February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge #3: 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 De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies. 

(And I'm making it just by the hair of my chinny chin chin.... finished the panna cotta and cookies yesterday, and managed to get some good pictures while the sun was out today!)

This is something I've made before- quite successfully in fact.  I decided, therefore, to enjoy this challenge as a chance to experiment with some new techniques- specifically the curd. I've never made fruit curd before, and I thought I'd give it a shot with blackberry. I also decided to make a coffee-flavored version because I happen to have some instant coffee left over from making the entremet last month.  
1. Vanilla panna cotta with blackberry curd and black currant balsamic vinegar, crushed Florentine cookies with almonds and lemon zest.
2. Coffee panna cotta, Florentine cookies and melted dark chocolate.
This was an absolutely delightful "baking" experience.  The panna cotta is incredibly easy to make and takes about 20 minutes.  The cookies are also really quick and easy, so I didn't mind that the curd was a bit more labor-intensive. 
And the best part was having a way to use my brand new black currant balsamic vinegar. It's from Blue Sky, a vinegar and oil purveyor in Chapel Hill.  They have high quality olive oils and a huge variety of flavored oils and vinegars.  You can taste any and all of their selection, which includes things like coconut white balsamic, pinot noir vinegar, and blood orange fused olive oil.  It was hard to come away with only 5 bottles.  As soon as I tasted the black currant balsamic vinegar, I knew it would go great with the blackberry curd for the vanilla panna cotta. 

Panna Cotta
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon/one packet unflavored powdered gelatin
2 cups heavy cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
pinch of salt

Pour the milk into a bowl and sprinkle gelatin evenly over the milk. Let stand for at least 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.

Pour the milk into a saucepan and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes, whisking to break up any clumps.

Next, add the cream, sugar, vanilla and salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved (5-7 minutes).

Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into glasses or ramekins. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. 

*To make the coffee panna cotta, I had a bowl prepared with 3/4 tbsp of instant coffee.  I poured half the panna cotta mixture into this bowl and stirred to combine.  
Blackberry Curd
barely adapted from William Sonoma
2 pints blackberries, rinsed
1.5 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp butter

Puree the blackberries and strain through a chinois or strainer until only solids (mostly seeds) are left.  

Heat a pot with about an inch of water to a simmer. In a mixing bowl, one that will fit over the pot with water, combine sugar and eggs and egg yolks with a whisk. Place the bowl over the heated water and whisk the mixture as you add the blackberries, salt and lemon juice.  Continue to stir the mixture as it heats, for about 10-15 minutes.  

Add the butter, 1 tbsp at a time, whisking as it dissolves.  To check if the curd is done, dip a spoon in the mixture, then make a line in the curd that coats the back of the spoon. If the line stays, and the curd doesn't fill it in, then it's done.  You can strain it again at this point, but it's not necessary.  Allow it to cool, then refrigerate for up to two weeks. 

To assemble blackberry panna cotta, top the panna cotta with some blackberry curd, then drizzle with vinegar, and add a few tablespoons of cookie crumbles (see below).
Florentine Cookies
(adapted from the cookbook "Nestle Classic recipes")
 quick oats
 granulated sugar
 plain flour
whole milk
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
Melt butter and add to mixing bowl. To the melted butter, add oats, sugar, flour, sugar, milk, vanilla and salt. You can substitute almond meal for some of the oats, or add crushed nuts at this step. Drop a tablespoon of batter, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly and shape to a circle.
Bake for 6-8 mins until the cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

Melt chocolate using a double boiler and use to sandwich cookies or drizzle over them and the panna cotta. For the berry panna cotta topping, chop 2 cookies finely, add some chopped almond pieces and the zest of 1/2 lemon. 


  1. Both of your flavours sound so delicious!!! The blackberry curd looks amazing. I have never made any type of curd except lemon. I can't wait to experiment with berries!! Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. wow all those variations - the flavors look fanastic!!! great job! I did a cheese-cake type panna cotta :)

  3. Thanks guys! @ EKR- the berry curd was awesome, but I think next time I'll make it more potent with a third pint of berries.

  4. WOW all of your panna cottas look delicious I love the coffee one and the cookies look so thin and crisp well done on this challenge.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  5. Looks absolutely love love it..