When I served Fane to a group of friends for the first time, it was unanimously voted the best dessert anyone had ever tasted. In the ensuing eleven years, though I’ve served it way too many times to remember, opinion has not changed. It is utterly divine—-the whole superior to the sum of the parts. But the parts aren’t bad either: vanilla Ice cream, pieces of white nougat or nut praline, whipped cream, chunks of meringue, and abundant chocolate shavings. Food for the gods. If you want, serve a pitcher of chocolate sauce on the side. I never say “no” to lily-gilding.
My good friend Countess Cristina de Vogue was generous enough to share this recipe with me. She and her husband Patrice own and occupy Vaux-le-Vicomte, constructed in the seventeenth century and the model for Versailles, unquestionably one of the most illustrious chateaux in France. I was lucky enough to spend the last few nights of 2001 as their houseguest. All the food was spectacular - a special egg pasta laden with black truffles and foie gras, a whole poached salmon smothered in a kilo of osetra caviar, more osetra served on toast points before lunch and dinner - but for me the highpoint was a huge Fane, served with ice-cold glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve just as the clock struck midnight.
Once back in New York, I could not wait to see whether a fane consumed at my kitchen table would taste as good as one eaten in one of the world’s legendary dining rooms. It did. It actually tasted even better as I used coffee ice cream - a lifetime obsession— instead of vanilla. Experiment with your favorite ice cream to create a fane this New Year’s Eve. Neither you nor your guests will be sorry. A perfect way to ring in the new. —Gail Monaghan
- Serves 10-14
coffee or vanilla (or another flavor of your choice) ice cream—homemade or best quality store-bought), somewhat softened
very cold heavy cream mixed with with 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and whipped to soft peaks
white nougat (best quality French or Italian), cut into ¼ inch chunks. If the chunks stick together, toss them with a little confectioners sugar right before folding into the whipped cream OR 12 ounces nut praline broken into small chunks.
store-bought meringue cookies or make the recipe below, either breaking it into irregular 1-2 inch chunks or making it into individual meringue kisses
coarsely grated chocolate
egg whites at room temperature
cream of tartar
- Spread the softened ice cream evenly over the entire inside of a 4-quart metal bowl, cover with foil and place in freezer.
- 1 to 2 hours (but no more) before you are to eat the dessert, make the whipped cream and fold the nougat into it.
- Use the whipped cream to fill the ice cream lined mold, reserving 2 cups of whipped cream to spread over the unmolded dessert.
- Place the mold back in the freezer, covered with foil and freeze for 1-2 hours.
- Remove from freezer about at least 15 minutes before serving. Let the mold sit a few minutes and then unmold onto a platter. If it does not unmold, dip the mold into hot water for 15 seconds and try again.
- Use the reserved whipped cream to “ice” the dessert and then cover with the meringue chunks.
- Sprinkle the chocolate shavings over all.
- This is best eaten when soft so check the ice cream layer before cutting and serving.
- Cut into wedges and if desired, serve with hot fudge sauce.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the whites on low speed with the salt and the cream of tartar.
- Slowly raise the speed as the whites turn opaque and soft peaks form.
- Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until the meringue holds very stiff peaks.
- Drop (approximately) half inch dollops of meringue onto parchment lined baking sheets OR just spread the meringue into a 1 1/2-inch thick layer (to be broken into chunks later).
- Bake at 200 degrees for 8 hours. Remove a meringue or the tester and let it cool for 5 minutes. If it is dry and crisp when bitten into, it is done. For larger meringues, probe with a small knife. If the center seems only slightly sticky, it will crisp as it cools. When in doubt, cook a little more. Leave in the turned off oven to cool, preferably overnight.
- Meringues can be made several weeks in advance and once cool, stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- When completely cool, store in an airtight container.