My ideal summer dessert uses seasonal fruit, doesn’t involve turning on the oven and leaves me plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day.
British television host and cookbook writer Delia Smith’s Vanilla Cream Terrine is exactly that. Similar to but lighter than a crème brulée, it has more zing than a panna cotta, and the complex flavor and texture make it the perfect finish for an al fresco summer dinner.
Variations of this dish have been popular in Europe for a long time— the sweet version as far back as the 18th century. Earlier still the dish is mentioned in the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.” This version, called blancmange (‘white food’), was savory and often included meat or fish. In that era physicians believed the dish to be healthy and encouraged their patients to eat it.
Unfortunately, ingredients such as almonds, saffron, seeds and flowers (not to mention meat or fish) were only readily available to the wealthy. The upper classes also apparently had access to hartshorn, which comes from the horn of a deer, or isinglass, which comes from the bladder of a sturgeon. These two ingredients helped set/jell the dish.
Luckily you don’t have to go sturgeon fishing or borrow antlers from your neighborhood deer to make this dessert — powered unflavored gelatin does the trick. I used a little bit less of the gelatin than called for in the original recipe, and although I haven’t tried them, there are vegetarian versions of gelatin on the market now that also could work. Also, I substituted half and half for the heavy cream to lighten it up a bit.
Smith suggests chilling the mixture in a a 4-inch-by 4-inch-by-4-inch plastic box, which I do not own. I have used a glass bowl and a tin mold. I unmold the terrine by placing the bottom of the container in a bowl of warm water for a minute or two and then flipping it onto a serving platter.
I have also successfully chilled it in a small loaf pan, or a 1½-quart casserole dish lined with plastic wrap, leaving plenty to hang over the side, which makes it easier to remove the chilled terrine in one piece.
To serve it, spoon some apricot jam on the bottom of a plate, place a slice of terrine on top of that, and sprinkle with berries and mint leaves. Then enjoy.
Claudia Alexander, a resident of Marin County, has been happily cooking for family and friends for more than three decades. She has a weekly food blog, sweetbynurture.com. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vanilla Creme Terrine
½ tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder
8 ounces half and half
8 ounces plain whole milk plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup of granulated sugar
1½ cups of berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
4 mint leaves cut into ribbons
¼ cup of apricot preserves
Put the gelatin in a small bowl, add ¼ cup of the cream; mix to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes to bloom.
Next combine sugar with the rest of the cream in a small saucepan and simmer on low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cream starts bubbling along the edge of the pan pull it off the heat and add the gelatin mixture and the vanilla. Whisk to a smooth consistency.
Now fold in the yogurt until it is completely combined. Using a spatula, scoop the mixture into a container of your choice (see above) and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
— Adapted from Delia Smith
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