Sunday, February 27, 2011

Panna Cotta - Daring Baker February 2011

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 have never made panna cotta before, but I made up for lost time this month by making 3 versions. And while all of them were good, none of them came out quite right. Gelatin is a challenging ingredient.

I started with the basic recipe for vanilla panna cotta provided by the host, but decided to add vanilla (crazy huh) and use leatherwood honey. Leatherwood honey has a strong flavour that is not to everyone's taste, but I thought it worked very well here. I served it with a simple blackberry coulis and the Florentine biscuits.

Sadly my Florentines were a flop. As a number of posters in the forum mentioned the recipe was too sweet, I reduced the sugar by half. This is very out of character for me and was a mistake. Instead of being crispy and crunchy, my biscuits were dry and bland. But all together the panna cotta, coulis and biscuit were perfectly nice and got lots of compliments from friends at a dinner party. Disclaimer: the friends were drunk and we had just been for a late night skinny dip.

The next version was a coconut milk panna cotta, adapted from a recipe in Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, to which I added kaffir lime leaves. I served this one with toasted coconut and beautiful tropical fruit , according to Heidi's suggestion. I admit that on the day I took the photo I ate this for breakfast and it was so good. The different flavours and textures together were amazing.

But I was not satisfied. In both versions the texture was overly firm. Too jelly-like, not enough jiggle. And though you can't really tell from the pictures, in both attempts the mixture had separated into two distinct layers as it cooled. So I did some googling and found a great post on the blog Tasting Menu. The author suggested heating the gelatin with only a small portion of the cream and favoured leaf gelatin over powdered.

The only leaf gelatin I could find was titanium strength and several sources said that is standard in the US. The recipe called for 4 sheets and I was halving it, so I used 2. And guess what - too firm again. Really seriously yummy again, but still not right. It is probably a good thing that the month is nearly over and the challenge is due, or I might be tempted to try just one more.

Thank you very much to the host Mallory for this terrific challenge. When I first saw it I thought panna cotta was a little dull and that it would be easy, but I was wrong on both counts.


  1. I specially like the second one with the tropical fruits. Looks so beautiful and yummy!
    I did the same with the florentines, but reducing the sugar by half made mine look more like cookies, they didn't spread or become lacy, they were delicious though.

  2. Coconut milk panna cotta looks like it was an amazing breakfast! I'm impressed with all your varieties of panna cotta and desire to get the perfect texture. Good luck with that in the future.

  3. Wow, the coconut panna cotta with the tropical fruits looks so delicious! I would love that for breakfast :)

  4. I told you about when I accidentally halved the sugar in some Anzacs, and it totally changed the texture. I guess there is chemistry as well as sweetness involved.