A dessert containing gelatin and whipped cream, bavarois is best served chilled, and remains a popular favorite in its native Bavaria, as well as around the world.
But what exactly is it, and what makes it so special?
The first published mention of the famed dessert was in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook published by D.A Lincoln in 1888, and by Fannie Farmer in 1896.
However, despite being called Bavarian cream, Bavarois has some conflicting theories regarding its origin – with Germany and France both claiming creation rights.
The German Version
The German version of the dessert is connected to the House of Wittelsbach, a dynasty which ruled Germany for over 700 years.
The family also controlled Holland, Hungary, Sweden, and Greece, and their influence and wealth gave way to widespread power and authority throughout the world.
As can be expected with wealth, extravagance was part of daily life, and as such the House of Wittelsbach frequently employed the best French chefs in the world to cater their functions and meals during the 18th century.
Whilst there is no substantial evidence either way, it is thought that during this period, an early incarnation of what would become the bavarois was first created for the Wittelsbach House.
The French Version
Perhaps the most widely recognised claim comes from France, and suggests that the bavarois was the creation of the famous French chef Marie-Antoine Careme sometime in the 19th century.
What Is Bavarois?
In simple terms, bavarois is a combination of pudding and custard-type desserts, and is usually made from eggs, gelatin, sugar, and whipped cream.
When all of these ingredients are heated up and combined, the mixture becomes creme anglaise. When this mixture has cooled, whipped cream is then folded into it, creating the signature thick and creamy texture associated with the dish.
Once this has been done, the mixture is then poured into molds and refrigerated, creating the distinct, intricate shape that has come to typify the dessert.
How Is It Served?
Since its mysterious inception, there have been many different ways that bavarois has been served.
Also known as a Charlotte Cake, Charlotte Russe is when the dessert is served cold, and is lined with an English sponge cake known as Ladies Fingers. These are soft, finger shaped pieces of sponge cake, usually with some form of jam of jelly in the center.
Named after the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the traditional cake had a base of bread dipped in butter which had been cooked, and paired with seasonal fruit like apples and pears.
It has also been historically served with fruit salad, or a puree of raspberry and apricot.
It is also rumored that Marie-Antoine Careme created the Charlotte Russe as well, as when he was tasked with creating his famed bavarois for King Louis XVII he had run low on gelatin, and decided to use Ladies Fingers as a substitute to enhance the bavarois.
In America, the Bavarian cream is strangely popular, and can only be a result of the widespread Germanic immigration to the new world throughout the 19th century.
Modern interpretations and applications of the recipe have seen the Bavarian Cream used as a donut filling, wherein the normal jelly center is replaced with the cream, which is piped inside.
Other modern interpretations include the mango bavarois, which has become a light, tangy alternative to the traditional flavoring.
Bavarois: The Recipe
Whilst many interpretations of the bavarois exist in the culinary world, here is a basic recipe that you can follow at home.
Before you get started, it is important to ensure you have the right ingredients.
- 10 grams of gelatin (½ ounce).
- 2 separated eggs.
- 50g of caster sugar (2 ounces).
- 250ml of milk (1 cup).
- 125ml of whipping creams (½ cup).
The baking process can be broken down into several steps.
The first thing to be aware of is that, if you are using leaf gelatin, it is important to soak it in cold water beforehand to soften it ready for use.
Next, cream both of the yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl, stirring until they create a white mixture. Bring the cup of milk to the boil, then whisk onto the yolk and sugar mixture.
Place this mixture into a thick bottomed saucepan. Whilst on a low heat, stir with a wooden spoon until the back of the spoon is coated with the mixture – this shows it has reached the right thickness.
When doing this it is important not to let the mixture reach boiling point.
Next, remove from the heat and add the softened gelatin, stirring until it has completely dissolved into the warm mixture. Keep stirring until the mixture is cold and almost set.
Next, lightly beat some whipping cream until it reaches the desired thickness. Then fold the cream into the mixture, gently overlapping it so it becomes layered.
This will ensure the most oxygen as possible gets into the mixture, keeping it light and airy when eaten. Stiffly beat the two egg whites, and then fold them into the mixture as well.
Once this has been done, pour into a large jello mold, or smaller ones, depending on your serving preferences. It is important to ensure they have been very lightly oiled to ensure the bavarois doesn’t set to the mold.
Once again, it is important to fold the mixture into the mold, so as to encourage it to be as light and airy as possible. Then the next thing to do is refrigerate until the mixture has set solid like jello.
Then all that is left to do is pour it onto a plate and serve!
Toppings & Extras
Of course, for a more exciting finish, you might wish to add a topping or sweet sauce to enhance the flavor. Potential flavorings could be chocolate, coffee, or fruity toppings like lemon or orange.
Each topping needs specific amounts and instructions:
- Chocolate: melt 50g (2 ounces) of chocolate into the milk and follow the instructions accordingly.
- Coffee: add some coffee essence or coffee granules into the milk.
- lemon or orange bavarois: once the mixture is cooled, add lemon/orange zest or juice to the mix. Also grate zest on top of the finished bavarois. You could also use yellow or orange food coloring to enhance the visual look of the bavarois.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about the famed bavarois, or Bavarian cream, and the best way to prepare the base recipe.
Remember, the best thing about the bavarois is the flexibility it offers in terms of personal creativity.
The nature of this dessert means that it works with a variety of flavorings and styles, meaning you can customize and create your own variations of the recipe.
Just remember, follow the instructions, soak your gelatin, don’t let the mixture boil, and most importantly, have fun and experience the extravagance and joy of this somewhat unusual, mysterious dessert. Why not give it a try?