Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge- 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.

I'd actually never tasted Panna Cotta before attempting this challenge, so this recipe was completely new to me.  I was surprised by how simple the recipe is and how little time it took to complete.  The resulting dessert was light and creamy, with just the right amount of sweetness.  While Panna Cotta is traditionally made with gelatin, I have altered the recipe to make it vegetarian, using agar agar flakes in place of the gelatin.  

I've always loved chocolate Florentines, and was excited to learn how to make them for the first time.  I found that the batter spread in the oven much more than I expected, so I had to use very small spoonfuls of batter to prevent the cookies from baking into one large sheet.  The Florentines were amazing paired with the Panna Cotta, as the crispness of the cookies and the creaminess of the custard were a perfect contrast.

I sprinkled the agar agar flakes over the milk and heated the mixture over the stovetop, allowing it to simmer.

I added the cream, sugar, honey and salt, and continued cooking the mixture until all the ingredients had dissolved.  After removing from the heat, I added the vanilla and strained the mixture into glasses to set.

I served the Panna Cotta with fresh strawberries.

I melted the butter, and mixed in all of the ingredients for the Florentines.

I baked the Florentines until they were crispy and golden brown.

I sandwiched the finished cookies with melted semi-sweet chocolate.

The Panna Cotta can either be unmolded onto a plate or served in a glass.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 mL) whole milk
2 tablespoons agar agar flakes
3 cups (720 mL) whipping cream
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Sprinkle the agar agar flakes over the whole milk and pour the mixture into a pot.  Heat the mixture over medium heat until it comes to a boil, whisking occasionally, and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the whipping cream, honey, granulated sugar and salt.  Continue cooking for about 6-8 minutes,stirring occasionally, until all ingredients have dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
3. Let the mixture cool slightly before straining into molds or glasses for serving.  Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  Add fruit or other garnishes and serve.

Chocolate Florentines

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

1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
2. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat.  Remove from heat and stir in the quick oats, sugar, flour, dark corn syrup, milk, vanilla and salt.  Mix well.
3. Divide the batter into 1/2 teaspoon sized drops and place on prepared baking sheet.  Leave plenty of room for the cookies to spread.  Flatten the drops of batter slightly with the back of a spoon before baking.
4. Bake for 7-8 minutes, until the cookies are crisp and golden brown.  Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet before moving to wire rack.
5. Melt chocolate in microwave or over a double boiler.  Drizzle melted chocolate over the Florentines, or spread a thin layer on the back of half of the cookies, and sandwich the other cookies on top of the chocolate layer.

Recipes adapted from the recipes for Giada's Vanilla Panna Cotta and Nestle Florentine Cookies, both found at  The original recipe for the Panna Cotta can also be found at

Posted by Jennifer

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Raspberry Macarons with Lemon Curd Filling

I absolutely love everything about French pastries! When I had a chance to visit Paris a couple of years ago, one of the first places I stopped at was LadurĂ©e, which is considered by many to be the best macaron shop in the world.  I've been obsessed with macarons ever since, and the endless combinations of flavors that you can create.  This was my first attempt at making macarons at home, and I chose to make raspberry macarons with a lemon curd filling, which were delectable.

I made a meringue and folded in the mixture of almond flour, powdered sugar and dried raspberries

It's important to spread the batter against the side of the bowl and flip it to give the finished product a shiny crust.

Repeat this process about 15 times

I piped the batter in one-inch circles on the baking sheet

You can see the "pied", or foot, of the finished macaron

I made a lemon curd over the stove top to fill the macarons


Raspberry Macarons
Makes about 2 dozen macarons

2/3 cup (3 ounces/85 g) ground almonds
 1 ½ cups (5.25 ounces/150 g) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons/65 g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dried raspberries, ground in food processor

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draw 1 inch circles on the paper to use as a guide when piping out the macaron batter.  Space the circles at least ½ inch apart

2. Grind the almonds, powdered sugar, and dried raspberries together in a food processor and sift the mixture twice.

3. Beat the egg whites at high speed until they become foamy, and then slowly add the granulated sugar.  Continue beating the meringue until it is glossy and holds stiff peaks.  Carefully stir in the vanilla extract.

4. Carefully add half of the almond mixture to the meringue and fold it in with a spatula.  Add the rest of the almond mixture and mix it lightly until completely combined.

5. When the almond mixture is completely combined with the meringue, spread the batter against the side of the bowl.  Next, scoop the batter from the bottom and flip it over.  Repeat 15 times.  This step is called “macaronnage", and gives the finished macarons sheen.  When the mixture is done, the batter will be firm and will drip slowly when scooped up by a spatula

6. Use a pastry bag to pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheet.   Allow space for the macaron batter to spread slightly.

7. Rap the baking sheet against a countertop a couple of times, and let the batter dry for 15 to 30 minutes.  A thin crust should form on top of the macarons while drying.  The macarons are ready to bake if the batter does not stick to your fingers when touched.

8. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).  Stack the baking sheet with macarons onto an empty baking sheet for baking.  Using two baking sheets ensures that the bottoms of the macarons do not overbake.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  When done, the macarons should look slightly crisp.

9. Allow macarons to cool on baking sheet on a wire rack.  Remove from baking sheet when completely cool, and sandwich together with filling.

Lemon Curd

2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar (divided use)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, diced (divided use)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1.  Blend egg yolks with about one-third of the sugar and set aside

2. Combine two-thirds of the butter, the remaining sugar, the lemon juice and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Be sure to stir the mixture constantly.  Once mixture boils, temper the egg yolks by gradually adding about one-third of the hot butter mixture to the yolks.  Whisk constantly.  Once combined, add the rest of the hot butter mixture, and return the mixture to the stove.  Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil again.  Once mixture boils, add the cornstarch and remaining butter, reduce the heat, and whisk until completely combined.

3. Remove pan from heat and strain the curd through a sieve to remove any pieces of curdled yolk.  Place the bowl of curd in an ice bath to cool, stirring occasionally. 

Recipe for macarons was adapted from the basic macaron recipe in the book I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita, available for purchase at

Recipe for lemon curd was adapted from the recipe in the book Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America, available for purchase at

Posted by Jennifer

Monday, February 14, 2011

Strawberry Trifle

I was trying to think of something to make for Valentine's Day, and my mom suggested making something with strawberries.  She bought a trifle bowl awhile ago, but still hadn't used it, and I'd never made a trifle, so we decided to make one together.  When she bought the bowl from Pampered Chef, the consultant gave her a packet with tons of trifle recipes.  There were so many to choose from, but we finally settled on this one - and it's quite delicious!
Slice your strawberries
Combine your sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1 cup strawberries
Boil the strawberry mixture, add the cornstarch mixture, and cook until thickened
Prepare the pudding mixture while the strawberry glaze cools
Once the sweetened condensed milk and water are combined, beat in the pudding mix
Cut pound cake into bite-size cubes
Beat whipping cream until stiff
Fold whipped cream into chilled pudding mixture
Layer ingredients as directed

Strawberry Trifle

2 pints strawberries, washed and hulled
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups water, divided
1 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups whipping or heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) ready-made pound cake (I made this recipe and used 1 of the loaves)
Mint leaves (optional)

  1. Set aside a few berries for garnish and slice the remaining berries.  Place the sugar, ¼ cup water, and 1 cup of sliced berries in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook for 3 minutes, then take off the heat.  Mix the cornstarch and ¼ cup cold water; stir into the strawberry mixture.  Put back on the heat, and stir until thickened (about 2 minutes).  Add the lemon juice, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Combine the remaining 1 ½ cups water and sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl.  Add the pudding mix and beat well.  Place in the refrigerator to chill for 5 minutes.
  3. Cut your pound cake into bite-size pieces.
  4. Beat cream until stiff peaks form, then fold into the pudding mixture.
  5. Layer pudding, pound cake, sliced strawberries, and strawberry mixture, then repeat the layers.  Garnish with the reserved strawberries and some mint leaves.
This was in a packet of recipes given to me by a Pampered Chef consultant

I've linked up to Sweet as Sugar Cookies' Sweets for a Saturday.  Go check out all the yummy desserts!

-Posted by Karen