In October, there are still raspberries and blackcurrants in the kitchen gardens of the Amalfi Coast, and in sunnier spots, wild strawberries continue to bear fruit late into the season. But the nights are drawing in and around dinnertime there’s often just the hint of a chill in the air, a premonition of winter. What better time then, to combine the last of the summer fruits with indulgent white chocolate and a green sprinkle of pistachios (we like to use those from Bronte, in Sicily) in a dessert that seems designed to warm up cool autumn evenings. Though to tell the truth, it’s good all year round: in summer, simply refrigerate for half an hour or so and serve it deliciously cold.
BERRY GRATIN WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CREAM AND PISTACHIO DENTELLES
For the dentelle biscuits:
50 g sugar
50g liquid glucose or invert sugar
50g coarsely grated pistachios
For the white chocolate cream:
200g double cream
40g white chocolate
For the gratin:
500g of mixed berries: raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, wild strawberries and others
2 egg yolks
40g finely chopped pistachios
Enough ladyfingers (sponge fingers) to cover the base of a large oval casserole dish (a 200g packet should be more than enough)
Start by making the dentelle biscuits. Melt the butter on a low heat, then add the sugar and glucose and bring to the boil. Leave to cool and transfer to the fridge for around five minutes until the mixture has hardened a little but is still pliable. While the mix is in the fridge, set the oven to 180°C. Next, line a baking tray with a baking sheet, and spoon dollops of the mix onto the sheet. Place in the oven and watch carefully – you want the dentelles to brown but not burn. Five minutes should be enough; eight is probably too much.
Next make the white chocolate cream. Heat the chocolate and the cream on a low heat until the chocolate has dissolved. Leave to cool, then place in the fridge for a few minutes before whipping until it rises to stiff peaks. Return to the fridge.
Now move on to the gratin. First make the custard – actually more of an alcohol-free zabaglione. Do this by beating the egg yolks in with the sugar and finely chopped pistachios in a round bowl – copper, glass or pyrex is best – that will fit snuggly inside the rim of a saucepan with just enough simmering water inside not to boil dry. This is the bain marie method: transferring the bowl to sit inside the saucepan, you keep whisking (by hand, or using an electric whisk) until the mixture forms peaks when you take the spoon out. This will take at least four or five minutes. Best results are achieved if the simmering water in the saucepan is not touching the bowl – steam is a more even source of heat than water. Keep whisking after you take it off the heat, to prevent the formation of lumps.
Now line your casserole dish with the ladyfingers or sponge fingers. (When he serves the gratin at La Sponda, chef Matteo Temperini actually uses a thin layer of his own sponge cake instead – but at home this adds an extra chore to an already complicated recipe, and sponge fingers actually work pretty well here). Cover liberally with your chosen berries (feel free to be artistic – for example arranging the raspberries around the rim so they stand out), then pour the warm pistachio custard over the top. Place under a hot grill for five minutes or so until the surface is golden.
Using a dessert spoon, place an oval curl of white chocolate cream in the centre of the gratin, topping it with one or more of the dentelle biscuits. Alternatively, keep the cream and dentelles aside, and add a dollop of the cream and a dentelle to each portion as you serve.