Sunday, February 27, 2011

{DBC} vanilla panna cotta with balsamic strawberry compote it time to go to Spain yet?

[hello midterm season goodbye social life]

Another Daring Baker's Challenge! I can't believe it's already been a month since the last one. Admittedly, I was nervous about it, particularly since both this and the previous one lie in the realm of mousse-like custards, and I wasn't totally satisfied with the last one. This time, though, we're taking a trip to one of my favorite countries, Italia.

Panna cotta, originally from the northern region of Piemonte, is a custard-like dessert of milk, cream, sugar, and gelatin. When chilled, the gelatin causes the custard to set into the shape of whatever bowl it's poured into, and thus can be turned over onto a plate or served as is in the bowl. Often, panna cotta is eaten with berries, fruit coulis, or any sort of of dessert sauce.

Gah, just hearing the name makes me want to hop on a plane and go back to Italy.

For this month's DBC, we had to prepare a panna cotta of some sort with Florentine cookies [the recipe for which I will post up separately]. I decided to go with a classic vanilla panna cotta topped with a tart, balsamic strawberry compote. I prepared the panna cotta on Friday, allowed it to set in the refrigerator overnight, and had Tommy over [as always!] on Saturday to help with the compote and the Florentine cookies.

The panna cotta recipe given for the challenge used 3 parts heavy cream and 1 part whole milk, but I didn't have enough whole milk on hand so substituted with 1 part half and half. The given recipe also used a combination of honey and granulated sugar, but I wanted to cut the sweetness a bit so used only granulated sugar. It's a pretty versatile dish, though, so feel free to play around with it. Just make sure to keep the appropriate ratios in mind!

Vanilla Panna Cotta
Adapted from epicurious

You'll need:
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • .25 oz [about 2.5 tsp] unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour 1/4 cup cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over top of water and let stand for about 15 minutes, until the gelatin softens. Heat water in the microwave in 15-second intervals until gelatin dissolves. Set aside.

Combine whipping cream and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove pan from the heat and stir in vanilla and gelatin. Divide custard mixture into ramekins. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until set, at least 6 hours and up to one day.

To unmold panna cotta, dip ramekin in a bowl of hot water for about 20 seconds. Invert ramekin onto a serving plate, gently shaking and tapping the sides of the ramekin to loosen the panna cotta. Top with desired sauce and serve immediately.
However, panna cotta can be served in ramekins without unmolding. Just top with desired sauce before serving.

Balsamic Strawberry Compote
Adapted from savory sweet life

You'll need:
  • 1 pound [about 2 cups] chopped strawberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar for about 10 minutes. The sauce is done when it can coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature before pouring on the panna cotta.

we had a pretty epic feast this afternoon.
The consistency of the panna cotta is beautiful: silky smooth and bursting with vanilla flavor. The compote is also a delicious contrast; the acidity of the balsamic strawberries plays off the delicacy of the panna cotta well. I checked out some of the other bakers' desserts and they are absolutely stunning! Mine leave much to be desired in comparison, but the others have given me inspiration. Be sure to creep on tastespotting and foodgawker in the upcoming few days, as I'm sure each will be flooded with images of some gorgeous panna cotta.

In other news, a combination of watching Tangled for the fifth time and finishing ACII has left me in a very Italian mood. Not that the former really took place in Italy, but the kingdom dance always makes me feel as though I'm perusing Sicily. Plus, all the snippets of Italian [most often cursing, but nevertheless] in ACII has made me want to retake the language.

[The cursing is unrelated here. Sort of. I can't help it that cursing sounds so much more emphatic when it's done in Italian.]

Anyway, my point is, I need to get me on a plane to Italia ASAP.

Ciò che si mangia con gusto non fa mai male.


  1. Completing a DBC during midterms?? I think you deserve an award. Your vanilla panna cotta looks beautiful, and balsamic strawberry compote sounds amazing - a wonderful complement. Your photographs are wonderful, also - really, really great job on this challenge!!

  2. Oh I wish I had thought of the strawberry balsamic compote! That is such a fantastic idea. We eat it over vanilla ice cream all the time and it is heaven. Thanks for this idea - I wasn't a huge fan of the panna cotta (not a custard lover) but this inspires me to try it again - beautifully done!!

  3. I agree with Kathlyn- Balsamic strawberries rock! great choice

  4. It looks very original I saw it on Giada at home.I'm sure it tastes delicious too.This is a good dessert for a small dinner party!

  5. I just used your strawberry/balsamic compote to top a chocolate cake with chocolate glaze. Thanks for the recipe! Amazing what great berry flavor comes out by adding the balsamic.

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