The Local Food Report: have your cake

You know that saying—you can have your cake, and eat it too? Well, with Marissa Ferry, it's true.

You can have your cupcake, or your rhubarb ginger stout cake, or your panna cotta, and you can know that it was made by an up-and-coming Wellfleet pastry chef who uses as many local ingredients as possible. That way, you can feel good about dessert, and she can too.

Marissa grew up around here—she started baking at Nauset and then went on to the Baking & Pastry Arts program at Johnson and Wales—but she did plenty of traveling before coming home. She's worked under bakers and chefs all over the place—in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, even Orlando. But she's been back on the Cape for a few years now, turning out cupcakes and ice creams and all sorts of other goodies from a space in the basement of the Flying Fish in Wellfleet. She says it's good to be home—that it feels like closing a loop.

Since she arrived, she's been building her foodshed—networking with local farmers, asking for lists of when they'll have rhubarb and blueberries and exactly how long the peaches last. Recently, she even started working with the cheesemakers over at Shy Brothers Farm. They're making this new curd—cloumage—which is sort of like a ricotta/cream cheese/yogurt blend. It's a soft cheese, and it has the same unique tang and creaminess of crème frâiche. Marissa's putting it into panna cotta, and after trying out her recipe for you all last night, I can say without reservation that it's divine.

Of course, that's partially the cheese, but it's also partially Marissa. We serve her desserts where I work at Blackfish, in Truro, and her other creations—things like a ginger stout cake made with Ipswich Stout and served over a local rhubarb compote with a spiced honey ice cream—will also stop you in your tracks. She's always coming up with new combinations—things like this spring's hot honey cake, made with honey from E & T farms and served with lemon confit and chamomile tea ice cream—to fit the seasons. Pretty soon, she'll swap out the spring fruits—strawberries and rhubarb—for the raspberries and blueberries as they get ripe. After that it will be apples and stone fruits, and with any luck, she'll be able to get her hands on some local cherries to make clafouti for the first time this year.

If you're looking for her, look for the Wildflour Bakery sign that will be going up in a few days beside the Flying Fish. Right now, she does all the desserts for them and for Blackfish, and a few catering events and special orders, too. She's good at everything from tarts to ice creams to cupcakes, and of course, panna cotta, too.


This dessert is about as easy and as elegant as they get. It takes maybe 10-15 minutes from start to finish, and there's no baking. Just stir, whisk, and pour. After trying it once, I can't wait to start playing with flavors—maybe almond-raspberry? Blueberry-lemon? Coffee? Peaches with thyme? Of course, the cheese is important; there's a list of local places where you can find Cloumage over here. If you can't get that, crème frâiche will work, but you will need to play around with the amount of gelatin to get the consistency just right.

1 pound Cloumage
1/2 ounce gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
sliced fresh strawberries and a few torn basil leaves, for topping

Arrange 8 small ramekins on a baking sheet and spoon the cloumage into a large mixing bowl.

Bloom the gelatin. (This is pastry-chef speak for pouring the packet of gelatin into the cold water, stirring, and waiting a bit.)

Pour the cream, orange and lemon zests, sugar, and salt into a medium-size, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir until the sugar dissolves and bring to a simmer. (Do not boil.) Turn the heat off, add the vanilla, and pour this mixture over the cloumage. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth.

Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins and put them on the baking sheet into the fridge to set for three hours. About an hour before you're ready to serve, mix the strawberries, remaining tablespoon of sugar, and basil, and leave at room temperature to juice. Serve the panna cotta chilled, with a spoonful of fresh strawberries and basil on top.


Anonymous said...

Oh, my, does this ever sound good, Elspeth. It's a big week here at our house in Maine, as you well know: Papa's birthday today, our 33d wedding anniversary on Saturday, and Anna's 22d birthday on Sunday. I think we will have to try this for one of our celebrations. But where am I going to find this special cheese in Maine???

Can't wait to see you and our Fishmonger-in-law!

~xo, Mama

Elspeth said...

It is SO good. I don't think you can find this particular cheese in Maine, but we might be able to find something similar enough to substitute. Next time you're at the farmers' market or a store that carries local cheeses, keep your eye out for fresh, lactic curd. It should look sort of like a cross between cream cheese, creme fraiche, and ricotta. It could even be fresh goat curd, which we get around here, too. Let me know what you find!


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