Category Archives: Custards, creams, puddings, mousses

Light Almond Cream with Plums

almondcreampIf your only idea of a perfect sweet treat is a thick slice of a rich, frosted cake, then you might not appreciate this post. If, however, like me, you avoid (or at least you try…) doubling the meal’s calorie intake in its last course or/and if you are thrilled at the idea of guiltless, but luscious refreshing desserts, this almond cream is definitely worth your attention.

Some of you might remember my custardy creams/custards set with agar, a gelling agent made from seaweed. Agar, or agar-agar (“kanten” in Japanese) is usually sold in a form of powder or in long sticks, but I always use the powdered form which seems easier to handle. Agar contains water soluble agents, which help digestion and are considered excellent in slimming diets. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, contrary to most agar users, I am not fond of thick standard jellies, so I simply use less agar. Thus, it barely sets liquids, resulting in something similar to a custard or a cream.

Until now most of my agar experiments featured coconut milk mixed with cow milk as the basic ingredient (see below). This one follows exactly the same method, but I use here almond milk instead and am more than satisfied with the results. I will soon test almond milk with other fruits, but at least I know that together with plums it creates a fantastic cooling dessert or snack. I am planning also to test almond cream since I’m sure it can be substituted with a similar albeit slightly richer result.

If you are not fond of almond milk, you might like some of these:

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

Wobbly Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

Wobbly Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

Coffee and Coconut Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coffee and Coconut Wobbly Cream with Agar

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Wobbly Rhubarb Delight

Wobbly Rhubarb Delight

Chocolate and Coconut Cream with Agar

Chocolate and Coconut Cream with Agar

Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches

Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches

TIPS: I find agar even easier to use than gelatin (though it is not a gelatin replacement since it sets liquids in a slightly different way and cannot be used in every recipe). I use powdered pure agar and it is very easy to dissolve in liquids. There are however different agar powders on the market (some contain sugar for example or other additives), so check the ingredients list and look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is supposed to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon”, custardy consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package, but make sure you don’t use too much agar (it’s easy to overdose!) because you might end up not only with a standard jelly, but with something practically inedible.

Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into the bowls because agar sets at room temperature and, once disturbed, it will not reset properly! On the other hand do not pour the very hot cream because it will “boil” the fruit. Leave the mixture until it is still a bit hot, but not room temperature.

These creams will keep in the fridge for several days, so you can make a whole batch only for yourself!

You can make these creams for example in small jars with lids and take with you to work, on a trip or for a picnic.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4 – 5):

500 ml/about 2 cups almond milk

4 flat tablespoons sugar (or more if you prefer very sweet desserts or if the plums are very tangy)

1/3 flat teaspoon pore agar agar in powder (if your agar powder contains other ingredients too, check the TIPS above)

about 1/2 kg (about 1 lb) plums cut into bite-sized pieces + some more for decoration

(toasted almond slivers)

Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the almond milk.

Bring to boil and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.

Put aside.

Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.

(Do not wait until the cream becomes cold because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!).

Distribute the plum pieces evenly among the bowls.

Pour the slightly hot (not room temperature yet!) almond milk over the fruit pieces and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve very cold decorated with fresh plums and, if you want, toasted almond slivers.

 

Greek Yogurt and Chocolate Mousse with Cherries

choco_cherry_pThis year, thanks to favourable weather conditions, cherries have appeared in France and Switzerland early, so I have been enjoying them for quite a long time. This refreshing slightly tangy dessert keeps them raw, untransformed, preserving not only their taste, but, I guess, much of the precious vitamin C. Obviously, they make a perfect pair with dark chocolate. The photograph you see above was taken last year when I was offered some black sour cherries (unavailable here), but I have tested this mousse with sweet cherries several times this year and it was equally delicious (well, to be frank… almost… if, like me, you appreciate sour cherries).

WARNING! This lighter mousse contains Greek yogurt and it will be slightly tangy in taste, so if you don’t like tanginess combined with chocolate and/or you wish to prepare a richer dessert, you might want to try the below quick eggless chocolate mousse version instead, prepared with cream (and without gelatin):

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin used depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller; powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products (for example sugar) and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid, so check the package instructions. (The whole mixture has more than 500 ml (+ cherries), so the mousse will be firm, but not hard as a standard jelly).

If you want to make this dessert quicker and in an easier way, you can omit the gelatin and you will obtain a cream rather than a firm mousse. The taste will be the same.

The colour of this mousse will depend on the chocolate’s quality. The darker it is and the higher its cocoa content is, the darker the mousse will be.

The mousses keep well (covered) in the fridge for several days.

Preparation: 20 minutes + several hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

350 ml (about 12 fl oz) Greek yogurt (if you use low-fat yogurt, it might be too sour, so I cannot guarantee the same taste result)

200 g (about 7 oz) good quality dark chocolate (I use here organic, min. 72% cocoa chocolate) + some more for decoration (if you wish)

about 25 big pitted cherries + 20 for decoration

5 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

(1 flat teaspoon instant coffee)

(several tablespoons kirsch)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or other amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too, in amounts necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a pan on a very low heat or in a water bath (stirring and watching it constantly so that it doesn’t burn) or in a microwave (if you microwave it, do it in two-three stages because once it’s “cooked”, it cannot be used).

Put aside and let it cool down.

When the chocolate is warm, but no longer hot, pour it into a food processor.

Add the yogurt, the sugar, the coffee and the kirsch if you use it.

Mix the yogurt and chocolate mixture until smooth.
Taste if it’s sweet enough for your taste and add more sugar if needed. Mix again.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water or even hot water if it’s advised on your package. If using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water.

Mix well the dissolved gelatin with the yogurt mixture. 

Divide the pitted cherries into individual serving bowls.

Pour the mousse over them.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

Decorate with shaved chocolate and cherries just before serving.

 

Greek Yogurt Mousse (Light Unbaked Cheesecake) with Canned Peaches

cannedpeachchWhoever invented canned peaches, was a genius. Unlike pineapple or litchi, I never see them as  poorer – and sickly sweet – cousins of fresh ones, but almost like different fruits, which, apart from being delicious, are easy to stock and to use. They add a beautiful sunny touch to all the cold season desserts and proved perfect with this new spring variation of my simple Greek yogurt mousse. When summer comes, fresh peaches will be a marvellous replacement, obviously.

To some of you this basic mousse recipe might seem familiar. Indeed, I have already posted several different versions of it (see below), but all under the name “unbaked cheesecake”. Now you might wonder how it became a Greek yogurt mousse. First of all, even though this popular Polish dessert is prepared as a whole cake (usually with crusty bottom and jelly on top, but I have never liked either, so I skip both) and cut before serving, I have always opted for individual portions. Secondly and finally, the substitution of its main ingredient (smooth fresh curd cheese/”quark”/fromage frais), difficult to find in some countries, with the ubiquitous Greek yogurt is a perfect solution and technically makes it a… Greek yogurt mousse.

This mousse (or rather its different versions) is one of the most frequent sweet treats I indulge in. It is easy, quick to prepare, versatile and totally guilt-free; moreover, individual portions keep well for several days in the fridge. I come up with new modification ideas every year, so you will probably see some new creations soon. Until now I have prepared the following versions:

with Passion Fruit

with Passion Fruit

with Blueberry

with Blueberry

with Strawberry

with Strawberry

with Sour Cherries

with Sour Cherries

with Vanilla

with Vanilla

TIPS: As I have mentioned both the natural fresh cheese I usually use here and Greek yogurt are perfect.

The amount of gelatin depends sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.

If you have a choice of different forms of gelatin, but have never worked with it, I strongly advise buying the powdered one, my favourite. It’s easier to dissolve than the one in “cristals” and you don’t have to go through two stages, as it’s the case with leaves.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5): 

500 g  (about 17 oz) Greek yogurt or very smooth (mixed) fresh cheese/curd cheese/quark/fromage frais/serek homogenizowany) 

1 tablespoon gelatin or 6 – 8 sheets, depending on the size/brand, so take the amount necessary to set 500 ml/17 fl oz of liquid, see TIPS above)

4 tablespoons warm water (I prefer to use hot water with powdered gelatin)

4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice

1 can of peaches

(2 tablespoons rum)

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm or hot (not boiling) water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package).

Mix the yogurt (or cheese), the rum and the sugar in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix once more.

Pour the yogurt mixture into individual bowls or glasses and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Just before serving cut the peaches into bite-sized pieces and put on top of each mousse.

Light Matcha (Green Tea) Cream

matchacreamnSpring is still at its earliest shy stages here, but I already start dreaming of light refreshing desserts and those flavoured with matcha instantly come to my mind. This cold light matcha cream with its freshness, its astringency and its magnificent green colour perfectly embodies springtime and the boost of energy I desperately need now.

The recipe is based on a classic French milk and yolk baked cream, which can be tweaked with any chosen flavour. I took it from “Le meilleuret le plus simple de Robuchon and simply added matcha. At the time I made this cream for the first time I used the cheapest matcha available in Switzerland (which was quite expensive anyway, like every matcha I see in Europe). When I used a better quality product brought from Japan, I realised that not only the colour but also the taste and aroma had nothing to do with my first experiments. Instead of pale, greyish hue, I have been obtaining a vibrant, impressive green colour and intense taste. Now that I see my old photos and this one, I feel this is a completely different dessert! (Not to mention the flavours). I encourage everyone to avoid the cheapest matcha. Buying the second least expensive one will make a big difference (UPDATE: of course this advice is for those who live outside of Japan, where the cheapest matcha from a good brand is excellent anyway).

After dozens of creams prepared and thoroughly enjoyed, I must admit I still have a slight problem with matcha sediments staying at the bottom of each dish… It doesn’t bother me and I’m even delighted to find the most intense flavours at the bottom, but I thought it’s worth mentioning in case some of you have a trick to avoid this flaw.

If you feel like playing with matcha, you might also like these ideas:

Moist Poppy Cake with Matcha Ganache

Moist Poppy Cake with Matcha Ganache

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

Matcha and Oat Truffles

Matcha and Oat Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Preparation: 1 hour + at least 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Special equipment:

3 or 4 individual baking dishes

Ingredients (makes 4 small or 3 medium creams):

400 ml (about 14 fl oz) milk (I used skimmed)

4 egg yolks

4 tablespoons sugar (or sweetener)

2 flat tablespoons matcha + some more to sprinkle before serving

Pour the milk into a pan.

Slowly bring the milk to boil.

Put aside.

Heat the oven to 140°C.

Combine the yolks, the sugar and the matcha.

Strain the warm milk into the bowl with egg yolks and mix everything with a spoon.

Wash the pan.

Pour the cream mixture into the pan.

Heat the mixture for about 10 minutes (without boiling), constantly stirring.

Strain it and put aside.

Boil a big amount of water.

Prepare a baking dish at least as high as the individual cream dishes and big enough to contain all the creams.

Strain the cream mixture once more into the individual dishes.

Place them in the big baking dish.

Fill the big dish with boiling water so that it comes up to the halfway point of the baking dishes.

Cover the creams tightly with aluminium foil and put (very carefully!) into the oven.

(This step is very important to avoid a thick “skin” forming on the top of the creams.)

Bake for about 25 minutes (the creams are ready when only the centre is slightly trembling, but the rest is set).

Let them chill and put into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold sprinkled with sieved matcha just before serving.

Far Breton (Brittany Prune Pudding Cake)

farbretonpp

I rarely bake (at least compared to most bloggers I follow), mainly because, no matter which season of the year, I crave usually light creams, custards or mousses you will find published quite often on my blog and I often find a piece of good dark chocolate totally sufficient as a daily sweet treat. When I do bake, I often go back to my favourite thin French-style tarts or moist, creamy cakes, such as Polish Light Cheesecake, Moist Coconut Cake or… Far Breton, which is my definite favourite. Actually, if I were to show here every single sweet treat coming out of my oven, I think it would appear on my blog probably 80% of the time. I hope my love for this light, custardy pudding cake and a slight photographic improvement are valid excuses to rewrite about it after two years.

Far breton is as easy to prepare as it is impossible to translate. It’s not exactly a cake, nor a custard, nor a flan… Since nothing I have ever tasted has a similar consistency, maybe “a baked, dense, slightly elastic pudding” (in the German sense of the word) would be a good definition. As its name suggests, far breton is a Brittany region specialty and a small Breton village bakery shop is the first place where I discovered it . Apparently, several centuries ago the dish called far was a kind of gruel with dried fruit, far meaning “wheat” or “spelt” in Latin. Afterwards the dish evolved into the today’s dense pudding-like cake. The oldest written trace of the present form of far breton dates back to the XVIIIth century, when both savoury (made from buckwheat and served with meat) and sweet fars (usually without any fruit) were popular. Nowadays only the sweet one is very popular not only in Brittany, but all around France.

Most people prepare it, like me, with prunes, some add only raisins, some both, and some purists refuse any kind of fruit. I find the most popular, slightly tangy version the absolute winner. I think it is best served cold, preferably left overnight in the fridge. Having prepared far breton according to the same method for at least ten years, I no longer remember where I found this recipe, but I appreciate it for the absence of butter or any fats and also for its low sugar content.

Coolness, extreme softness, moisture and a slight elasticity are the main reasons I find this cake irresistible. I also appreciate it for its lightness and low flour and fat content. My far breton is only slightly sweet, so if you are not the kind of person who cuts down the sugar content by half in every recipe (I do), add at least 50% more. The balance between the sweetness and acidity depends also on the prunes though.

TIP: Many people worry about the fact that prunes fall to the bottom. I don’t mind, but I have heard that coating prunes in flour prevent them from falling. (I have never tested it though).

Preparation: 1 h (+ at least 2 hours in the fridge)

Ingredients (fills a 10 x 30 cm or 20 x 20 cm baking dishes):

250 g/about 9 oz flour

70 g / about 2,5 oz sugar

4 eggs

750 ml/ about 25 fl oz milk

1 pinch salt

a bit of salted butter to grease the dish

25 big prunes (stoned)

a bowl of hot strong black tea

50-100 ml/about 1,7 – 3,5 fl oz rum

Soak the prunes in tea until they become soft. Drain them.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Grease the pan with butter (or line with baking paper).

Warm the milk until it is hot (don’t boil it!).

Combine the eggs, the flour, the salt and the sugar.

Slowly add the warm milk and the rum, stirring.

Pour the batter (it will be very liquid) into the baking dish. (If it is not smooth, mix it in a blender or pass it through a sieve).

Place the prunes inside, more or less regularly.

Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown.

Let the far cool down before putting it into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold, sliced.