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 Giada De Laurentiis' recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.
I've made Panna Cotta before and honestly if you've never had Panna cotta, one bite will have you hooked. This creamy Italian dessert is traditionally made with unflavored gelatin which is the setting agent. I chose to use Agar- Agar or 'China Grass' as its known back in India. Agar-Agar is the vegetarian substitute for Gelatin. The basic challenge recipe is for Vanilla Panna Cotta, I added lychee juice to make a Lychee Panna Cotta with a colored Lychee Gelee.
Recipe Source: Giada De Laurentiis' Panna Cotta. It's well reviewed, simple and delicious.
Mandatory Items: Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies
Variations allowed: If the vanilla does not appeal to you, I am also giving you a recipe for chocolate Panna Cotta. You have a choice between the two. However, the vanilla can be modified, I generally add vanilla bean, you could also add a bit of matcha (powdered green tea), or fruit. Speaking of fruit, I'm going to give you one recipe for strawberry, and another for coffee gelée, essentially homemade Jell-o. Gelée can be poured on the bottom, top, or layered in with your Panna Cotta (though it takes a few extra steps to do this). So make the vanilla or chocolate recipe, but feel free to play with this it. I just want you to start with a base recipe. What you top it with, or garnish with is also up to you. Have fun, and get creative. In regards to the cookie, if you want to add nuts, or use a different chocolate, go for it.
• 20-25 minutes to prepare the Panna Cotta - at least 6 hours to chill
• 20-25 minutes to prepare the cookies 6-8 minutes to bake
• Small mixing bowl
• Two medium sized heavy bottom pot or saucepan
• Wooden spoon and/or whisk
• Glasses or ramekins - something to pour and serve your Panna Cotta in
• Measuring cups
• Measuring spoons
• Silpat or wax paper or parchment paper
• Baking sheet
• Small bowl
Lychee Panna Cotta with Lychee Gelee
Adapted from Giada's Vanilla Panna Cotta
For the Panna Cotta:
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
2 tbsp Agar-Agar flakes (if you have bar, chop it and then measure)
8 tbsp Hot water
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 can Lychees in syrup
For the Lychee Gelee:
1 cup Lychee Juice
3 tbsp Agar-Agar flakes
12 tbsp Hot Water
Yellow Food color
1. Dissolve the agar-agar in the hot water, takes about 5-6 minutes. Then bring this to a boil on medium heat until the agar-agar completely dissolves. While the agar-agar dissolves, prepare the cream mixture as it is important that all ingredients are warm before adding the agar-agar.
2. Reserve 6 lychees from the can and puree the rest with the syrup in a food processor until smooth. Pour into a fine mesh strainer to extract the lychee juice. Discard pulp. You should have about two cups of lychee juice. Save one cup for later use in the gelee.
3. Combine the milk,cream, lychee juice, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Bring upto heat,making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes. Now stir in the dissolved agar-agar.
4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
5. Refrigerate at least 2-3 hours before layering with the lychee gelee.
6. For the Gelee, dissolve agar-agar in the hot water. Bring upto heat until agar-agar dissolves completely. Warm the lychee juice before adding it to the agar-agar. Add yellow food color. Allow to cool for 3-4 minutes before spooning into panna cotta glasses. Allow to set for 4 hours. Garnish with reserves lychees cut into pieces.
Nestle Florentine Cookies
Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.
These cookies are incredibly sweet; I cut back on the sugar by half.
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate
Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
2. 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.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
4. 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).
5. 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).
6. 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).