Somehow when I blinked it became spring. It’s mid-February, but everything in the garden is stretching and budding, as though awakening from a long nap. A very thin sun shines through the clouds; temperatures have risen. Do we dare trust it?

I think not. We can enjoy it, but it’s our annual February tease. Root vegetables, cabbage, stews and soups will be de rigeur for awhile yet!

Meanwhile, I was asked to prepare lunch for a group of executives from a local multi-national. The menu was easy: scallops baked in green tea cream, Piment d’Espelette peppered pan fried pork chops with melted Savoy cabbage and buttery mashed potatoes, a salad of lambs’ lettuce heightened with shallots, and gorgeous local neufchâtel cheese. But dessert…oh dessert. I’m just the slightest bit weary of cooked apples and pears; it’s too soon for strawberries….

Then I remembered Claude Colliot’s Tout Blanc, a brilliant creation of exotic flavors and smooth Italian meringue. I proceeded to recreate it by grating combava zest into sheeps’ milk yogurt and letting it drain overnight. Then, I puréed lychees with sugar syrup, strained them, and made sorbet. These two tasks were done the night before. The morning of the lunch I made Italian meringue. The challenge of this dessert was manifold because it had to be assembled at the last minute, and I’d never made it before so I couldn’t anticipate pitfalls.

Mercifully, there were none. The yogurt was perfectly, delicately seasoned, and I spread a shallow round in the center of each plate. When the time came to serve the dessert, I quickly and carefully scooped out the sorbet, which held it’s shape without melting long enough for me to put a whoosh of Italian meringue on top. I garnished each plate with a very lovely basil leaf, and set a sablé that I’d seasoned with cinnamon and fleur de sel on the plate next to it.

I have Mr. Colliot to thank for the happiness of my diners, who literally rushed into the kitchen after lunch to ask about the dessert. They’d eaten every bite of both starter and main course, but the dessert kept them talking all the way out to their cars, I could hear them.

I offer you my version of this marvelous dessert.

Tout Blanc

1 cup sheeps’ milk or Greek yogurt

The minced zest from half a combava or lime

For the sorbet:

Three 15 oz. cans lychees in syrup

For the Italian Meringue:

2-1/2 cups (500g) plus 2 tablespoons granulated vanilla sugar

2/3 cup (150ml) water

1/3 cup (80g) glucose, or inverted sugar such as Karo syrup

The whites from 6 large eggs (9 oz; 240g)

Pinch fine sea salt

3 teaspoons of vanilla, orange flower water, raspberry puree, mint extract, rose water,

or flavoring of your (you will need to taste the hot mixture to adjust the flavoring)

6 basil leaves, for garnish

1. Whisk the zest into the yogurt.

2. Line a fine-mesh sieve with two layers of cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Scrape the yogurt and zest into the sieve, and refrigerate overnight.

3. Drain the lychees, saving the juice. Puree the lychees and strain them through a fine mesh sieve. Whisk in ½ cup of the reserved syrup and refrigerate overnight.

4. To make the Italian meringue, place the 2-1/2 cups sugar, glucose or inverted sugar, and water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir, using a stainless steel spoon, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cook the sugar until it reaches a temperature of 2651F (1301C), which will take about 15 minutes.

5. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. When the sugar has reached 2651F (1301C), remove it from the heat immediately. Add the pinch of salt to the whites, and begin whisking on medium high speed. When the whites turn frothy, after about 30 seconds, add the 2 tablespoons sugar, and continue to whisk until the whites are smooth and very creamy, and form stiff peaks.

6. Using a sturdy kitchen towel or a hot pad to hold the saucepan handle, pour the cooked sugar mixture very slowly into the whites while the whisk attachment is still running, being very careful to avoid pouring onto the whisk itself, as the extremely hot sugar could splatter. Once all of the sugar and syrup are incorporated and with the whisk still running, add any chosen flavoring or extract, if using, to the mixture and mix well.

7. To assemble the dessert, divide the yogurt among six dessert place, spreading it in a small round in the center of the plate. Top it with a generous scoop of the sorbet, then top the sorbet with Italian meringue. Garnish each plate with a basil leaf, and serve immediately.

6 servings







One Response to “I MADE IT MYSELF”
  1. elizabeth says:

    sounds truly amazing and memorable! I am sure they will be talking about it for some time to come !!

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