Friday, February 25, 2011

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 DeLaurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies. I decided to make two different kinds of panna cotta. I started with a chocolate panna cotta layered with a coffee gelee to create a yummy mocha dessert. My plan was to make them in some fluted individual molds and then turn them out to serve. That didn't work out because the gelee layer wasn't sturdy enough to stand up to being dumped out. Instead we just had to eat them out of the less than beautiful molds...but that didn't hurt the taste any.

I liked the flavor combination but I didn't think the chocolate panna cotta was quite as smooth in texture as the vanilla was; maybe because I used a cheap chocolate instead of buying the good stuff.

The second version I made was a vanilla panna cotta with a blueberry gelee. I got smart and just put them in some pretty little clear dishes instead of trying to unmold them. The vanilla panna cotta was DELICIOUS! It was completely smooth and creamy and WONDEDRFUL. I added real vanilla bean to mine to give it an even richer vanilla taste. The blueberry gelee was ok but it didn't really add anything besides color to the ultra super yummy vanilla panna cotta.

I will definitely be making panna cotta again. It was very easy and took very little time to prepare....aside from all of the time needed for chilling the layers.
The Nestle Florentine cookies were good too, nothing special, but good. They were also very easy to make and tasted particularily good with the mocha pnna cotta dish.

Here are the recipes we used for our challenge for those of you who would like to try it for yourselves.

Nestle Florentine Cookies

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).

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).

Chocolate Panna Cotta
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
2 cups (480 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
½ cup (115 gm) (4 oz) sugar
¾ cup (145 gm)(5 oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) vanilla extract


1. Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top, set aside for 2-5 minutes.

2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil.

3. Add chocolate and whisk until melted. Whisk the milk/gelatin mixture into chocolate cream mixture. Whisk until gelatin has dissolved.

4. Transfer to ramekins, or nice glasses for serving.

5. Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight

Coffee Gelée
Adapted from a 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


1.Place granulated sugar and 1/4 c. hot water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved.

2.Sprinkle gelatin over 2 Tablespoons cold water and let it soften 2 minutes or so.

3.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.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
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
*I added 1 inch of vanilla bean.


1. 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.

2. 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. (I whisk it a few times at this stage. If you let it boil it will develop a very unattractive skin on top as it cools. You don't want that.).

3. 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.

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 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

Fruit Gelée
Recipe by Mallory

1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) fruit (strawberries, raspberries, mango, blackberry, etc.)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3½ gm) (1/8 oz) unflavored powdered gelatin


1.Sprinkle gelatin over water.

2.Place fruit and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Now mix the gelatin into the strawberry mixture and stir until gelatin has dissolved.

3.Remove from heat and allow to cool (close to room temp, again, if you're planning on layering on pouring on top of your Panna Cotta, a hot mixture will also heat up your chilled Panna Cotta).

As always you can see pics of all of the panna cotta variations at The Daring Kitchen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cute As a Cupcake

I was recently asked to share a cake decorating/Valentine's Day idea. The cutest little cupcakes I've ever made were definitely these:Picture by Bake @ 350

I found the ultra rich, super yummy recipe at one of my favorite baking websites, Bake at 350. She basically made her very own Hostess Cupcakes....and so did I.

Picture by Bake @ 350

She wrote cute little Valentine sayings on each cupcake. I made them for my Project Runway finale party so mine had a sewing theme.

No matter what message they have on top a taste of these creamy filled chocolate cupcakes says "I Love You" to your special Valentines.

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

(adapted from Food Network magazine, modified by Lovestoeat & then Bake @ 350)

For the Cupcakes

1 & 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the Filling

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla exrtact

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 cup marshmallow creme

For the Ganache

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Icing
1 stick unsalted butter

1 & 1/2 - 2 tablespoons milk

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Place paper liners in muffin tin for about 20 cupcakes.

Prepare the cupcakes: Bring the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Pour into a large bowl; add the chocolate and butter and let sit, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture has cooled slightly. Stir in the vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Using a mixer, beat the eggs into the chocolate, then mix in the dry ingredients.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans (about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pans for about 25 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.
(They will sink in the middle...they'll puff up when filled later)

For the filling: Using a mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar. Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon heavy cream; beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons heavy cream in batches, alternating after each addition. Beat in the marshmallow creme; set aside or refrigerate.
For the ganache: Place the chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl. Heat the cream and 1 tablespoon butter until just boiling, then pour over the chocolate; let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla; let stand until cool but still glossy and liquid.

Spoon the filling into a pastry bag with a medium star tip. Insert the tip into the center of each cupcake top; fill until the cupcake is heavier (do not overfill). (It's OK if some of the filling peeks out, it will be covered by the ganache.)

Spoon a little ganache on each cupcake and lightly spread with an offset spatula or a knife. Chill for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the icing: Using a mixer, beat the remaining 1 stick butter, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, the milk and confectioners’ sugar until smooth, adding more milk if needed. Spoon into a pastry bag with a small tip (I used a #2 plain tip); pipe onto the cupcakes to decorate.

Store in the refrigerator.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow Day Reversible Bag

The big ice storm led to a day of being stuck inside which inevitably led to sewing. On the top of my list was a cute reversible bag I found the free PDF for over at Sew Mama Sew.

I can use it with the flowery side out or... ...with the cool graphic print side out. All I have to do is un-pin the flower button and flip the whole thing inside out. Either way I've got the polka-dots!
Of course Kinley had to have a little one to match.

This is a close up of the three fabrics I used and my first ever attempt at making my own bias tape.
I should have put something else in the pic to give you an idea of the dimensions. The regular sized bag measures approx. 12 inches high and 14.5 inches wide at the top. Go grab your own free pattern and make one for yourself!