I should really rename this post, ‘Pimp My Blancmange’. Once I made this dessert, I went on to add lots of glitter and floral embellishments. I couldn’t resist. Not really sure Mrs Cradock would have approved of such vulgar gilding. Anyway, retro food should be fun and I certainly had a lot of fun with this dish. A word of warning though, it takes a long time before the final dessert is ready to eat. Each layer needs plenty of time to set.
So, what is a Bavarois and what does à la zizi mean? According to the chef’s bible, Larousse Gastronomique (1961 edition):
Bavarian Cream. Bavarois – In the past this cold sweet used to be called fromage bavarois. This is the name Carême gives it in his Traité des entremets de douceur … The dish, of solid consistency, should not be confused with the liquid preparation known as the bavaroise, which used to be called crème bavaroise (Bavarian cream), and according to culinary historians, was invented in Bavaria towards the end of the seventeenth century.
The bavarois in the olden days were prepared quite differently from the present-day method. The mixture was not bound with yolks of egg, but only with clarified isinglass. (p.108)
Cradock’s recipe takes the bavarois to another level. Striped bavarois was not an uncommon sight on historic dining tables but à la zizi is a tad more radical. Simply translated this means, ‘at a slant’. The recipe I used appeared in Cradock’s 1967 booklet, Problem Cooking With Fanny Cradock – BBC TV.
I wouldn’t necessarily classify a bavaroisà la zizi as ‘problem cooking’ but it is not without a few issues. It takes a long time to make, so plan ahead if you are hoping to have it at a special occasion or dinner party. Cradock writes:
When you have time to spare there is a very impressive and absurdly easy method of presenting different gelatine mixtures or Bavarois cream mixtures in decorative layers. This was created by the famous chef of the Reform Club, August Soyer, who had an obsession for everything at the slant or à la zizi – from his ties and waistcoats to his sweet and savoury gelatine confections.(p.14)
Take a plain jelly mould or basin. Rinse with cold water for jellies or aspics, or brush with olive oil for creams and mousses. Stand container on the table with an inverted tablespoon underneath one side, so that the container is fairly steeply tipped. Pour in yellow mixture until it covers the base of the up-tilted side. Leave until set. (P.14)
Reverse basin so that the opposite side is tilted by upturned spoon. Pour in second layer of green mixture. When set, reverse container and add an orange layer. Continue this process reversing the basin after each layer has set and until the container is filled. (P.15)
Cradock’s recipe colour scheme consists of alternate layers: orange, green and yellow. I decided to opt instead for a Neapolitan style colour scheme, i.e. chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. I chose a pudding basin rather than a mould. I did find it tricky to hold the basin ‘on the slant’ after each layer. As the basin became increasingly full, the weight of the contents meant I had to shore-up each slant of the bowl so it didn’t slide back down.
The inverted spoon suggestion by Cradock doesn’t really work on a basin. Gravity issues I’m afraid. I suggest trying this recipe with a small bowl or mould first before progressing straight to a pudding basin as I did. This is such an attractive and fun dessert. Don’t worry if your slant lines are wonky, you can always cover any mistakes with a bit of glitter and a couple of edible flowers:)