A vacherin is a French dessert, usually made with a meringue crust, fruit, and crème Chantilly. But in Adour pastry chef Fabrice Bendano’s contemporary (if labor-intensive) version, he uses two ice creams—one sweet, one nutty—instead of the crème Chantilly. Fruit comes in the form of a chunky pear marmalade made with two different pears. “You can cook with the William—it’s sweet and gives a nice flavor to the marmalade,” says Bendano. “The Nashi pear is rich and it’s expensive, so the best way to eat it is as is.”
Chestnuts will come into season in mid-October. You can find chestnut purée in specialty stores, but you can make your own by cooking roasted, hulled chestnuts in a saucepan with a two-to-one ratio of water and sugar, then blending the mixture in a food processor.
For the pear marmalade:
2 medium grapefruits (totaling 11 ounces), peeled, pith removed, and cut into segments
1 pound William pears, peeled and sliced
7 tablespoons lemon juice
3 ounces (about 1⁄3 cup) sugar
1 pound Nashi pears, diced, plus 1 extra pear for garnish
In a saucepan, combine the grapefruit with the pears, lemon juice, and sugar and cook over medium heat until the fruit breaks down and the texture becomes similar to that of marmalade—it should take about 1 hour. Allow the marmalade to cool before stirring in the Nashi pears.
For the chestnut ice cream:
1 quart milk
½ cup sugar
8 egg yolks
15 ounces chestnut cream (about 2 cups), available at specialty gourmet stores
2 tablespoons rum
Make a crème anglaise: Heat the milk in a saucepan set over medium heat until just boiling. In a separate bowl combine the sugar and egg yolks and slowly add to the hot milk, stirring constantly.
Spoon the chestnut cream into a mixing bowl, pour the crème anglaise over the top, and mix. After the mixture has cooled, add the rum and process it in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
For the maple-syrup ice cream with caramelized pecans:
Make the ice cream:
4 cups plus 3 tablespoons milk
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream
3 egg yolks
½ cup powdered milk
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
Make a crème anglaise: Mix the milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until just boiling. Keep hot. In a separate bowl combine the yolks and powdered milk and slowly add the mixture to the hot milk, stirring constantly.
In another saucepan, mix the maple syrup with sugar and add the crème anglaise. Heat the mixture to about 185 degrees. Let the mixture cool, then process in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Candy the pecans:
1⁄3 cup water
1 cup sugar
7 ounces pecans, chopped
In a saucepan, combine the water and sugar and cook over high heat until it reaches 250 degrees and the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the pecans and salt and allow to lightly caramelize. Remove from the heat. After the pecans have cooled, chop them into smaller pieces and stir into ice cream.
Make the meringues:
4 egg whites
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Whip the egg whites until they begin to form stiff peaks. Add the granulated sugar and keep whipping until sugar dissolves. Slowly stir in the confectioner’s sugar with a spatula. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe small rounds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper; use the spatula to push the rounds into discs. Bake for about an hour, or until the meringue is crisp and dry.
For the chestnut foam:
2 cups minus 3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons chestnut purée
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons chestnut cream
2 teaspoons rum
Mix the milk, chestnut purée, and chestnut cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the rum and blend with a hand blender until foamy. Use immediately to top the ice cream.
To assemble the dessert:
Pour a few spoonfuls of marmalade onto a plate and smooth into a circle. Top with scoops or quenelles of each ice cream. Spoon the chestnut foam around the plate. Top with julienned pears and four meringues.
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