Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Daring Bakers February Challenge- Vanilla 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 was so excited when I saw this month's challenge.  One reason being that I had just seen Giada making her florentine cookies; they looked absolutely delicious, so pretty and delicate and there wasn't a lot to the process.  It is one of those simple cookies that can be enjoyed by itself or dressed up a little by making a sandwich cookie with a chocolate filling.  These were so good and a great alternative to the everyday, ordinary cookie; not that I don't love a great tasting cookie! 

The panna cotta was equally delicious.  This is a great way to dress up your after dinner dessert and a lighter alternative to a cake or some other heavy dessert.  This was light, refreshing and cool.  I loved the fact that this can be served as plain vanilla panna cotta but it can also be spiced up by adding fresh fruit on top or layering a flavored gelee inbetween layers of panna cotta.   

Individually the cookies and panna cotta are wonderful, pair them together and you have an over the top, restaurant worthy dessert.  I had so much fun with this challenge, I can't wait to make other variations of the panna cotta/gelee recipes.

Vanilla Panna Cotta


1 Cup whole milk

1 Tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
3 Cups whipping cream
1/3 Cup honey
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
Pinch of salt


Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.  Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (whisk it a few times at this stage).

Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.

Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve. 
Coffee Gelee

2 Cups good quality brewed coffee
1/4 Cup hot water + 2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1½ Teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
2 Teaspoons 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.

Nestle Florentine Cookies

2/3 Cup unsalted butter
2 Cups quick oats
1 Cup granulated sugar
2/3 Cup all purpose flour
1/4 Cup dark corn syrup
1/4 Cup whole milk
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1½ Cups dark or milk chocolate


Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F.

Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.  To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.  Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).  Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).  Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Recipe Source:
Vanilla Panna Cotta- Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network
Coffee Gelee- Gourmet Magazine
Nestle Florentine Cookies- “ Nestle Classic Cookbook”, and Very Best Baking.

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