I didn't really know desserts could be served in a glass... I kind of thought this was an unacceptable practice, the thought had never crossed my mind. Dessert equaled plate in my mind. The ideas one can have, I wonder where they come from...
All this changed when I came to study pastry in France. I was in the fanciest school and they were doing it, they were teaching it, so I began to realize how wrong I have been all of these years. I became kind of fascinated with the concept, for many reasons.
It's practicality for one. Say you are hosting a dinner party for a big number of people, and you still want to serve dessert individually, but don't have the time or you don't want to spend part of your evening plating desserts in the kitchen. Well, the "verrine" is here to save you. Because you can prepare them with anticipation, and they will happily wait for their time to come in the fridge (minus finishing touches that can be handled in a matter of minutes).
Secondly, if you eat it right, and you use the appropriate glass shape, you get all the components of the dessert in one bite. Sometimes when you have a plated dessert, this is not so easy to accomplish.
And finally, I love "verrine" because it can be so pretty. You can play with the colors and the textures of the layers to obtain wonderful results, and maybe at times not so wonderful. But there’s going to be something there that you can salvage. I know what I'm talking about. Trust me!
I forgot. It's safer. You don't risk total catastrophe when you unmold your dessert, it’s already in its serving platter. :)
Continuing with the strawberry trend, because we are still in summer, I came up with a delicious dessert, served in a glass, (that’s what "verrine" means!). I did several tests on how and what the layers should consist of and I came up with this combination: strawberry mousse, caramel mascarpone cream, fresh strawberries tossed in powdered sugar and a pretzel crunch to die for!
I borrowed the pretzel crunch from pastry Chef Christina Tosi. It is featured in her book Momofuku Milk Bar. She is just a genius. Really. Wait until you try it. And it is so easy to make.
This dessert is really good, it's fresh, and it's perfect for making when having people over! They'll love it! And love you for it!
Makes 8 verrines
I made 6, but honestly it was too much for one dessert. If you make 8 slightly smaller is much much better.
For the Strawberry Mousse
Strawberries puree 200 g
Sugar 20 g
Egg yolk 2 u
Gelatin 3 g
Water 18 ml (for dissolving the gelatin. Not necessary if you are using leaf gelatin)
Cream (liquid) 100 g
For the Pretzel Crunch
From Christina Tosi's Momofuku Milk Bar
Pretzels 50 g
Brown Sugar 30 g
Sugar 12 g
Milk Powder 10 g
Flour 5 g (or Malt powder, the original recipe calls of it, but also proposes flour as a good replacement. If you have access to malt powder, off course it would be better!)
For the Caramel
Water 30 ml
Sugar 130 g
Butter 30 g
Cream (Liquid) 80 g
Vanilla Bean 1 u
Sugar 25 g
Salt or "Fleur de sel" 1 pinch
For the Caramel/Mascarpone Cream
Caramel 200 g
Mascarpone 150 g
Cream 100 g
For the Finishing Touches
Strawberries 100 g
Pre-heat the oven at 150 C.
In a bowl crush the pretzels with your hands. Add the brown sugar, the sugar, the milk powder and the flour and toss to mix. Add the butter and using a spoon or spatula toss to coat.
Spread the crunch on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes.
Cool the pretzel crunch completely before staring or using.
You can keep for 1 week stored in an airtight container at room temperature, or up to 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
You can make a big batch and just eat it as a snack, or use on other desserts. It is really good. I promise.
Dice the butter and add the pinch of "fleur de sel" or salt.
Over a low heat warm the milk, sugar, and the scrapped vanilla bean together.
Mix sugar and water in pot. Cook over high heat until the caramel starts to change its color to caramel color, and soon after that it starts to fume (you need to be paying attention, because it is a very light fume or semi-smoke). Whisk in the butter with the salt. Remove from the heat, and pour the hot cream into the caramel whisking at the same time.
Let the caramel sit for a few minutes, until there are no more bubbles. Transfer onto a clean bowl and let it cool down covered with plastic wrap. The film should be in contact with the caramel.
Now you are ready to make the strawberry mousse.
For the Strawberry Mousse
Prepare your "verrines" or glasses where you will be assembling the dessert. Wrap a tray (or cutting board, something flat that you can transport and move easily move around) with plastic wrap, and set the glasses on it. This will prevent them to move when being taken to the fridge etc.
Cut the strawberries and blend to obtain the puree.
Whip the cream and store in the fridge. While you are at it, you can also whip the cream for the caramel/mascarpone cream, and store in the fridge too. Half the work!!
In a pot over a medium heat bring the strawberry puree to a boil. In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar.
Prepare an ice bath for cooling down the custard.
When the puree is hot enough transfer half of it onto the egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Pour this back onto the pot with the remaining ½ of the strawberry puree, and cook over medium heat (always stirring with a spatula, or plastic spoon) until it has thickened. It should be really hot, but it shouldn't boil. You'll see the custard transform in front of you, it will become thicker, and all of the foam will completely disappear. You should be able to coat the back of a spoon with it.
Transfer onto to a clean bowl and cool down over the ice bath.
Dissolve the gelatin in the 18 ml of warm water or hydrate the leaf gelatin in ice water for about 5 minutes. Add to the strawberry mixture once it has cooled down a bit, but it's still warm.
Once it has cooled down, whisk in 1/3 of the whipped cream. Fold in the remaining 2/3 very gently, using a spatula (or a whisk if you feel comfortable enough). I insist on the "gently" because it's important not to break down the cream you have just whipped. It's what's going to make your mousse light, airy and voluminous. Back to the movement: fold in from the middle to the edge of the bowl. Transfer onto a piping bag and pipe the strawberry mousse onto your prepared glasses. Try to equally fill them up!
Transfer the tray/cutting board with the glasses on it onto the fridge.
For the Caramel/Mascarpone Cream
When the caramel has completely cooled down, in a bowl whisk together the caramel and the mascarpone cheese until it has loosened up.
Whisk in 1/3 of the whipped cream. Fold in the remaining 2/3 very gently, using a spatula (or a whisk if you feel comfortable enough). It's the same movement and concept behind the strawberry mousse! So I stress again, be gentle!
Transfer onto a piping bag and pipe the caramel/mascarpone cream onto your glasses, on top of the already set strawberry mousse.
Chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
For the finishing touches
Before serving, remove the "verrines" from the fridge.
Cut the strawberries in 8ths, transfer onto a container and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Toss gently to coat the strawberries and make the really shiny.
Place the strawberries on top of the caramel/mascarpone cream, sprinkle with the pretzel crunch and enjoy it!