February 28, 2011

Daring Bakers' February 2011 Challenge - Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

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.

All the information about the challenge can be found here.

I felt neither too creative nor too adventurous this month. Also, March 1 is the birthday of a close friend and his favourite dessert is the classical panna cotta, so I decided to stick with the basic recipe for vanilla panna cotta and raspberry gelée. I couldn't obtain powdered gelatin so I used sheet gelatin instead. Here's my recipe variation:

1st Layer of Panna Cotta

120ml of whole milk
360ml of whipping cream
20ml of honey
1 tbsp of sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean
4 sheets of gelatin

2nd Layer of Panna Cotta

120ml of whole milk
360ml of whipping cream
40ml of honey
1 tsp of sugar
1 vanilla bean
4 sheets of gelatin

I let the sheet gelatin soak in cold water while preparing the rest of the panna cotta. In a pan I combined the milk, cream, honey, sugar and salt. I added the seed from the vanilla bean and the empty vanilla bean and let everything simmer for 15min while whisking frequently. I removed the pan from the heat and added the gelatin after squeezing the water from it. Then I strained it to remove the vanilla beans and other vanilla bean particles and poured the panna cotta into prepared glasses. For the second layer I let the panna cotta cool to room temperature before layering it on top of the raspberry gelée.

Raspberry Gelée

250g of frozen raspberries
60ml of freshly squeezed orange juice
60g of brown sugar
2 sheets of gelatin

I let the gelatin soak in cold water. The raspberries, orange juice and sugar were puréed in a blender. Since the raspberries were not completely defrosted yet, I had to warm up the fruit purée in a pan to bring it to room temperature. I squeezed the gelatin and let it melt in a little pan before adding it to the raspberry purée and layering everything on top of the panna cotta.

I liked the end result. Although, for my taste, the panna cotta should have had a softer texture. While preparing the raspberry gelée, I had the impression, that I didn't use enough gelatin. It took a long time for the gelée to set and I was relieved that pouring a second layer of panna cotta onto the gelée was possible without any trouble. But when I sampled the end result I was delighted to find that the gelée almost turned into a purée again, therefore mixing all the better with the panna cotta.

For the Florentine Cookies I tried to stick to Mallory's suggested recipe but could not find dark corn syrup, so I used half honey, half molasses instead. Also, I reduced the sugar to 130g because some other Daring Bakers mentioned in the forums that they were quite sweet. I loved the chewy texture and the caramel flavour of the cookies. To coat them with chocolate, I poured a spoonful of chocolate on a parchment paper and pressed a cookie with the flat side down onto the chocolate. Unfortunately, the caramel flavour was a bit overpowered by the chocolate, but I still liked the cookies. 

Oh, and in case you are wondering about the decoration in the background of the picture: carnival season is about to start in Switzerland :-)