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. This one was perfect for me and my favorite so far – two of my favorites creamy and cookies! I decided to make maraschino cherry layers because I had some maraschino cherry jelly that I made recently and thought it would be a great combination. While at the store, I found the first really nice strawberries of the year, so I couldn’t resist them, nor could I decide between the two so I made both versions.
First, the Florentines I followed the Nestle recipe, however, I found that a Tablespoon of dough for each cookie spread way too much and ended up with one giant cookie (so sad you know we had to eat the mistake). With each batch I reduced the amount, then finally got it to 1/2 teaspoon per cookie which made the perfect size. Also, instead of making a sandwich cookie, I just drizzled them with chocolate as I liked the look better and wanted to lighten them up a little to serve with the Panna Cotta.
Following the recipe (with the addition of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon) I mixed up the dough, which looks like this:
As I mentioned, the recipe calls for a Tablespoon of dough for each cookie, which was way to much so I reduced that down to 1/2 teaspoon as they really spread, and actually that’s what you want because it makes them nice and lacy.
Next: Strawberry/Vanilla Panna Cotta. Never having made this before, I found it much easier than I had expected not much more complicated than making jello.
For the strawberry portion:
1 lb strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 packet unflavoreed gelatin
1/4 cup water
1/1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Few strawberries for garnish
First decide how you want to display – in a glass or in a mold. If using a mold, spray it with vegetable spray. I like using various glasses for the presentation as it eliminates the worry of getting them out of the mold and you still get to see how beautiful it is – plus it is a great excuse for using all the pretty glasses that at least at my house don’t get out very often. I did try one in a mold, but unfortunately, I left it in the hot water too long so it pretty much lost the “mold” design and looked like a blob surrounded by melted pudding – not my best effort. I’ll probably try again, but the ones in the glasses turned out much better.
1. Puree the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor until very smooth and press through a sieve to remove the seeds. Remove 1 cup and reserve the rest.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small microwave safe bowl and let stand for 5 minutes to soften. Place in the microwave for 5 second intervals until it dissolves.
3. In a medium size microwave safe bowl, bring the milk to a simmer, 1 1/2- to 2 minutes – don’t boil.
4. Add the gelatin, strawberry puree and the cream and mix.
5. Pour into the serving dishes and chill until firm. If you want to make layers as I did, fill the glasses partially and chill before adding another layer.
Using the reserved strawberry puree top the panna cotta and just before serving, add a Florentine cookie.
Vanilla/Almond Panna Cotta
Remember if you are planning on layering the dessert, wait until the first layer firms up before making this layer. I made a double batch of Giada’s Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries recipe , up to the last step but splitting it into two containers adding vanilla to one and almond extract to the other (for the maraschino cherry ones). I noticed that this recipe was much smoother and creamier than the one with strawberries.
For the maraschino cherry layer I used the maraschino cherry jelly I made recently. I warmed it slightly so it would pour into the glasses and put a layer on the bottom of the glass. Poured the almond extract version over that, let it harden and then on some I put another thin layer of jelly on top.
For the strawberry version I used the already hardened layer of strawberry and added another layer of vanilla on top, then a layer of the reserved strawberry puree.