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 a.k.a romantic perfection, these Triple Strawberry Vanilla Bean Yogurt Panna Cotta Verrines with Lacy Macadamia Cookies (Whoa! What a mouthful!), and Strawberry White Chocolate filled Lacy Macadamia Cookies will be my official Valentine’s Day sweet treat.
That said, 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 tomato juice (thoughts of aspic), jellied liquid laundry detergent, jellied motor oil. OK, I’ll stop now.
The actual name for this luscious dessert is Panna Cotta, (which translates to cooked cream), and it’s an egg-free cream and/or milk custard stabilized with gelatin. So, eighty-six the laundry detergent gelee; panna cotta is cream gelee (I’ve also been known to call it JELLO cream) which is a good gelee, as long as it isn’t too jellied.
I know, all that jellied/gelee talk was a little annoying. Is it too obvious that 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 somewhat of a hindrance) on Top Chef, was extremely thrilled when she was finally able to make a dessert? She huffed and puffed and 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. I felt so bad for her, as I’m sure her panna cotta is usually perfect. The pressure of being a pastry chef, on the day they give you a dessert challenge, must have been a bit overwhelming.
I digress. I couldn’t help referring to that moment since it always pops in my head at the mention of panna cotta.
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 have tried Giada’s panna cotta recipe before, and felt it was a little 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 one 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 try and emulate. 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!!’ Then I remember why I blog about food; it’s something I enjoy immensely, so I’ll hold onto that towel..for now.
In any event, I was so excited to make these, I even ordered 24 carat edible (food safe) 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/food-safe gold leaves from Thailand for less than half the price I would have paid in the US. When my father, who happened to stop by just as I placed my mail on the table, saw the scruffy, international airmail envelope it was sent in, he said, “I wouldn’t open that, it could be anthrax; it looks fishy to me”. I explained that it was gold leaves for food decoration, but he still maintained it could be anthrax and what a perfect way to disseminate it throughout the US, via gold leaves via ebay. Okay, he was joking..well, half joking ‘cuz, hmmm, you never know.
Anyway, I didn’t have any cool, square verrine glasses like they used, just plastic, rectangular 4 oz cups, so I accidentally poured in way too much panna cotta, ruining the cool ‘mosaic’ thing they got goin’ on. But, you know what? I loved making it, and I loved how it tasted; it was like excavating and dumping a huge heap of soft, creamy, jelly, saucy, tangy strawberry patch on the taste buds; a creamy strawberry gelatin sundae, so to speak. I was incredibly pleased with the outcome.
The corkscrew cookie on the napkin is a cocoa – black sesame florentine. Unfortunately, that was the only one left to photograph. I preferred the lacy macadamia cookies anyway.
I forgot to mention, I amped up the strawberry 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, though, as 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, hoping to find ways to incorporate those dried peppers into dishes in ways where it wouldn’t singe your tongue. I found just one, ground teeny tiny ground tepin pepper in the cool, fluffy mousse, which when combined with the cool gelee and smooth and creamy panna cotta, gives the perfect bite of heat. No pain, no eyes watering, no premature passing, just a WOW, and a good WOW at that.
So, 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 the creamy, jelly mouthful of the verrines. The hostess asked us to make Florentine cookies. I decided to nix the oats for finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts, and omit the flour to achieve a more delicate, lacy look.
Ooops, I suppose it’s not a typical Florentine cookie any longer, is it? It’s now a lacy cookie!
A Florentine is simply a heartier, less delicate cousin to the lacy cookie, so I’m keeping it in the family, right? I sandwiched them with a dried strawberry – white chocolate filling. Yes.Yes.Yes.
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 single itty, bitty corner. Aud, you are the best!
Finally, since these verrines are strawberry based, every component, except the panna cotta, contains strawberry puree. Below is a base recipe for strawberry puree.
One 20 ounce bag (570 grams) of frozen unsweetened strawberries or 20 ounces of fresh, washed, hulled and cut up 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’re pureed. If you want it completely seedless, crank through a foodmill or push through a fine wire mesh strainer after blending or processing them.
If using fresh, cut up strawberries, place in a bowl and stir in two to three tablespoons of sugar to macerate (release the juices) for about 30 minutes, then continue on as written above, although you may not need to add anymore sugar. Taste.
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.
Triple Strawberry Vanilla Bean Yogurt Panna Cotta Verrines and Strawberry White Chocolate filled Lacy Macadamia Sandwich Cookies
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
2 grams (0.07 oz) sheet gelatine (about 3/4 of a whole sheet) OR ½ teaspoon + 2 dashes powdered gelatin ( just shake the package to ‘dash’ a some out.
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) gelatin sheets OR 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons ice water
1/2 cup (120 ml) (120g) (4 1/4 oz) whipping cream
1 tepin pepper or pink peppercorn, 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, discarding solids, and let it cool to about body temperature. Add the yogurt or creme fraiche, 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 on the bias (tilted) using an egg carton like you see in the above photo collage, 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, upright, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
FOR THE STRAWBERRY MOUSSE: (any left over? Make a Strawberry Mousse cake with some candid rhubarb!)
1. Warm half of the strawberry purée with the sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Soak the gelatin leaf in ice water or combine the powdered gelatin with about 1 tablespoon of cold water. In both instances, let sit until softened (the powdered gelatin will dissolve and turn into a soft lump of clear jelly). If using leaf gelatin, when ready, pull it out of the water and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. If using powdered gelatin, just dump the whole softened lump of jelly in as is. Remove the saucepan from heat and add either 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 cooled 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 or offset spatula, and let it set in the refrigerator, upright, 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 layer, swirling the cup until it covers the mousse completely.
2. Top verrines with whole, halved or diced strawberries, a florentine or lacy cookie, and gold leaf, if you have on hand.
NOTE – I think I would prefer to switch the coulis with the diced strawberry gelatin, meaning place the coulis within the verrine and the diced strawberry gelatin on top, so you seal the verrines. Next time, for sure!
- 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
- 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 and teeny, tiny pinch of salt, until uniform. Let cool, then spread on underside of half the cookies and sandwich with the other half of the cookies, top side up.
To get the challenge recipe for the florentine cookie, click HERE. To get the challenge panna cotta, click HERE