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What is Blancmange?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Blancmange is a type of sweet pudding which has been made in Europe for centuries. The dish is also known as “shape,” a reference to the fact that it is usually set in elaborate molds. The flavor of traditional blancmange is mild, and the dish is popularly dressed with sauces or fresh fruit. The history of blancmange is long and quite old, and the true origins of the dish are shrouded in mystery. Monty Python fans may be familiar with blancmange in the form of alien sentient beings which invade the planet Earth during “Monty Python's Flying Circus.”

It is believed that the origins of blancmange can be found in the Arab introduction of almonds to Europe, since the dish traditionally contains almonds. As early as the 1200s, recipes for blancmange were being prepared in Germany. The original blancmange was actually a thick, neutrally flavored stew with chicken stock, sweeteners, almonds, shredded meat, rosewater, and rice flour as a thickener. At some point during the 1600s, blancmange became the snowy white dessert pudding which most consumers know today. Both foods have traditionally been thought of as good for invalids, since they are easy to digest, gently flavored, and nutritious.

The name for the food is taken from the French blanc for “white” and manger for “eating” or “food.” The “white dish,” as it was called, was popular among the upper classes of England especially. Some cooks added colorings for especially festive occasions, and modern blancmange is sometimes colored as well. In the early days, blancmange would have been largely white, due to the ingredients used, and it may have been heavily spiced on occasion, since access to spices was a status symbol.

To make a variation on 17th century blancmange, start by toasting two cups of almonds. While the almonds are toasting, gently heat two cups of half and half and mix the dairy with one quarter cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves. Grind the almonds with the half and half until the mixture is smooth, and force it through a small grained sieve or cheesecloth into a bowl. You will end up with approximately one and one half cups of liquid, to which you should add four drops of almond extract or essence.

Next, dissolve three teaspoons of gelatin in one third cup warm water, and allow it to sit for approximately 10 minutes. Stir the gelatin into the almond mixture, and stir the bowl over a bath of ice so that the blancmange begins to firm. Next, whip one cup of cream, and fold it into the blancmange. Pour the pudding into molds to set under refrigeration for several hours, and turn it out onto plates to serve, garnished with fruit or a sauce of your choice.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon355792 — On Nov 19, 2013

You can find an allegedly medieval recipe for blancmange from Cyprus on the website of the Cornaro Institute in Cyprus. It is under conferences - click on Othello's Island.

By ddljohn — On Feb 25, 2011

@turquoise-- I saw a blancmange recipe on BBC food which used cornflour in the recipe. I'm sure you can do the same to get a firmer result.

To get the blancmange to flip over and release perfectly, I hold the bottom of the fridge chilled molds to hot water or I flip it over onto the plate and place a hot towel on top of the molds. It helps the blancmange release quickly and keeps everything together.

By turquoise — On Feb 23, 2011

I've used several different recipes for blancmange but it always turns out very loose and watery. I also have trouble flipping out the blancmange from the mold. I get a messy result every time. Any ideas as to what I'm doing wrong?

By fify — On Feb 22, 2011

I still use my grandmother's blancmange recipe which uses milk instead of cream. This is actually the original way blancmange was made in the United States. I use rich organic whole milk and also include lemon or orange zest in it. Blancmange with cream is firmer and milk makes it a bit bouncier. You can try combination of milk and cream until you get the perfect blancmange that suits your taste.

As for the flavorings, you can add different sauces and fruits, nuts and sweets as to your liking. I use my own raspberry sauce and grate chocolate on top. I also tried making it with some coconut milk one time and decorated it with a chocolate sauce and grated coconuts. Both turn out delicious but the coconut blancmange is a bit too heavy. My next idea is to pair it with a pastry or maybe a pistachio or hazelnut filling. Your imagination is the limit with blancmange!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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