Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mango Panna Cotta

I was so happy when I first read about the February Daring Bakers challenge.  The results of last months challenge were amazing, but I found it slightly intimidating and never got around to getting all of the elements together.   I like the idea of a challenge and pushing my cooking abilities, but in like so many other things I don't like it when my goals aren't accomplished.

This month I knew I could meet the challenge.  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 love Panna Cotta, but don't make it very often because I gelatin and I don't get along.  I always expect gelatin to set-up immediately when it doesn't I start to mess around and often add more, creating problems.  I made the dessert last weekend when we were having friends over for dinner, so I planned ahead and made the dessert the day before, hoping this would resist my temptation to tinker with the amount of gelatin.  I did fine when making the panna cotta and it came out perfectly creamy with a subtle honey flavor.
When I moved on to making the mango puree I wasn't as patient, tinkered and ended up with a gelatinous lump that couldn't even move. ---  Yes if you add too much gelatin it looses its jello shake.  Luckily I had another mango, although throwing out a whole mango hurt a little. On my second attempt with the mango I decided to go with a large dice instead of a puree.  I still cooked the mango with a little sugar and added just a tsp. of gelatin to give it some stability.  The chunks of mango provided a nice contrast to the smooth panna cotta.

The florentine cookies were already a favorite before this challenge, and they served as a nice contrast.  I wish I had omitted the chocolate, it was a little too overpowering and rich with the mango.  Overall these are two great recipes to have on hand, the panna cotta is very versatile, easy and impressive to serve and the florentine is a nice cookie when you need to add a little something extra to your dessert.

Giada' Panna Cotta

Ingredients
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

Directions:
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).
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.

Nestle's 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

Directions:
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