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.
You know how sometimes, even with the best laid plans and oodles of forethought, life sometimes gets in the way of your plans? Well, I had that this week. Life saw my well prepared, organised, on-time training coming, and it just went ahead and jumped right in the middle of the tracks in front of it causing a de-railing and a significant delay.
Anyway, I digress. I really enjoyed this challenge. I have made panna cotta many times before so that was not new, but I hunted around for a variation on panna cotta that I had not seen/tried before, and thus I came upon Espresso panna cotta. The combination of coffee and cream and vanilla sounded like a match made in heaven, so that was the one I chose. I also chose to make the coffee gelee to snazzy it up a bit. I just wish I’d had cuter, smaller bowls to put it in as the ones I used were kind of a 2-in-1 serving. As in, plenty for 2 people. The panna cotta is pretty rich.
The Florentines however, were a completely new thing for me. I am sure that I must have had a florentine in my life at some point, although I can’t have been particularly bowled over by them as I can’t remember the experience. But I love to try all things new and previously unchartered, so it was a welcome challenge.
They are certainly unlike any biscuit I have made before in their construction process. This almost involves a sort of sweet roux, a fascinating and not undelicious looking concept. After cooking the sugar, butter and flour, when adding the sour cream, the mixture went from stiff ball to creamy, saucy, golden loveliness in a matter of seconds, and I was left with an aaaaaaaah, moment of revelation. As in aaaaaah – thats how they are going to come together. I made a Sour cherry and Stem Ginger florentine, and the sharpness of the cherries with the sweet mild burn of the ginger went together beautifully.
I only encountered one little mishap, when I carelessly used greaseproof paper instead of baking parchment on my baking tray. And hence the florentines stuck. And stuck good. Those babies were not coming off that paper without the use of a chisel or jackhammer. Luckily nobody caught me on camera trying to eat the carameley cooked mixture off the paper, as it was not my most dignified moment. But it helped me decide that they were good enough for an attempt 2.
Many thanks to Mallory for a fun and delicious challenge. I am now a self-crowned flotentine queen and happy that I have a new skill/taste/experience.
Espresso panna cotta
285ml/11fl oz double cream
210ml/7½fl oz full-fat milk
1 vanilla pod
4 leaves gelatine
150g/5oz caster sugar
3-4 tsp instant coffee granules
- Bring the cream and milk to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed pan.
- Add the sugar and stir to dissolve into the simmering liquid.
- Split the vanilla pod in half with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla pod and seeds to the milk and cream mixture, then remove from the heat. Leave to cool and to infuse the vanilla flavours, for at least five minutes.
- Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until softened and pliable, about 3-4 minutes. Squeeze the extra water from the gelatine, then add the leaves to the hot cream/milk mixture. Stir until dissolved.
- Add the coffee granules to the milk and cream and stir until the granules are completely dissolved. Strain the cream mixture through a sieve into a jug. Discard the vanilla pods. Leave to cool for a few minutes.
- Pour the mixture into moulds. Place in the fridge and leave to set for three hours.
- When the panna cottas have set, remove them from their moulds by dipping the bases of the moulds into a bowl of very hot water to loosen them. You may also need to run a knife around the edge of each panna cotta.
- To serve, turn each of the panna cottas out of the moulds onto a plate, or eat straight from the bowl if you don’t want to be fancy
Adapted from this recipe in Gourmet Magazine
2 cups (480 ml) good quality brewed coffee
1/4 cup (60 ml) hot water + 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3½ gm) (1/8 oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
Place granulated sugar and 1/4 c. hot water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Sprinkle gelatin over 2 Tablespoons cold water and let it soften 2 minutes or so.
Stir the coffee, sugar, hot water, and vanilla into a small metal bowl, add gelatin mixture and stir well until gelatin has dissolved. If pouring over Panna Cotta, be sure that this mixture is no longer hot, it will melt Panna Cotta if it is, let it come to room temperature.
Sour cherry and stem ginger Florentines
2 tbsp butter
75g/2½oz golden caster sugar
2 tsp flour
75ml/2½fl oz crème fraîche
50g/2oz flaked almonds, toasted
2 tbsp candied peel
2 tbsp crystallised stem ginger
50g/2oz dried sour cherries
150g/5oz good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Heat the butter, sugar and flour in a pan over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Gradually add the crème fraîche, stirring continuously until well combined.
Add the almonds, candied peel, stem ginger, and sour cherries and mix well until combined.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place teaspoonfuls of the florentine mixture onto it. Space the teaspoonfuls out at 2.5cm/1in intervals so they don’t merge together when heated.
Transfer the florentines to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the tray, then transfer the florentines to a cooling rack.
Bring a little water to a simmer in a pan. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth and melted.
Turn the florentines so that the flat base is facing upwards. Spread the melted chocolate over the florentine bases and set aside to cool and set.