The blancmange or even white eat is a typical dessert included in the list of traditional Italian agri-food products (P.A.T) of the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies (Mipaaf).
Origins and History –
Blancmange is a traditional sweet spread throughout Italy, especially in Sicily and Sardinia.
This dessert has ancient origins and has its roots in medieval cuisine. Its history dates back to at least the 13th century, and it was one of the most popular desserts in the European Middle Ages.
However, the first western cookbooks to offer this kind of recipe can be traced back to some areas of southern Italy: these are respectively the Liber de Coquina and the manuscripts known today under the name of Southern Anonymous, both written between the 13th and 14th centuries at the court of Naples, where there are some recipes of white to eat. Eating white is also described in the New Book of the gentleman Cristofaro di Messisbugo, employed at the Ferrara court. This dish is also cited among those prepared by Matilde di Canossa to reconcile Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV of Franconia. It is also reported in the “Description of the wedding lunch between Maria de’ Medici and Henry IV of France”, written by Michelangelo Buonarroti the younger.
According to another theory, the dessert originated in France, and later spread from there throughout Europe during the thirteenth century.
The term “blancmange” comes from the French “blanc manger”, which literally means “to eat white”. Initially, blancmange was a savory dish prepared with chicken or fish, milk, rice and spices such as saffron. However, over time, the recipe has been modified and has been transformed into a dessert made with almond or cow’s milk, sugar and rice starch.
During the Renaissance, blancmange was considered a delicious dish and was served in noble courts. Its preparation required a certain skill and the presentation was very accurate, it was often decorated with spices, flowers and dried fruit.
Over the centuries, blancmange has spread to different parts of Europe, assuming regional variations in the recipes and ingredients used. For example, in Italy, blancmange is known as “blancmange di almonds” and is traditionally enriched with ground almonds or almond extract.
Today, blancmange is still popular in many European regions, especially in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. Its recipe can vary slightly from one region to another, but in general it involves the use of milk, sugar, starch or gelatin to thicken the mixture and flavors such as vanilla or rose water.
Blancmange is a sweet with a delicate and creamy flavour, often served cold as a dessert after a meal. It can be accompanied by fruit syrups, fresh fruit or dried fruit to add a sweet or crunchy note.
Despite its ancient history, blancmange continues to be appreciated and prepared in many traditional cuisines and also in more modern contexts, thus keeping a piece of culinary heritage alive.
Geographic area –
Blancmange is a dessert of medieval origin which became popular in various regions of Italy. It is not associated with a specific geographical area, but is found in different parts of the country and especially in Sicily and Sardinia.
While blancmange is most commonly associated with Italian cuisine, it is also found in other European cultures, such as France and the United Kingdom, with regional variations and different names. It should be noted that the recipe and ingredients may vary slightly depending on your region and personal preferences.
In Italy it is typical of Sicily, in particular of the ancient county of Modica and in the hills of Platani, but it is also widespread in the Aosta Valley. In general, the preparation involves the use of milk, while the one from Modica is prepared with almond milk. In the variant of the Platani hills there is the use of wheat starch and lemon zest in addition to the vanilla pod, so as to have a lighter dessert given the replacement of the flour with wheat starch and with a lemon aftertaste. The Ragusan recipe also includes lemon, cinnamon and Hyblean honey. In addition to the sweet version there are also some savory versions.
Raw material –
Blancmange is a dessert made with milk, sugar and corn starch (or potato starch), which is usually flavored with vanilla. The main raw materials for preparing blancmange are:
– Milk: Milk is the basic ingredient of blancmange and provides the creamy consistency to the dessert. You can use whole or partially skimmed milk.
– Sugar: Sugar is needed to sweeten blancmange. White sugar is usually used, but alternatives such as brown sugar can also be used.
– Corn starch or potato starch: Corn starch or potato starch are the ingredients that give the blancmange gelatinous consistency. They are used as thickeners to obtain a soft and compact consistency.
– Vanilla flavouring: Vanilla is often used to flavor blancmange and give it a delicate flavour. You can use vanilla extract or vanilla seeds.
– Additional ingredients: Depending on personal preferences, it is possible to enrich the blancmange with additional ingredients such as grated lemon zest, cinnamon or liqueurs.
– The proportions of ingredients may vary slightly depending on the specific recipe used. However, these are the basic ingredients for preparing traditional blancmange.
Blancmange is a dessert with a gelatinous consistency and which stands out for its candid white color and its soft and velvety consistency.
Once ready, the Blancmange is poured into individual molds or cups and left to cool at room temperature. Afterwards, it is usually served accompanied by a fruit sauce or a dusting of cinnamon or cocoa powder.
Its versatility also allows you to enrich the recipe with additional ingredients, such as vanilla, lemon zest or almonds, to give an extra touch of aroma.
Method of Production –
Blancmange is a dessert made with milk, sugar and cornstarch (maizena) which is usually served cold and garnished with fruit sauce or chocolate. Here is a simple recipe to prepare blancmange:
– 500 ml of whole milk
– 100 g of sugar
– 50 g of corn starch (maizena)
– Vanilla (powder or extract) to taste
– Fruit or chocolate sauce for garnish (optional)
Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla. Heat over medium-low heat until the milk begins to bubble slightly.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch with a little cold milk until you have a smooth, lump-free mixture.
Once the milk in the pot has begun to boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps.
Continue stirring the mixture over medium-low heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and becomes creamy.
Pour the blancmange mixture into molds or individual bowls. Leave to cool at room temperature for a few minutes, then cover with transparent film and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours, or until the blancmange has completely hardened.
Once the blancmange has solidified, you can take it out of the molds or serve it directly in bowls. You can garnish the blancmange with fruit sauce or chocolate as you like.
The blancmange is ready to be tasted; it can be served cold as a dessert after a meal.
We remind you that this is just one of the many possible recipes for preparing blancmange. It can be customized by adding different flavors such as lemon or orange zest, or by varying the garnish.
Gastronomic use –
Blancmange is an ancient dessert that has a cream or pudding-like texture, and is usually served cold with a variety of toppings such as fresh fruit, syrups, or chocolate sauce.
In addition to being enjoyed as a dessert, it can be used in various gastronomic ways. Here are some ideas:
– Blancmange cake: You can use the blancmange as a filling or icing for cakes. Pour the blancmange on the base of a cooked cake and let it cool until it solidifies. You can then add more layers of cake or decorations to your liking.
– Blancmange ice cream: If you have an ice cream machine, you can prepare delicious blancmange ice cream. Prepare the blancmange as usual, but before cooling it completely, transfer it to the ice cream machine and proceed with the preparation following the manufacturer’s instructions.
– Bavarian cream with blancmange: You can use blancmange as a base for a Bavarian cream. Prepare the blancmange and let it cool, then add the whipped cream to make the consistency softer. Pour the mixture into molds and let it cool until it solidifies. Serve the Bavarian cream with a chocolate sauce or fruit sauce.
– Filling for desserts: Blancmange can be used as a filling for desserts such as cream puffs, tarts or pastries. Prepare the blancmange and let it cool, then use it to fill the sweets as you like. You can also add fresh fruit or syrups to enrich the flavor.
– Dessert creams: Blancmange can also be used as a base for dessert creams. Prepare the blancmange and let it cool, then mix it with other creams such as whipped cream, custard or mascarpone cream. Serve the dessert cream in glasses or bowls with garnishes of your choice.
These are just a few ideas for using blancmange in a gastronomic way.