First I want to start by saying that I’m officially making this a very late Valentine’s Day post. I didn’t have one this year, so since this dessert is all red and pink and soft and creamy, it’s ideal. Let’ pretend, ‘Ooohh, hearts, love, kisses!’. Now onto the challenge.
Ahh…the things you can do with a few gelatin leaves or gelatin powder are endless. You can turn just about anything with liquid into a gelatin meal or dessert. – not that you’d want to, but you could! Jellied grits, jellied marinara sauce (thoughts of aspic..oh, yum!), jellied liquid laundry detergent, jellied…ummm, errrr.
The actual name for this luscious dessert is Panna Cotta (meaning – cooked cream. It’s an eggless cream and/or milk custard stabilized with gelatin). Eighty-six the laundry detergent gelee – panna cotta is cream GELEE (I’ve also been known to call it JELLO cream) whic is a good gelee, as long as it isn’t too jellied.
Phew, wasn’t that annoying? I’m sure you can tell I’m in the midst of sort of a writer’s block.
Speaking of ‘too GELEE’D’ did any of you see the season of Top Chef where Marisa, a pastry chef, which is a rarity and a hinderance on Top Chef, was so pumped and thrilled when she was able to finally make a dessert? She huffed and puffed, bragged about how she had this one in the bag etc. The dessert she had to make was, you guessed it, panna cotta! Now, I’m not a professionally trained pastry chef, but panna cotta is pretty simple to make, so I would have been chuffed too.
Well.if you saw it, you know what happened – she botched the panna cotta – it was hard and rubbery. She claimed it turned out fine, but when challenged via the obvious, a spoonful by each judge, she blamed everything/one but herself. Maybe it was the gelatin or temperature of the kitchen OR the planets had not aligned in a way that turns out creamy, soft panna cotta aka every excuse in the book.
I digress, I couldn’t help referring to that moment since it always pops in my head at the mention of panna cotta, these days. I actually saw her on a Food Network cake, sculpture, whatever..challenge, and she botched that too. However, I think she’ll always be known as the rubbery panna cotta girl. Well..at least she got her 15 and then some.
The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.
I tried Giada’s panna cotta recipe before, and felt it was too sweet, so I decided to take a direction I’ve been DYING to take for months, especially ever since I saw THIS. I love it, I think it looks awesome, and I love the fact that you prepare a fruit three ways along with a tangy (could be buttermilk, yogurt or creme fraiche) panna cotta. Perfection, and I get to play! I’ve been looking for an excuse to tackle this for some time now, and here it is!
Here’s the kicker, it did not originate from Evan, although she’s pretty amazing, isn’t she? She got the idea from HERE, another gifted pastry goddess who in turn got some of her original idea from HERE. That’s three amazingly talented and creative ladies I’m going to copy. Yeah…kind of funny, isn’t it? Sometimes I look at these blogs in complete awe and think ‘Why am I even blogging and photographing food?’ GIve me the towel so I can throw it in!! Oh, wait, it’s something I enjoy! Chill.
In any event, I was so excited to make these, I even ordered 24 carat edible gold leaf. It’s usually pretty pricey, unless you hit ebay and catch an auction from another country, which I did. I ended up getting 10 small sheets of edible gold leaf from Thailand for less than half the price I would have paid in the US. When my father, who happened to stop by, saw the scruffy, international airmail envelope it was sent in – he said “Umm..I wouldn’t open this, it could be anthrax, it looks fishy to me”. I explained it was gold leaf, but he still maintained it could be anthrax and what a perfect way to disseminate it throughout the US, via gold leaf via ebay. Ok, I’m stopping now.
I didn’t have any cool, square verrine glasses, just plastic, rectangular 4 oz cups. I poured in way too much panna cotta, ruining the cool sorta’ ‘mosaic’ thing they got going on. But, you know what? I loved making it, and I loved how it tasted. It was like excavating and depositing a huge heap of soft, creamy, jelly, saucy, tangy strawberry patch on the tastebuds – a strawberries and cream gelatin sundae, so to speak. I was incredibly happy with the final result.
The corkscrew cookie on the napkin is a cocoa – black sesame florentine. Unfortunately, that was the only one left to photograph. I preferred the macadamia lace cookies anyway.
I forgot to mention, I kicked up the strawbeerry mousse with a little heat. Little meaning that I used one ground Tepin pepper. A Tepin chile pepper is the cutest, little pink pepper I’ve ever seen. It’s about the size of half a pinky nail. Don’t be deceived, this is one of the hottest peppers in the world. Last year, Marx foods sent me some samples of the hottest, dried chile peppers known to man. Well, I had a choice…mild, medium or hot,hot, hot. Of course I had to go all the way – wanting to find ways to incorporate these dried peppers into dishes, where they wouldn’t kill you. I found just one wittle, ground tepin pepper in the cool, fluffy mousse, which when combined with the cool gelee and smooth and creamy panna cotta, makes it the perfect bite of heat. No pain, no eyes watering, no premature passing, just – WOW – a good wow.
We were also asked to bake a cookie. I suppose a cookie was integrated because there’s not one facet of panna cotta that’s baked. I loved the idea because it provides another texture to my creamy, moussey, GELEE mouthful. The hostess asked us to make Florentine cookies. I decided to nix the oats for finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts, omit the flour to achieve a more delicate, lacey look.
Ooops, I suppose it’s not a typical Florentine cookie any longer, is it?
A Florentine is simply a heartier, less delicate cousin to the lace cookie, so I’m keeping it in the family, right? I sandwiched them with a white chocolate – strawberry filling, but be warned, if you choose the added strawberry puree option in the filling, it must be eaten almost immediately since the puree in the white chocolate turns the florentine cookies to mush! I found out the hard way when I picked up the stack of filled cookies after they had sat for a few hours. The stack literally disintegrated in my fingers – plopping to the floor with thud. Zombie eats came to mind. Definitely try to find dried strawberries, in this case.
Now, it’s time to give a huge shout out to my friend, Audax, who converted this recipe to US measurements for me. He is amazing – he covered every little corner. Aud, you are the best!
Finally, since this is strawberry based.. every component, except the panna cotta, contains strawberry puree. Below is a base recipe for strawberry puree.
1 20 ounce bag (570 grams) of frozen unsweetened strawberries or 20 ounces of fresh strawberries
2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup (25 to 50 grams) granulated white sugar, or to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional
1. Place the unsweetened frozen strawberries in a large bowl and thaw. Once thawed, put the strawberries and their juice in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process the berries until they are pureed. If you want it completely seedles, crank through a foodmill or push through a fine wire mesh strainer.
2. Pour the puree into a 2 cup measuring cup. You should have about 1 1/4 cups of puree. Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar to start and stir until the sugar dissolves. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Add a little lemon juice to taste.
3. If not using immediately, store covered in the refrigerator for one week. The puree can also be frozen for several months.
Strawberry and Panna Cotta Verrines
Recipe from Evan’s KItxhen Ramblings via L’ Atelier Vi
Vanilla Bean Yogurt or Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (200ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) heavy cream
3 tablespoons + 1 3/4 teaspoons (55 ml) (45 gm) (1.6 oz) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3g (0.1 oz) sheet gelatin OR 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons ice water
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (100 ml) (100 gm) (3 1/2 oz) plain yogurt or creme fraiche
Strawberry Gelee with Diced Strawberry
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (150g) (5⅓ oz) fresh strawberries, diced
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (100 ml) (100g) (3½ oz) strawberry puree
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25g) (0.9 oz) sugar
2g (0.07 oz) sheet gelatine OR ½ teaspoon + 2 dashes powdered gelatin
1 1/2 Tablespoons ice water
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (150g) (5.3 oz) strawberry puree
3 1/2 teaspoons (17 1/2 ml) (15g) (1/2 oz) sugar
3.5g (0.125 oz) sheet gelatine OR 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 Tablespoons ice water
1/2 cup (120 ml) (120g) (4 1/4 oz) whipping cream
1 tepin pepper, ground (optional)
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (100 ml) (100g) (3 1/2 oz) strawberry puree
4 3/4 teaspoons (23 3/4 ml) (20g) (0.7 oz) sugar
FOR THE PANNA COTTA:
1. In a small saucepan, cook the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla bean until it comes to a boil. In the meantime, soak the gelatin in ice water. When the cream has come to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and add the softened gelatin. Whisk to dissolve it. Sift into a clean bowl, discard solids, and let it cool to about body temperature. Add the yogurt and whisk well.
2. Pour the panna cotta into glasses or cups (I used THESE) to about 1/3 of the height and let it set in the refrigerator, about 2 hours.
FOR THE STRAWBERRY GELEE WITH DICED STRAWBERRIES:
1. Warm half of the strawberry puree with the sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Soak the sheet or powdered gelatine in ice water. Remove saucepan from heat once sugar completely dissolved.
2. Add the softened gelatin to the warm strawberry puree. Add the rest of the puree and diced strawberries and mix well. Let it cool to room temperature then spoon the mixture on top of the chilled yogurt panna cotta to about 2/3 of the height of the glasses/cups. Let it set in the refrigerator, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
FOR THE STRAWBERRY MOUSSE:
1. Warm half of the strawberry purée with the sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Soak the gelatin in ice water. Remove the saucepan from heat and add the softened gelatin to the warm puree and stir until completely dissolved. Add the rest of the puree; stir to combine then let it cool to room temperature.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks then using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the puree base until fully incorporated (no more white streak). Pour this mousse on top of the strawberry gelee, smooth it out using the back of a spoon and let it set in the refrigerator, about 1 hour
FOR THE STRAWBERRY COULIS:
1. Warm half of the strawberry puree with the sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Remove saucepan from heat once sugar is completely dissolved. Add the rest of the puree; stir to combine then let it cool to room temperature. Pour it on top of the strawberry mousse layers, swirl the cup until it covers the mousse completely.
2. Top verrines with whole or diced strawberries, a florentine or lace cookie, and gold leaf, if you have on hand.
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 5 ounces whole salted macadamia nuts, toasted, then finely chopped
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup chopped white chocolate
- ¼ cup dried strawberries, ground into a powder or 2 tablespoons strawberry puree * (see NOTE below)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two or three large baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine the finely chopped, toasted macadamia nuts (I pulse them in a food processor to get them finely chopped), the sugar, egg, salt and vanilla extract. Stir until blended, then slowly pour in the melted butter while stirring, until blended into a batter.
- Drop the batter by slightly heaping teaspoonfuls about 3 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets on racks for 5 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining batter after the sheets have cooled.
- Spread the underside of half of the cooled cookies with about a scant teaspoon of the white chocolate - strawberry filling (below), and sandwich with the other half of the cooled cookies, underside down. If using some of the cookies for the verrines above, partially curl those cookies around a wooden spoon handle when they're still warm, then let set and remove from handle.
- Place white chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pot of water and let melt, stirring so it doesn't burn (alternatively, you can use the microwave). Stir in the strawberry powder or strawberry puree until uniform. Let cool, then spread on cookies and sandwich.