Coconut-Blood Orange Blanc Manger

Blanc manger, also spelled blancmange, is a French milk jelly, quite similar to a panna cotta, but set using gelled cornstarch instead of bloomed gelatin. The result of it is a slightly firmer consistency, and a creaminess that lingers longer(try saying that phrase three times fast) than a panna cotta would have. It is quite a popular dessert in both France and Japan, and I wanted to try my hand at making a dainty, fun little dessert that featured it! To deviate from tradition almost immediately, I made my blanc manger with primarily coconut milk and a little bit of additional soy milk just to thin it out. I also wanted to do a two-toned jelly situation, so I went with a blood orange gelee, which rests on top of the blanc manger to give it a vibrant and distinct color contrast. It sort of looked like a Pokeball, with the red on white coloration, but I was really just going for colors that would stand out against one another, and I love the vibrant red of blood orange, as well as the acidity is has against a creamy, neutral coconut. I was also fortunate enough to be gifted a vanilla bean, which are very expensive, so I wanted to try my hand at infusing it into the blanc manger, just to give it a gorgeous vanilla aroma, as well as aesthetically pleasing vanilla “freckles”, just to let the people eating this know that actual vanilla was used in the making of this dessert.

With the other components, I went with a blood orange curd, to add more red on the plate, and to give another bit of acid and contrast to the creaminess of the coconut. And for the top garnish, I went with these coconut tuiles as well, made by whisking hot water with coconut flour and cornstarch, then cooked in a hot pan with coconut oil, resulting in this thin, coconut wafer to add both height and a little bit of texture to the dessert. What I love about these wafers are that they were super feathery and light, and the process of making them is the same as a coral tuile, which are fun garnishes to make when you want that height and texture, but you don’t want to waste time turning on your oven. The tuiles being cooked 100% in the pan results in them having this golden-brown texture and a lovely caramelization to them – also being made by coconut flour gives them a toasted coconut flavor, which is always welcome in a coconut dessert in all ways, shapes, and capacities! Overall, this was a fun and surprisingly simple dessert to make, using one of my favorite flavor combinations, being coconut and citrus! Additionally, it came out as a vegan AND gluten-free dessert, which was always a fun and pleasant surprise!

For the blood orange gelee:
Juice and zest from 2 blood oranges + enough orange juice to measure up to 1/4 cup
a pinch of salt
3/4 tsp agar agar

In a pot, bring everything to a simmer. Distribute the gelee mixture between 9 silicone 2-inch half sphere molds. Freeze the gelee for at least 15 minutes before attempting to layer on the blanc manger mixture as well.

For the coconut blanc manger:
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp soy milk
2 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water
3 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt

In a pot, heat up the coconut milk, non-milk/heavy cream, scraped vanilla beans, and the scraped vanilla pod until everything comes up to a simmer. Remove the scraped vanilla pod, pressing it against a strainer to release as much flavor as possible back into the pot. Then add to the pot the wetted cornstarch, sugar, and salt while whisking on medium-heat. The begin will begin to cling to the sides of your whisk. At this point, allow it to cool down slightly before whisking it again, just to release any excess heat, while also incorporating some air into the mixture – this will help the blanc manger firm up faster in the freezer. Pour the now-room temperature blanc manger mixture over the gelees and freeze for at least 45 minutes.

For the caramelized coconut wafer:
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp coconut flour
1 cup warm water
a pinch of salt

In a medium nonstick pan, heat up the coconut oil until it is fully melted. In a bowl, whisk everything else together. Bring the heat in the pan up to high and pour in the batter, whisking vigorously until bubbles begin to form in the batter. At this point, allow the liquid to slowly cook out of the batter before transferring it to a lined sheet tray. Cut out smaller disks from the wafer and store them in an airtight container.

For the blood orange curd:
Juice and zest from 3 blood oranges + additional orange juice to measure up to 1/2 cup
1 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp coconut oil
2 tbsp orange juice

In a pot, heat up the orange juice, sugar, salt, and cornstarch, whisking everything on medium heat for 5 minutes, until it begins to cling to the sides of your whisk. Take the mixture off heat and whisk in the coconut oil and remaining orange juice. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a squeeze bottle.

To plate:
In a small bowl, start with three of the blanc manger. Add in the blood orange curd, then finish with the coconut wafers on top.

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