses, about 1/3 of the way up.

Pour some of the mango puree on top in a thin layer. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes to let the mango set slightly.

Pipe some coconut cream on top of the mango layer.

Pour some more of the mango puree on top, stopping short of the top of the glass.

Refrigerate verrines until set.

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