Bavarian cream is a rich dessert which is designed to be served cold, usually unmolded onto a plate and garnished with things like fresh fruit. It is made by blending whipped cream with a rich yolks-only egg custard and chilling the mixture until it sets. This cream is classically associated with gourmet foods, and it may be used as a filling as well as a stand alone dessert. Despite its lofty associations, this dessert is very easy to make at home.
The history of Bavarian cream is a bit murky. In France, the dish is known as Bavarois, and the French claim that it was invented in Switzerland, or possibly Germany. French chefs may also have learned the dish through employment by Bavarian royalty. In either case, the dish appears to have emerged in a recognizable form in the late 1700s, and it may in fact have been developed by Marie Antoine Careme, a famous French chef from the late 18th century.
Before the advent of refrigeration, Bavarian cream represented a culinary triumph. In order to set the dish, the cream would have had to be chilled in an ice-filled bowl. Typically, the ice would be mixed with salt to bring the freezing point down, encouraging the custard in the bowl to set up. In the peak of summer, when Bavarian cream would have been served as a refreshing dessert, it suggests a defiance of the elements.
To make Bavarian cream, one and one quarter cups of heavy cream are slowly brought to a boil with a single split and crushed vanilla bean. The cream is allowed to cool to room temperature before it is strained to remove the vanilla bean. Many cooks remove the seeds, mixing them back in with the cream. Meanwhile, three tablespoons of milk are mixed with a tablespoon of flavorless gelatin and set aside. If flavorings such as liqueurs are desired, they are added to the cream at this point.
Next, one quarter cup of sugar is whisked with five egg yolks, and the cooled cream is poured back in. The mixture is heated over a double boiler until it is dense and thick. This custard is blended with the milk and gelatin mixture before being stirred over a bowl of ice so that it cools and starts to set. Once it has reached room temperature, one and one quarter cups of whipped cream are gently folded in, and the Bavarian cream is poured into a mold to set. It may also be layered with fresh fruit in a fluted custard glass.