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Nielsen-Massey Vanilla, Frasiers and Eric Lanlard

August 22, 2012

This time last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Cake Boy, Eric Lanlard’s cafe, for an evening showcasing Nielsen-Massey vanilla products and packed full of fascinating information and tips.

We got to eat some lovely canapes (vanilla cured prawns in croissants were my highlight, but vanilla cream on gazpacho was a revelation) before Eric talked and demonstrated. It was great to hear how he loves to know where ingredients come from, how they are made into refined products and how the N-M operation is still family run.

The vanilla pod comes from the only Orchid in the world to bear fruit. It only flowers for one day, during which time it has to be fertilisied artificially. The green pod is sundried and then shipped to Chicago. 15% of the pods received are rejected by N-M because they are not juicy enough! The difference with N-M is that they cold-process the pods. This means they are soaked in water and alcohol for 6 weeks. It’s time intensive but the taste is superior. A surprising bit of information is that the seeds don’t actually add to the taste – they are only there for aesthetics. Some unscrupulous outfits have apparently been known to use artificial flavouring and add seeds to make it look natural. Tsk

I have to say, I only used the vanilla bean paste for the first time last year when I was given some for my birthday and it was a revelation. Sugar biscuits will never be the same again.

(Other write ups from:   Heidi  / Laura Loves Cake / London Unattached  and also attending were: Botanical Baker  Frank Murphy / Kitchen Karma / Look Who’s Cooking Too / Slow Food Kitchen )

Vanilla paste and extract

The Nielsen-Massey range

Eric then showed us how to make a “Frasier” -a classic French cake which showcases the vanilla flavour. We have all been sent away with a goodybag of ingredients and challenged to make our own take on it by october the 1st. I’ll let you know how I get on. In case you fancy having a go I’ve included the recipe below, along with a whole load more brilliant tips from Cake Boy himself.

Eric Lanlard’s Nielsen-Massey Frasier

For the sponge:
350g unsalted butter, softened
350g golden caster sugar
5 medium eggs, beaten
350g plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla bean paste
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla extract
2/3rd tbsp whole milk

For the créme mousseline:
3 medium eggs
120g golden caster sugar
25g cornflour
250ml whole milk
200g unsalted butter
1 tsp kirsch
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey pur vanilla bean paste

For the decoration:
1200g 3 punnets strawberries (saving a few for the top)
200g marzipan
100g dark chocolate, melted
a blow torch!

Pre heat oven to 180c / gas mark 4
Butter and line 2x 20 cm round sandwich tins – though in french patisseries it is often made as a large square cake, it’s visually neater Eric explained to us that he thinks it’s always better to make a sandwich in two tins than cut one large on in half as they rise better. Oddly, I’ve had more problems with sandwich tin cakes rising than with one large one, but there’s no way I’m disagreeing with Mr L. I imagine it has more to do with my technique
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Eric mentioned that to many people under beat this mixture. you can never over-cream it so if in doubt, do a bit more!
Very gradually add the beaten eggs (must be room temperature), then fold in the flour and baking powder along with the vanilla bean paste, pure vanilla extract and milk Eric doesn’t buy into the “bit of flour, bit of egg, bit of flour” method as he says you’re less likely to over work it if you add the flour all in one go.
Turn the sponge mixture into the tins and bake for aprox. 30 mins until golden brown and springy to the touch.
Leave the sponges to cool in the tin for about 5 mins before turning onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
When they have finished cooling, slice the top layer off and discard (or eat, or crumble and freeze to make cake pops). This is to give you an even surface. Place one of the sponges into the bottom of a cake ring. I don’t have a cake ring, but having research it looks like if you can use the outside of a springform tin and either risk it, or line the sides with clingfilm or baking parchment.

To make a créme mousseline, you need to make a créme patissiere first.
Beat the eggs, sugar and flour together in a bowl Eric explained that you should never add sugar to eggs until you are ready to start working them as the sugar will “burn” the eggs. This can be the cause of lumps.
Heat up the milk in a pan and then add the egg mixture while continually stirring until you’ve reached a smooth and thick consistency.
When the créme patissiere is thickened and smooth, add half of the softened butter, mix well and leave to cool.
When the mixture has cooled, incorporate the rest of the butter and hand whisk until you have a smooth créme mousseline, then add the kirsch and vanilla bean paste and whisk until stiff and fluffy. Eric explained to us that he used to cook with vanilla, but when visiting Nielsen-Massey’s family factory in Illinois they told him that heat kills the flavour and you should always add it after heating of at least as late as possible. Now he need to re-write all his cookbooks!

To assemble:
With a palette knife, spread a thin layer of créme mousseline over the sponge layer in the bottom of the cake ring.
Cut the strawberries in half and place the cut half around the edge of the ring. Fill the centre with strawberries standing upright.
Spread the créme mousseline on top of the strawberries and fill any gaps. Then place the second sponge on top and press down.
On a dusted surface, roll out the marzipan to 3m thick. Eric fluted the edges and toasted them with a blow torch, which looked great. Lay it on top of the cake, still in the ring and smooth it out.
Make a baking paper cornet and fill with melted chocolate. Cut off the top and write “Frasier” on the top. A cornet is like a very small piping bag. Eric explained to us that baking product suppliers in France all give away free, branded ones all the time, but for some reason they don’t do it here so people have to make their own. Time to befriend a Parisian?
Finally, dip the remaining strawberries into the rest of the chocolate and secure the on the marzipan and serve.Eric used a blow torch to release the chilled cake. I suppose that if it was in a spring-form ring it ought not to be too difficult…watch this space!

Eric Lanlard Frasier

Eric and his creation

Thanks to Eric and Nielsen-Massey for a fantastic evening, lovely food, and lots of free goodies.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. biscuit wishes permalink
    August 23, 2012 9:59 am

    Wow, what an evening. Biscuit Wishes uses Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Products for our cookies, how fascinating to here the story of its origins. Looking forward to seeing your creation on 1st October. x

  2. August 24, 2012 10:35 am

    Brilliant blog! What a special evening! Looking forward to reading more about your vanilla adventures x

  3. October 8, 2012 11:45 am

    Thanks for this recipe!! Have you ever had the Frasier from Paul? It’s my favourite of their cakes so I can’t wait to attempt my own 🙂

    Sounds like a wonderful day!!

    • October 8, 2012 11:49 am

      Thanks Vickii. Sadly my kitchen has been out of action since I wrote the post, so it’s still awaiting-baking. I will make it though, so watch this space to see if its a triumph or a “learning experience”

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