This is not a cake. Well, not strictly speaking, anyway. You basically make an almond case and fill it with the smoothest and nicest blancmange you’ve ever tasted. If you don’t know what blancmange is, have a look here. I took this one to work (like many others that I make) and it disappeared in a matter of seconds. Make sure you set aside plenty of time for this one as it will need at least 6 hours to set in the fridge. I made it two days in advance, so by the time I brought it in it was perfect and solid – unlike the last cheesecake I made, which melted on the tray. The recipe comes from the March issue of La Cucina Italiana.
- 420g almond milk
- 315g plain flour + 15g
- 300g double cream
- 180g unsalted butter
- 150g caster sugar
- 100g ground almonds
- 70g sliced almonds
- 50g icing sugar
- 50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 40g egg whites
- 6g leaf of gelatine
- 5g cocoa powder
- First you start with the base. In a big bowl, mix 300g of plain flour with the cocoa powder, 150g of softened unsalted butter, 50g ground almonds, the icing sugar and a pinch of salt. Little by little, pour in 70g of almond milk and bring the dough together with your hands. You should get a soft dough. Tip it on to a work surface, wrap it in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare a 22cm springform tin by lining the bottom with baking parchment.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to 5mm thickness. Use the rest of the flour to dust the work surface and avoid the dough sticking to it. Once the dough has been rolled out, roll it on to the rolling pin and lift it on to the tin, then let it fall gently and push it down to the bottom. Use your hands to cover the whole of the inside of the tin (both bottom and sides), and trim the excess pastry or adjust it to obtain an even surface. Chill the uncooked case in the fridge for half an hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and put a baking tray in the oven to warm up.
- Take the case out of the fridge, cover the inside with baking parchment and fill it with baking beans/rice so as to blind bake it. Put it in the oven on the pre-heated baking tray and bake for 25 minutes. Once that time has elapsed, take the case out of the oven, remove the beans and bake for another 10 minutes to ensure the pastry case is completely cooked. Take out of the oven and leave to cool down on the side.
- Now on to the blancmange. In a medium pan, heat 350g of almond milk with 30g caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the gelatine leaf (previously soaked in water for 5 minutes and squeezed to remove the excess liquid), then mix 15g butter with 15g flour to make a paste and tumble that in the pan too. Use a whisk if necessary to mix it all in. Bring to the boil then cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and let the custard cool down.
- In another bowl, pour 200g of double cream, then whisk it until it holds soft peaks. Cover with cling film and chill until ready to use.
- Now prepare an Italian meringue. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. In the meantime, warm 80g caster sugar with 3 tbsp water in a casserole and let it bubble away until it reaches 118 degrees Celsius (I don’t have a sugar thermometer, so I just let it bubble away for 2 minutes from the boiling point). Gently and steadily pour the sugar syrup over the egg whites, whisking all the time, until the meringue has cooled down and perfectly holds its shape.
- Once the custard has cooled down, mix it with 50g of ground almonds, then fold in the meringue (half at a time) and the whipped cream. Your blancmange is now ready to fill the case. Pour it inside the almond case, smooth the top and chill the whole flan in the fridge for at least 6 hours, better if overnight.
- To make the chocolate ganache, bring 100ml of double cream to the boil in a casserole, then pour over the dark chocolate. Let it melt on its own for a couple of minutes, then stir it to complete the process. let it cool down for a good 2 hours, or speed the process up by chilling it in the fridge for about half an hour. Once cooled, whisk slightly with a balloon whisk.
- Transfer the ganache to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe small dots in a circle pattern around the edge of the flan. You can add extra ones or pipe a ring all around the edge, it’s up to you.
- Last, but not least, make the praline. Melt 40g of caster sugar in 4 tbsp water and 15g butter in a casserole, then bring to the boil. Toast the sliced almonds in the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes, then tip into the pan and mix well to cover them in the caramel sauce.
- Transfer to a baking parchment sheet, then cover with another one and use a rolling pin to spread it out and even it all out. Peel the top baking parchment sheet off and leave to cool at room temperature or put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. You can even make this step well ahead. Once cooled down, break the praline in medium size chunks and use them to decorate the cake. You can drop them casually on the top of the cake or press them gently on to the ganache stars.
- You can easily find almond milk in healthy food stores, like Holland & Barrett.