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Daring Bakers February 2011|Panna Cotta and Florentines!

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 was a great challenge.  Not because we loved the results (although they were quite good), but because the recipe is so easy and so flexible that it allows tremendous room for creativity and improvisation.

When I first joined the Daring Bakers*, it was because of this post – this is a step by step, beautifully photographed and gorgeously detailed account of making an Opera Cake.  It’s lovely…and difficult.  And for me, initially, that was the point.  I like doing difficult things in the kitchen.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment, but more importantly, it gives me an excuse to follow the rules…

Ah the rules.  The safe, sweet, easy rules.  Funny isn’t it?  Antithetical** to the idea of “daring,” but oh so beguiling.  If it’s hard, and the challenge comes out well, then I have success.  If it doesn’t come out well, I followed the rules, so it’s not my fault…sounds a little like the idea of “too big to fail.”

Where am I going with this?  Right here.  Recipes like the one that Miss Mallory chose for us this month are daring because they invite us to mess with them.  Their simplicity begs us to go out on a limb.  To wrack the recipe card index of our brains and think about our experience cooking, what we’ve done in the past that could work here in a new way.  For me with this challenge, I saw its beautiful ease and thought “this needs flavoring,” and that was allowed, so I decided to add some over-ripe pears that were waiting to be eaten.  Remembering that port is often served with fruits and cheese, I thought a port gelee would be interesting in combination with the pear, so I found a recipe for it…

The results were quite nice.  It was a subtle dessert, and the combination of the two flavors was as pleasing as I had hoped.  Will I make this again?  Probably not.  I just don’t like custard very much.  But I loved this challenge, because it asked me to stretch.  That’s where learning is for me now – not in imitating or following, but in improvising.  That’s the real reason I joined the DBs, and even though it’s taken three years, I’m finally learning how to get there.

If you are interested in seeing some amazing, daring, gorgeous and inspired versions of this challenge, visit these links and/or the blogroll to see how some other DBs roll…you won’t be disappointed (but you may wind up on the Internet longer than you intended!).

Thanks Mallory for a great challenge – this one was fun, but it was also really satisfying!


*If you’d like to join us each month, please do!  It’s an awful lot of fun and a great way to really learn about baking and cooking.  Here’s a link to the forum – hope to see you next time!
**I also really like using unnecessarily long words.

[All photos from this point to the bottom of the post are credited to Mallory of A Sofa In The Kitchen]

Panna Cotta and Flortine Cookies

Preparation time:
• 20-25 minutes to prepare the Panna Cotta – at least 6 hours to chill
• 20-25 minutes to prepare the cookies 6-8 minutes to bake

Equipment required:
• Small mixing bowl
• Two medium sized heavy bottom pot or saucepan
• Wooden spoon and/or whisk
• Glasses or ramekins – something to pour and serve your Panna Cotta in
• Measuring cups
• Measuring spoons
• Silpat or wax paper or parchment paper
• Baking sheet
• Small bowl

Giada’s 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


  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.

Hope you love it!

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

Nestle Florentine Cookies

Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.

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).
  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.

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).

Note: The next two recipes are just examples – If you want gelée to go with your Panna Cotta, feel free to use them, or find other gelée recipes to use. Smile

Coffee Gelée

Adapted from this 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.

Fruit Gelée

Recipe by Mallory

1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) fruit (strawberries, raspberries, mango, blackberry, etc.)
*Note: Certain fruits interact with gelatin and stop it gelling like pineapple and kiwi 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).

One Comment

  1. Lucy says:

    Glad you enjoyed the challenge. Your florentines look nice and crisp
    Lucy´s last blog post ..Daring Bakers February Challenge

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