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 second link will get you the panna cotta too.)
I made the basic panna cotta recipe linked above, and then topped it with a port wine gelee. My first gelee ever, and let me tell you--don't be afraid of it. Gelee is French for "adult Jell-O." (Or, with two cups of port in this recipe, this dessert is for adults. Maybe they aren't all that way. And to that I say, why not?) And man is it yummy.
I will confess, however, that the panna cotta pictured above is actually my second attempt. The first panna cotta was made on the same day as the florentines and it was made with the addition of pear puree and vanilla bean (like the recipe for the port gelee spells out). It tasted lovely, but, alas, was not meant to be. The panna cotta separated into an icky watery lower layer and a beautifully set whitish upper layer. Ick. I asked my fellow daring bakers what I did wrong, and received no help.
None. They may be daring, but they aren't helpful.
So then I poked about on the internets and learned that I haven't been giving gelatin the proper respect that it deserves. It is delicate, say the internets. Don't get it too hot. Don't get it too cold. Chill your dish first. Let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge. Coo at it while it cools. It can sense your lackadaisical attitude, and when it does, it won't set properly just to prove a point.
Like the thugs on the corner, gelatin commands respect, yo.
So I was more careful the second time. And it worked a whole lot better. See above.
But the florentines. OH, the florentines.
If I have one piece of advice from this month's challenge (besides Respect Yo Gelatin) it is this: Get thee some florentine ingredients.
They are amazing, crispy, and luscious. They are also about the easiest cookies to make. Just throw everything in a bowl, stir, and plop little piles on a baking sheet with loads of room for them to spread out. You can get fancy with the chocolate, or you can dip, or spread, or just eat the cookie with a square of chocolate on top (which we did the first night because it was late and the panna cotta had separated and I just wasn't up for anything else. And it was just fine.)
By the way: I used Safeway brand milk chocolate bars, and I was scared and embarrassed to use grocery store chocolate but let me tell you: I am IN LOVE. So much cocoa butter in these puppies, you can't hold it without it melting immediately. It kicks Hershey's butt.
So there. This month I learned the following helpful lessons which I now pass to you:
- Respect yo gelatin.
- Make florentines.
- Don't judge chocolate by its wrapper. (I mean, do. Read the ingredient list. Is cocoa butter featured heavily? Then buy it. Yum.)