These are the easiest cookies to make for company because, despite their trs French flavor, they are essentially slice-and-bake icebox cookies. The dough is made in a flash in a food processor, rolled into logs, chilled, then cut into rounds and baked in minutes.
When I've made them, I've added chopped toasted pecans, plumped currants, and a dash of cinnamon to the dough and loved it. And of course, as an American, I cheat a bit on the chocolate bits.
On the sad (but, fortunately, seldom) occasions when my cupboard is bare of Valrhona Guanaja (Herme's choice for these cookies and one of my favorite kinds of chocolate), I've chopped up ready-made chocolate chips, specifically Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Chocolate Chips.
According to Larousse Gastronomique, the bible of French cuisine, blanc-manger (known as blancmange in America) may be one of the oldest desserts in the repertory. It dates from the Middle Ages, when it was made with honey and almonds or with the gelee that developed when capon or veal was cooked.
What goes unmentioned is that at the start of this millennium, it has become one of the most popular desserts - again.
Part cream, part jelly (like an Italian panna cotta or, dare I say it, American Jell-O), and molded and served like a cake, the blanc-manger of today is a mixture of ground almonds and milk fortified with gelatin, smoothed with whipped cream, and often, as this one is, studded with morsels of fruit.
It is a cake that can be varied with the seasons; it is excellent made with red berries in summer, pineapple or mango in winter, or premium-quality canned fruits when the markets' fruit stands are bare. And it can be served after any meal, dressy or casual, hearty or light.
At Rollet Pradier bakery in Paris, the blanc-manger is made in a traditional nine-inch cake pan. But you can use a springform or even a fancy gelatin mold, the kind with all the nooks and crannies.
The cake is extremely easy to assemble. And, because the gelatin and whipped cream must be refrigerated to set, it's perfect for parties: You can make it in the morning and serve it in the evening.
It is not for nothing that blanc-manger is the dessert of choice among chic Parisian newlyweds eager to test their fledgling culinary skills on something famous, fabulous and foolproof.
Sables Korova (Korova Cookies)
Makes about 3 dozen
1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chip-size bits
1. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda.
2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the brown and granulated sugars, salt and vanilla; beat 1 to 2 minutes longer.
3. Reduce mixer speed to low. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing only until blended. (Dough will look crumbly and that's just right. For the most delicate texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added.) Toss in the chocolate and mix only until blended.
4. Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface and divide it in half. Working with half the dough at a time, shape dough into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (Cookie dough logs have a way of ending up with hollow centers, so as you shape each log, flatten it once or twice and roll it up from one long side to the other to eliminate any air channels.) Wrap logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (Wrapped airtight, logs can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month.)
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Working with a sharp, thin knife, slice rounds of cookie dough 1/2 inch thick. (Don't be upset when the cookies break. Just squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie.) Place cookies about an inch apart on prepared baking sheets.
7. Bake, one sheet at a time, on the oven's center shelf for 12 minutes. (Cookies won't look done or be firm, but that's just the way they should be.)
8. Place baking sheet on a wire rack and let cookies rest only until just warm or at room temperature. Remove from pan. Repeat with second sheet of cookies. Packed airtight, baked cookies will keep at room temperature up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Note: If dough is frozen, you needn't defrost it before baking. Just slice logs into cookies and bake 1 minute longer.
- Adapted from a recipe from Pierre Herme Paris
Per cookie: 101 calories, 1 gram protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, 5 grams fat, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 50 milligrams sodium,
Makes 8 servings
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups whipping cream, chilled
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
1/2 cup sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons kirsch, or to taste
1 peach, peeled, pitted and diced small
2 slices pineapple, diced small 1/2 cup small strawberries, hulled and halved (if using larger berries, cut into small dice)
1. Have ready an 8-inch-wide, 2-inch-high cake or springform pan, preferably nonstick. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water and set out a smaller bowl that fits into this ice-water bath.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over 3 tablespoons cold water. When soft and spongy, heat the mixture for 15 seconds in a microwave oven to liquefy it (or do this over low stovetop heat); set aside.
3. Whip the chilled cream until it holds medium-firm peaks when the beaters are lifted. Cover and refrigerate.
4. Bring the milk, almonds and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the dissolved gelatin and then the kirsch.
5. Pour milk-gelatin mixture into the small bowl and set bowl in the ice-water bath. Continue stirring, removing the bowl as soon as the mixture cools and starts to thicken.
6. Working with a flexible rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream. Lightly fold in the fruit. Scrape blanc-manger into prepared pan.
7. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
8. Unmold blanc-manger onto a cake plate. (If you've used a cake pan, the easiest way to unmold it is to dip the pan into a sinkful of hot water. If using a springform pan, warm the sides of the pan with a hair dryer before opening the latch and removing the sides.)
9. Once assembled, blanc-manger can be refrigerated, away from foods with strong odors, for 1 day, though it's best to serve it the day it is made.
Note: During the summer, I like to make this blanc-manger with blueberries - wild blueberries, when I can get them. I ditch the kirsch and just flavor the mixture with a couple of teaspoons of vanilla.
- Adapted from Patisserie Rollet Pradier, Paris
Per serving: 356 calories, 5 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams sugar, 25 grams fat, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 159 milligrams sodium, 2 milligrams fiber.