February 27, 2011

Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

This month's Daring Bakers' challenge brought back wonderful memories of Lake Como for me.   My friends and I travelled there to attend our friend Christine's summer wedding in the charming town of Varenna.

You can't imagine how breathtakingly beautiful this place was - right out of a postcard.   Sun, lake and amazing Italian food...what could be better?  Unfortunately no sightings of George Clooney!

The best panna cotta I've ever had was at the restaurant of the hotel where we stayed, Hotel Villa Cipressi.  Creamy and silky smooth with lots of fresh berries -  I practically licked the glass clean it was so delicious.  This version comes pretty close - all that's missing is the Italian scenery.

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.

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

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.

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).

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.

Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.

Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

Fruit Gelée

1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) fruit (strawberries, raspberries, mango, blackberry, etc.)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (3½ gm) (1/8 oz) unflavored powdered gelatin 

Sprinkle gelatin over water.

Place fruit and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Now mix the gelatin into the strawberry mixture and stir until gelatin has dissolved.

Remove from heat and allow to cool (close to room temp, again, if you're planning on layering on pouring on top of your Panna Cotta, a hot mixture will also heat up your chilled Panna Cotta).

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.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.  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.

Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

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).

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).

Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.


  1. I am not quite missing the Italian scenery, the panna cottas are good enough for me:) Love the flavors and gorgeous clicks!

  2. Your panna cotta and the curly florentines look perfect. Don't think the lack of Italian scenery is something you need worry about. :)

  3. These are so pretty! I love all of the pretty layers in the glasses!

  4. Gorgeous presentation! And the florentine cookies look perfect!

  5. Beautiful pictures!

  6. You knocked this challenege out of the part! This almost looks too good to eat.

  7. Anonymous5/13/2011

    First time visitor to your wonderful blog (found you via Amy Atlas). This panna cotta looks delicious! I made something similar for Easter, only with vanilla bean yogurt and mango gelee. So pretty and yummy. I must ask - where did you find these glasses? They are lovely. Thanks! --Dawn

  8. Dawn - The glasses are from Pier 1 Imports.

  9. Anonymous5/14/2011

    Thanks, Truc! Love your blog. :) --Dawn