Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' February 2011: Panna Cotta

***Edit: the link to my 365 photo project has been fixed!***

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.

Vanilla Bean Fromage Blanc Panna, Chocolate Crumble, 
Chocolate Shortbread Tuile, Blackberr Coulis & Fresh Blackberry

Many apologies for my absence these past months. I hoping to not make such a hiatus again, at least not for the time being!  Lots of exciting (and challenging) things have been happening and I look forward to sharing them!  FYI, If you want to see my newest 365 photo project, and keep up with what's going on in my life on a day-to-day basis, visit here. 


This month also marks my return to Daring Bakers' challenges, also after a several month hiatus.  However, I do feel the need to get one thing off my chest: I followed the challenge inspiration, but not the given recipes.  I had planned for  my Petit Fours & Mini Pastries class to make a panna cotta in the near future and decided to practice that recipe instead! 

One thing that often surprises people is that I am a pastry chef who really doesn't particularly care for cheesecake (feel free to gasp... I know, I'm unusual).  I often find it too heavy/rich and frankly, not sweet enough for my insatiable sweet tooth!  This Vanilla Bean Fromage Blanc panna cotta, inspired by a recipe from Dessert Fourplay by Johnny Iuzzini, comes very close to cheesecake-y flavors without being too rich. 

Fromage Blanc, for those who are not familiar with it, is a zero-fat, French-style, fresh cheese that has similar flavor tones as yogurt.  I like to think of it this way: if Greek yogurt and cream cheese got married and had a baby, it would taste like Fromage Blanc, haha!

Some may remember from a previous post, that I am a big fan of panna cotta.  It's relatively easy and doesn't require an oven!  It can be very sweet and very rich, so I've made a petit-four size dessert with garnishes.  After tasting the combination, I do wish I'd made them a little larger because they are so tasty!  Instead I've compensated by eating several :) 

If you're not a cheesecake or a panna cotta fan, I still urge you to make this dessert.  It may turn you into a believer!

Fromage Blanc Panna Cotta 
adapted from Dessert Fourplay by Johnny Iuzzini

4 g Gelatin Sheets (reduce gelatin if you do not plan to unmold the panna cotta)
112 g  Heavy Cream
50 g Granulated Sugar
pinch of fine Sea Salt 
2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
225 g Fromage Blanc, room temp

1.  Bloom the gelatin sheets in ice water until soft, approximately 10 minutes. 
2.  Combine the cream, sugar & sea salt in a sauce pan.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the bloomed gelatin and whisk to combine.  Cool slightly.  Add Vanilla Bean Paste.  Cool until just warm.
3.  Whisk the cooled cream mixture into the Fromage Blanc (the cream mixture must be just barely warm, or else it may cause the fromage blanc to sepearate) and strain into a vessel with a spout (a spout will help the ease of portioning)
4.  Portion the mixture into the desired molds and chill until set.
5.  Once set, unmold, if desired, and garnish with Blackberry Coulis, Chocolate Shortbread Tuiles, & Chocolate crumble.
6.  Enjoy!

Final humorous note....  
Here's what happens when you decide to photograph on your balcony and the wind blows over your foam core while you're back inside grabbing one final garnish.... hahahaha.  I'm laughing, but it was rather expensive mishap since the foam core is ruined (one covered in blackberry coulis, one in speckles from the butter in the crumble)...  Thankfully, though, I did have enough product to plate a second set up!