A black and white bavarois

I worked on the perfect bavarois for months — probably 18 months if the truth be known. There always seemed to be two insurmountable difficulties. The dish was always too rich, and always unattractive. I tried variations on cream content, cut down on eggs, piped different colours into the middle, served it sliced in half, in dozens of different moulds. Nothing seemed to work. Then one day the answer hit me on the head. Two birds with the one stone. Why not go for alternating layers of jelly and bavarois — the jelly cuts down on the richness, adds a different texture, and because it has no cream content, it allows for brilliant, clean, natural colours. Black and white was obvious. Blackberries provide a terrific jelly, and Calvados the most marvellously flavoured bavarois, and the combination of Calvados and blackberries is a proven winner. The striped dessert was a natural, served with berries and apples strewn about, in a lovely blackberry sauce, garnished with berries, apples and a swirl of cream. It had colour (even though the black of the berries changes to purple when cooked), flavour and texture. It needed nothing else.


punnet of blackberries, or a mix of berries in season

1 Granny Smith apple Calvados lemon juice sugar to taste


500g blackberries, fresh or frozen

about 100ml water

sugar to taste

a little thin cream for embellishment


6 sheets of leaf gelatine — Don’t use the powdered variety. You can taste the difference. Certainly the leaves cost a little more, but the dish is not worth doing if you don’t use them.

4 egg yolks

100g caster sugar

1 vanilla bean

2 cups milk

Calvados to taste — Calvados is liquid gold. If you can’t afford it, be content with vanilla flavour. Leave out the Calvados and add another vanilla bean.

500ml cream for whipping


7 sheets gelatine

500g blackberries, preferably fresh, but this dish will not suffer with frozen fruit

sugar to taste

about 300ml of water — The amount depends on the amount of liquid coming from the berries.


Several hours before, prepare the garnish. Core the apple. Cut into slices about 0.25 cm in thickness. Douse the apple slices in a bowl of lemon juice mixed with Calvados. Cut the slices into matchsticks, so there is a little of the green skin on each end. Throw back into the lemon juice-Calvados mix, toss around, and allow to sit. The amount of lemon juice depends on the acidity of the apples. If you are making this dish at the height of the apple season — January to March — the lemon juice component can be minimised, and if you really want to be fancy, try several different types of apples. These apple matchsticks can be a dish on their own with berries, and cream (and) or ice cream.


Bring some water to the boil in a pot with a narrow diameter. Fit a stainless steel bowl on the rim of the pot to ’steam’ the berries in the metal bowl. Throw in the berries to be kept for the plate and add a couple of teaspoons of sugar. When the berries start to give off their juice, grab the bowl (with a towel) and work the berries around. As soon as they have just softened and given off a little more of their juice, remove from heat. Allow to cool. (Served with ice cream while warm, all berries taste marvellous prepared like this, even those picked straight from the bush.)


Make the sauce, cooking gently to soften the blackberries in the water. Add the sugar carefully, tasting all the while. Stop when you are happy, but the sugar should be just enough to take away the natural sharpness of the berries. Too much will give you a jammy result. When cooked, force the sauce through a sieve. If using fresh berries, you might prefer to retain the seeds. If using frozen fruit, definitely discard the seeds. Set aside to cool. The sauce will be served cold.


The bavarois is merely a flavoured custard, lightened and made more rich with added cream, and given substance with gelatine. Soften the gelatine in warm water.


Make a custard with the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla bean and milk.


Squeeze any moisture from the gelatine and add the leaves to the custard while it is still warm. When the mix is cool, add Calvados to your taste. Leave the mix at room temperature and allow to thicken. If the room is too warm, put the mix in the fridge. You can actually hasten this process by putting the mix in the fridge anyway, but it can be a little tricky, as the setting process accelerates near the end and the cream could set while you attend to an unexpected phone call. If this does happen, don’t worry too much. Gently, very gently, warm the mix, and then allow it to cool and thicken again.


Whip the cream until thick enough to hold its own, but it should still be pourable — just.


Remove the flavoured custard from the fridge. It should be starting to thicken. You must act before the custard is firm. The two creams should be of the same density. Fold the two creams together to form a homogenous mix. The mix should be quite thick but not yet beginning to set. Place in a warm spot to retard the setting process until you have prepared the jelly.


Whenever you make a fresh fruit jelly, you wonder why companies like McLintock’s did so well selling jellies in packets. Soften the gelatine in a little warm water.


Cook the berries gently with the sugar and water as for the sauce. Sieve to remove the seeds. You will need 600ml juice. Squeeze the gelatine and add to the warm mix. Allow to cool.


The recipe is for ten portions. Metal moulds of about 200ml capacity are best, but if you have none, even a tea-cup will do.


Pour some of the blackcurrant jelly into the moulds. It should be about ½cm deep/thick. Place in fridge to set.


Pour a similar amount of custard mix on top of the jelly. Place in fridge, where they will set very quickly.


Repeat until the moulds are filled. Refrigerate until set. The only trick is to keep the mixtures short of setting before they are added to the mould. They should be kept in a warmish environment. You can tell easily when the mould is set. It is firm to the touch on top.


This dish looks best on white plates. Pour some sauce onto a plate and wiggle the plate until the sauce spreads almost to the edges. Make a little mound of berries and some of the apple ‘matchsticks’. Run a little cream through the sauce and then, with the end of a spoon, run a ’slalom course’ through the cream to create a white pattern on the blackberry sauce.


Run a little warm water around the bavarois moulds, and with the palm of your hand on the bottom, shake the mould to break the vacuum. You should hear and feel the bavarois come free. Make sure the water is not too hot, or there could be a little running of the colours. If the colours do run, the streaks can be rubbed away fairly effectively.


Allow the bavarois to fall free onto your flattened fingers, and gently place the dessert against the fruit nest, and next to the swirl of cream. The presentation is simple, as most of the work can be done several minutes before serving.

WINE: This is a rich dish. Why not try a small glass of Calvados with it? In summer, take it straight from the fridge.