Sunday, February 27, 2011

Orange Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Limoncello Gelee and Chocolate 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 my first challenge with the Daring Bakers, I am so excited to participate!  I have only ever had panna cotta from Trader Joe's and I loved it, so I couldn't wait to give this a try.  Panna cotta is ridiculously easy to make.  It's like making jello but with cream.  I actually did two recipes though, the first was David Lebovitz's Buttermilk Panna Cotta.  It was a bit watery and not what I had expected so I thought I would try again. 

I wanted to make a gelee to go with the panna cotta, and I found a great recipe for Limoncello gelee and thought an orange vanilla panna cotta would go nicely.  The panna cotta was easy peasy as was the gelee.  However.  Do not, I repeat, do not, try and pour the gelee onto the panna cotta while it is still piping hot.  A more experienced baker (or someone with a little common sense) would not do this, but I did and completely ruined one of the desserts since the panna cotta literally collapsed under the gelee.  Oops?  I then waited until the gelee was almost room temp and even then poured it in over a spoon.  All was well.

This was delicious.  Super creamy with so much vanilla flavour.  I have never baked with vanilla beans before but they are so much more intense then extract.  The gelee was also delightful, great lemon flavour with plenty of booziness.  I would totally make this again, maybe I'll even successfully unmold it from a ramekin next time.

Onto the Florentines.  These are a pain in the arse to make.  Well, the recipe I went with anyways, which was Martha's chocolate Florentines.  No doubt they look lovely when done, but you have to time it just right and be quick about it to get the cookie off the pan and onto the rolling pin to shape it.  Too early and you ruin it's circular shape (if it had that to begin with, mine quite often turned into odd flying saucer like shapes), too late and it cracks.

I liked these cookies, but not enough for the amount of time involved.  What can I say, I'm lazy and if I put this much time into something it should be spectacular.  That said, the lovely dessert I came up with using the Florentines which worked was delightful.  Behold: chocolate Florentines with coffee liqueur whipped cream drizzled in salted caramel sauce.  Yum!

I also served the (many) broken pieces of Florentine on vanilla ice cream also topped with salted caramel sauce.  This might be my favourite sundae topping ever.

Orange Panna Cotta

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons water
4 cups heavy cream, or a combination of cream with milk or buttermilk
3/4 cup sugar
6 wide strips fresh orange peel (orange part only-no white pith)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let soak 10 minutes (do not stir).
Meanwhile, heat the cream, sugar, orange peel, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar. As soon as it simmers, turn off the heat and add the gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve the gelatin. (If the gelatin doesn’t completely dissolve in 3 minutes, return to the heat and warm gently until dissolved.)
Strain the mixture into a pitcher to remove the vanilla bean and orange rind. Pour the mixture into 6 to 8 ramekins or dessert cups, or into 1 larger dish. Chill, uncovered, at least 3 hours.
To unmold, dip the cups in hot water for 10 seconds, then turn the panna cottas out onto dessert plates (or, simply serve in the cups or by the spoonful).

Limoncello Gelee
from Martha Stewart
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon (from two 1/4-ounce envelopes) unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
3/4 cup Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)
3/4 cup limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur)
1/2 cup sparkling water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Heat Prosecco, limoncello, sparkling water, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Add lemon juice and softened gelatin, and whisk until gelatin dissolves. Pour mixture over panna cotta and refrigerate until set, at least 45 minutes.

Chocolate Florentines
from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Makes 5 dozen (in a perfect world)

1 3/4 cups (about 5 ounces) sliced almonds
3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper, set aside.  Spread almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until lightly golden and fragrant, about 10 min.  Transfer to a clean work surface.  While the nuts are still warm, roll a rolling pin back and forth over nuts to finely crush them.  Let cool completely, then place in a bowl.  Add cocoa, and whisk to combine; set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine milk, sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, and cook until mixture registers 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.  Add reserved salmond0cooa mixture, and stir to combine.  Transfer mixture to a medium bowl to cool slightly.

Drop batter by rounded teaspoons, about 3 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets.  Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are fragrant and small, tight bubbles emerge from the center, 15 to 20 min.  Have a rolling pin ready.  As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, use an offset spatula to lift cookies, one at a time, and drape them over the rolling pin.  Let stand until set.  Repeat with the remaining batter. 


  1. Wow, this looks so great. Fantastic.

  2. Welcome to the Daring Bakers! Well done on your first challenge - love the flavour combination :-)

  3. Your florentines are absolutely amazing! I love the lacy thin desing and brown chocolate color :) Great job on these!


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