Sunday, 27 February 2011

February 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge - Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

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 can't believe that, considering I had this month's challenge done and dusted right at the start of the month, I didn't manage to post my results on time! It's been a busy month, and we're off to the UK on Saturday and there's still so much to get done...

I did manage to complete both elements of the challenge, although not at the same time. It was actually very straight forward, I didn't really have any trouble with the recipes (apart from trying to throw things together in a hurry, and I should know better by now).

I made the panna cotta for my MIL, and went with the vanilla recipe provided. I made a chocolate syrup and poured it in the bottom of each glass (not easy to see in the photos, I should have used a white background!), poured the vanilla panna cotta over the top (got a few bubbles around the edges) and decorated with melted dark chocolate.

The only thing I changed in the recipe was the vanilla pod - at 600 yen for one, I went for the much cheaper option of using vanilla extract! I also halved the recipe, as there were only a few people to eat the dessert, and cream here is far too expensive to waste (not that there would have been any left over, they went down a treat)!

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.
The Florentine cookies got made a week or so later, which worked in my favour as the calorie count of the panna cotta and cookies together would most likely have taken me over one day's allowance in a single serving. These Florentines are nothing like the Florentines from back home (fruit and nuts, yum!) and really were a doddle to make. OK, I'll come clean and admit that the first batch was already in the oven when I realised that the syrup, milk and vanilla I'd measured out were still sitting on the kitchen counter - oops. I did wonder why the mixture seemed a little dry as I was spooning it out onto the baking tray. Funnily enough, they were actually very nice - crunchy but a little pale in colour :-) Once I'd stirred the liquids into the remaining mixture, the resulting cookies were pretty much as they should be.

I didn't enjoy these florentines as much as the ones from home - made with oats they had a rather porrige-y flavour - but once I'd sandwiched them together with some melted chocolate they reminded me of some biscuits sold at Ikea (Gilles?), oh my, they were gooood...

Nestle 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

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).

Friday, 11 February 2011


It is very rare for our town to see snow that actually sticks around where we live. So when the boys got up this morning, there was no time wasted by getting changed out of their pyjamas (or even putting on a coat, for that matter).

I, on the other hand, stayed inside and watched from the (relatively) warm.

I know that my friends in the north of the country are laughing... you call that snow?! Yep. Maybe even enough to get me out of spending the afternoon at SIL's!