My girls and I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott together last year; and I must say, it has captivated our hearts. The abiding themes of goodness, morality, godliness, and the importance of cultivating meaningful relationships found within the pages of Little Women offer refreshment to the soul. Alcott’s book captures the raw beauty, heartache, and truth of this journey of motherhood, sisterhood, and life. I want to mother with Marmee’s wisdom and raise loving, loyal, and strong little women.
In one endearing scene, Jo visits her good friend Laurie who is sick. Jo brings him a blancmange that Meg has prepared to help soothe his throat. When we came across the dessert called blancmange, my girls were quite curious what it was. After some research, we found that blancmange is a custard-style dessert that was common in the 1800’s although it dates back to the 14th century. In fact, in the past blancmange was a dessert associated with the sickbed and helping patients regain their strength.
That afternoon, after reading the chapter where blancmange was mentioned, I came up with a recipe to mimic it as a treat to share together. While traditional blancmange was prepared with scalded milk and thickened with arrowroot or Irish moss, I opted to recreate it to be suitable from those on healing diets.
I’ve used full-fat coconut milk to offer beneficial fatty acids without potential inflammation from heated cow’s milk. This recipe is thickened with gut-soothing, health-promoting grass-fed beef gelatin and lightly sweetened with your choice of wholesome sweetener.
Historically, blancmange was flavored with almond, hence my addition of almond extract. It is optional, but adds a lovely depth of flavor. If you choose to make the berry sauce, and I hope you will, it has many important phytonutrients and antioxidants to top off this delicious treat.
Our family has enjoyed blancmange several times while reading through Louisa May Alocott’s beloved book. I decided to blog my recipe after seeing the sweet film based on her book directed by Greta Gerwig. If you have not seen it, I highly suggest it! And come home and make this dessert :)
Ingredients for Blancmange
-- 2 tablespoons water
-- 4 teaspoons quality gelatin
-- 3.5 cups full-fat coconut milk
-- 3 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
-- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
-- 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
-- a pinch of salt
-- oil for greasing the ramekins
Ingredients for Berry Sauce
-- 16 ounces organic blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries
-- 1 tablespoon sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, or monk fruit sweetener
-- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
-- 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
-- 1 tablespoon water
-- a pinch of salt
To bloom the gelatin for the blancmange, place the water in a small bowl. sprinkle the gelatin over the surface and stir to combine. Set to the side for a few minutes to allow the gelatin to absorb the water.
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the coconut milk to a simmer. Add the bloomed gelatin to the milk mixture and stir until it is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and add in the sweetener, vanilla extract, almond extract, and a pinch of salt. Stir until well-combined and set to the side. If you are using raw honey and wish to preserve its delicate beneficial properties, allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees before adding the honey.
Grease six, 4-ounce ramekins or teacups with coconut oil or avocado oil (sprays are most convenient). Using a spray oil can be helpful for this step. Using a measuring cup or liquid measuring cup, pour the coconut milk mixture into the prepared vessels. Transfer them to the refrigerator for 3-4 hours to set. Once set, place each ramekin in a shallow dish with warm water for 15-30 seconds to help loosen the seal. Run a knife around the edge of the blancmange and place the ramekin upside down over the serving dish. You may need to gently coax it out of the mold.
For the berry sauce, add all of the ingredients to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. When the berries start to break down, sprinkle the arrowroot over the surface and stir until well-combined. Once the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat. Serve over blancmange.