Is it me who’s changed, or does white chocolate just taste bad? I loved eating white chocolate as a kid, but my recent experiences with this pseudochocolate have been disappointing. “Too sweet, too creamy and tastes like plastic,” was my impression the last time I tried. Admittedly, I’d only eaten the prepackaged white chocolate sold at drug stores and supermarkets; and growing up, I basically liked anything loaded with sugar. So I didn't really know if I liked white chocolate. But I certainly wanted to find out.
I had the opportunity to cook with white chocolate this week, as it was the theme for the inaugural edition of Sugar High Fridays: the international sweet-tooth blogging extravaganza (otherwise known as SHF:ISTBE). Hosted by fellow Torontonian, Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess, the instructions were simply to use white chocolate in a recipe for a dessert.
My plan was to make a dessert which used white chocolate in at least two preparations with different ingredient pairings. Luckily, I came across a recipe for ‘White Chocolate and Rice Milk Flan with Pistachio Emulsion’ by Vancouver-based pastry chefs Dominique and Cindy Duby in their cookbook Wild Sweets.
This dessert is wonderful; I honestly never imagined that white chocolate could taste so good. The recipe consists of a light and creamy flan (or custard) that is a delicate balance of rice milk and white chocolate. Atop the flan sit three circular rice paper sheets that have been soaked in ginger syrup, sprinkled with pistachios, and baked to a crisp. Several slightly chewy ginger-soaked rice paper strips rest above the crisps.
The flan is sauced with a pistachio-white chocolate emulsion that is a ganache of lemongrass-infused cream and white chocolate, blended with vibrant green pistachios. I particularly enjoyed the pairings of white chocolate with rice milk and pistachios. They made the flavour of the white chocolate more subtle, and added an extra dimension to the chocolate. The texture contrasts between the different components also added a layer of sophistication to the dessert.
An adapted version of the recipe is posted below and should be prepared at least four hours in advance to allow the flans to fully set. I used Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate, and would highly recommend it for baking, or for simply eating by itself.
White Chocolate and Rice Milk Flan with White Chocolate-Pistachio Emulsion
(adapted from Wild Sweets by Dominique and Cindy Duby)
White Chocolate and Rice Milk
- 175 mL (2/3 cup + 1 tbsp) heavy cream
- 20 g (0.7 oz) lemongrass, chopped
- 25 g (0.9 oz) granulated sugar
- 5 g gelatin leaves, bloomed (about 2 ½ sheets)
- 60 g (2.1 oz) white chocolate, finely chopped
- 200 mL (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) rice milk
In a small saucepan combine and bring to a boil cream and lemongrass over medium heat. Remove from heat and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 30 minutes to allow flavours to infuse.
Strain 135 mL (½ cup + 2 tsps) of the cream into a measuring cup. Top up with regular heavy cream if necessary. Combine cream and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring regularly until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add gelatin and white chocolate, and stir until completely dissolved. Add rice milk and stir until combined.
Pour mixture into 6 small aluminium or stainless steel ramekins or molds. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, or until set.
Rice Paper Crisps and Strips
- 20 g (0.7 oz) pistachios, shelled, peeled and finely chopped
- five 23 cm (9”) diameter sheets rice paper
- 500 mL (2 cups) water
- 300 g (10.8 oz) granulated sugar
- 60 g (2.1 oz) fresh ginger, grated
To peel pistachios, blanch for one minute in boiling water, strain, and roll between towels.
Use scissors to cut two of the rice paper sheets into ¼-inch wide strips.
In a medium saucepan combine and bring to a boil water, sugar and ginger, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 20 minutes to allow flavours to infuse.
Strain mixture into a large flat container such as a cake pan, and discard ginger. Allow syrup to cool to body temperature and add rice paper sheets and strips. Soak for at least 15 minutes to rehydrate.
Line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper. Remove sheets from syrup and use a 1.5 to 2-inch cookie cutter or ring mold to cut out at least 18 circles of rice paper and place onto baking sheet. Sprinkle circles with pistachios and bake at 180C (350F) for 9 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned. Allow crisps to cool on baking sheet and carefully remove with a spatula. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
White Chocolate-Pistachio Emulsion
- 50 g (1.9 oz) pistachios, shelled and peeled
- 160 mL (2/3 cup) heavy cream
- ½ lemongrass stalk
- zest of 1 lime
- 10 g (0.4 oz) granulated sugar
- 50 mL (3 tbsp + 1 tsp) mineral water
- 1 g gelatin leaf, bloomed (about 1 sheet)
- 125 g (4.5 oz) white chocolate, finely chopped
- 5 mL (1 tsp) pistachio oil (optional)
In a small saucepan combine and bring to a boil cream, lemongrass, and lime zest over medium heat. Remove from heat and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 30 minutes to allow flavours to infuse.
Strain 125 mL (½ cup) of the cream into a measuring cup. Top up with regular heavy cream if necessary. Return to saucepan, add sugar and water, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring regularly to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat, add gelatin and stir until completely dissolved.
Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour cream over chocolate and mix until combined. Pour mixture into a food processor or blender. With the motor running, add pistachios and oil, and pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy. Strain mixture into a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
Dip the exterior of each flan mold in hot water. Place a plate over the mold and flip the plate and mold upright. Remove the mold; the flan should slide out, but repeat the process if it remains in the mold.
On top of each flan place three rice crisps, slightly overlapping one another. Top with rice paper strips. Drizzle a spoonful of white chocolate-pistachio emulsion around each flan and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.