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Panna Cotta and Florentines two ways

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 completed this challenge on three separate days, beginning with the cookies.

florentine ingredients

I’ve had florentines before, but hadn’t ever made them.  They were always filed away in my brainbox as fancy cookies, so I was really surprised by just how easy they were to make!

Since I was planning to make two different kinds of panna cottas, I divided the dough in half for two different kinds of florentines.  To the first half, I added 2 tablespoons of smashed crystallized ginger.  Then I added 6 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the other half.  Mmm, yep.

baking florentines

For me, these ended up taking twice as long to bake than the recipe states, but they came out perfectly!  Both versions are delicious, but the ginger ones really won me over.  I will most definitely keep these cookies in my rep!  By the way, I subbed golden syrup for the dark corn syrup, which was the only change that I made to the recipe base.

Ginger Florentines

Things didn’t go quite so well for me with the panna cottas.  I had never even had one before, but in my mind, there was a pretty clear picture of how they should be: creamy, yet firm enough to hold a shape.  I wanted to use agar agar in place of the gelatin, but knew that it couldn’t be a direct substitution since agar agar is quite a bit stronger.  (Note: my first time using it was for last month’s DB challenge! :)) Since there wasn’t a recipe in the challenge utilizing it, I turned to google.  A lot of sources say that 1 tsp agar agar should be used to 1 cup liquid, but then others say that that creates too firm of a panna cotta.

vanilla bean flecks!

The first one I made was this vanilla vegetarian panna cotta from Delectable.  I followed the recipe to a T, with one change: I wanted to make cookies ‘n cream panna cottas.  Originally, I was going to add ground up Oreos to the liquid base, but then I ate them all.  Oops.  But!  That led to an even better idea.  Remember the chocolate florentines?  Well, I ground up 7 of then in my food processor and mixed those into the base!  This is ~fancy~ cookies ‘n cream panna cotta, folks.

grinding up florentines

I poured the panna cotta base into two small glasses, three ramekins, and a coffee mug and let them chill in the fridge for an hour.  I also decided to drizzle some white chocolate on the chocolate florentines.

Cookies 'n Cream Panna Cotta with Chocolate Florentines

The good news: the panna cottas set!  :)  The bad news: they are way too firm.  Even Jell-O shouldn’t be this firm.  :(

wah.

I thought about fixing the panna cotta by remelting it and adding more milk/cream.  I might still do this, but thought I’d just give my second version a try and use even less agar agar to liquid.

coconut milk, yogurt, and curry

For this one, I went the vegan route with a coconut panna cotta by Enlightened Cooking.  Now, must taste buds have always been anti coconut, but LOVE coconut milk-based Thai curries.  This led me to a theory that I would like a coconut panna cotta with curry in it.  I couldn’t not try it out.

coconut panna cottas poured

For this recipe, I used 1/4 cup more coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon less agar agar than the recipe calls for in hopes of a softer panna cotta.  (Well, and I used 2 oz. less yogurt simply because of the amount in the container…but I figured with the other change, it would be fine.)  Instead of the vanilla, I added 1/2 teaspoon panang curry powder which added some nice little red-orange flecks.  While I was pouring the base into the cups and ramekins, it already seemed creamier than the previous recipe, but maybe this was because it was lacking cookie bits.

I made a mango sauce to serve with it and sprinkled some more of the curry powder for garnish.  And what else?  Ginger florentines!

Vegan Panang Curry Coconut Panna Cotta with Mango Sauce and Ginger Florentines

Good news: I love the flavors! :)  Bad news: a too firm panna cotta yet again.  :(

sigh.

All I have to say is Jessica – 0, Agar Agar – 2.  At least both were pretty?

As frustrating as this challenge was, I am glad that Mallory picked it.  Now I know how easy florentines are, but I now also know how tricky agar agar can be.  There are photos of some very creamy vegetarian and vegan panna cottas in the Daring Bakers forum, so I’ll definitely be trying some of those out!

Meanwhile, anyone fancy a bowl of gelatinous hockey pucks?  :P

bowl of panna cottas...

For the challenge recipes posted by Mallory, click here!

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