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

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