Fennel and Chocolate Parfait with Kefir Cultured Cream


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I was lucky enough to have been given some kefir grains (pronounced ka-feer) by the lovely Jude Blereau when she came to Brisbane (see more about this wonderful Australian lady here). Kefir grains are a probiotic powerhouse of yeast and bacteria that are used to ferment milk to provide additional nutritional benefits.  Kefir also produces lactase during the fermentation process so it may be a suitable option for people with lactose intolerance.  
Soooo how do you use kefir grains? It is really quite simple, I will go into it deeper in a kefir-focused post, but you pretty much put the grains into a jar half-filled with some milk or cream.  Cover the jar with muslin (kefir is an aerobic process so must not be sealed off with a lid) and leave out on the bench. 

I don't normally leave mine near a window, but on the bench, I just did this for photographical purposes.

 Leave it to culture overnight, or for 24hours, or longer if you wish.  However, the longer the milk cultures, the more sour the end product will be.  If you wish, you could slow the culturing process down by keeping it in the fridge.  
Using a plastic sieve (I have read that stainless steel may not be so good), separate the kefir grains from the milk then return them to a clean jar with fresh milk.  You can now use the cultured milk.  Easy, right? 

Isn't my baby beautiful?

You can use any type of milk - rice, coconut, almond etc.  Culturing milk results in quite a sour fermented taste, that takes quite a while to get accustomed to.  Cultured cream, however, is an entirely different ball game as the outcome is sweet and quite succulent.  

Therefore, I decided that culturing cream would be perfect to use in desserts to not only increase nutrition but to enhance intestinal health! 

I can't remember the last time I cooked with cream.  I have always avoided it as I get quite adverse reactions from such a rich product, and have never really understood its potential from a nutritional point of view.  Since taking part in one of Jude Blereau's seminars, however, I have really opened my eyes to the beneficial qualities of dairy products.  I am slowly learning, sloooowllly learning.  So for this recipe, I jumped off the deep end and cultured up some cream!!!

The other star of the show is fennel.  Fennel is an unusual, highly versatile plant used for its distinct aniseed flavour.  In this particular recipe I used the bulb, but the leaves and seeds of fennel are also commonly used in cooking.  Fennel is also extensively grown throughout South-East Queensland, making it an extremely accessible and fresh ingredient for me to use.  How lucky am I?!
Although typically used to make mouthwatering savoury dishes, I thought I could marry the licorice-flavoured fennel with chocolate to create an equally delectable dessert!

1 large fennel bulb
100g rapadura or coconut palm sugar
1 cup water
2 eggs, separated
300mL organic full-fat cream (I used Ivyholme), cultured with kefir for at least 12hours
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

1.  Cut the fennel bulb into small pieces.  Over medium heat, stir the sugar into the water until completely dissolved.  Add the fennel and leave to simmer in the sugar syrup for around 45mins.  

2.  Temper the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over boiling water until just about completely melted.  Take off the heat and continue to stir for a few minutes until the bowl cools down a little.
When melting chocolate over boiling water, ensure the bowl does not touch the water as the chocolate can easily get too hot and burn. 

3. Add the egg yolks, one at at time to the melted chocolate, stirring continuously.

4.  Pour the cultured cream through a plastic sieve and add to the pureed fennel. 

Look at all that lovely bacterial culture at the top of the cream!

5. Add the vanilla extract to the fennel and cream mix.  

Although not the real deal, this is the next best thing....

6.  Pour the cream mixture into the chocolate and yolks, stirring continuously to incorporate the chocolate completely, and until smooth.  

7. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  

8. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mix, one half at a time.  

9.  Pour the parfait mixture into an ice-cream maker, or if you don't have one, put the mixture into a large container and into the freezer.  Stir the mixture every hour for at least three hours and allow to set before serving.  

Simply Fennel-icious!      


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Original work of Rhiannon Mack, 2012, unless otherwise indicated. Powered by Blogger.