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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers: I Made Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies!

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. (Pronounced "Pan-ah Cot-ah" which in Italian means "cooked cream.")
If you've never had Panna Cotta before it's cream with sugar, vanilla, honey, gelatin and a pinch of salt cooked in a saucepan on your stove top then chilled in typically a clear glass container or a mold.

And it's amazing! Imagine a fine pudding that sets like Jello. It is strikingly light and silky smooth and can be made with milk and gelatin (derived from animal by-products) for omnivores, or using almond or coconut milk and agar agar for vegetarians and vegans (aka "kanten" derived from seaweed and often available in Asian markets). Panna Cotta is the epitome of a "Creamy Dreamy" dessert.

To get a better grasp about what Panna Cotta is like I conducted some aesthetics and texture "research" with this Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta from the "Miette" Bakery at San Francisco's Ferry Building

The Panna Cotta was so easy to make! I made chocolate in the hopes my hubby would try it and I did substitute agar agar powder for the gelatin to keep the dish vegetarian.

I created two finished versions of bittersweet chocolate Panna Cotta and several shapes of Florentine Cookies. The first was to turn the cookies into mini ice cream cones, dip the edges into melted bittersweet chocolate and fill with the Panna Cotta.

They looked like this. Yum! The flavors combined were incredible! The Panna Cotta tasted like the filling in a French Silk Pie and the Florentine cookies were thin, crisp and crunchy. By themselves the cookies tasted rather bland. But with just a bit of bittersweet chocolate and as the complement to the Panna Cotta they were perfection! Here the Panna Cotta softened a bit because it was taking me so long to take the photo and I suspect I should have used more agar agar. I may have to make this a few times to perfect the right amount when substituting the agar agar for the gelatin.

My second version was less sweet, omitting the chocolate from the cookies and topping the Panna Cotta with frozen raspberries I ran through the food processor without adding any sugar. I was planning on making a raspberry gelee to pour on as the top layer but the unsweetened, frozen, raspberry topping was exactly what the dessert needed to cut back on the sweet. And it was ridiculously simple to make!

Success! How Florentine Cookies should look: Thin and Lacy

The second part of the challenge was to create Florentine Cookies, filling or decorating them with chocolate. This is one of the sandwich cookies I made with a thin layer of melted, semisweet, Ghirardelli chocolate spread between two cookies. I was thrilled it looked so pretty but next time I may experiment and add in some nut flour while subtracting some of the white flour just to give the cookie a bit more flavor.

If you want to try this challenge at home Download the PDF of the full recipes (below) from The Daring Kitchen website by CLICKING HERE

Giada's Vanilla Panna Cotta
Fruit Gelée
Chocolate Panna Cotta
Coffee Gelée
Nestle Florentine Cookies

The cream cooking on my stovetop.

Here is the Chocolate Panna Cotta Recipe I Used from the PDF
(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
2 cups (480 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
½ cup (115 gm) (4 oz) sugar
¾ cup (145 gm)(5 oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) vanilla extract


  • Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top, set aside for 2-5 minutes.
  • Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil.
  • Add chocolate and whisk until melted. Whisk the milk/gelatin mixture into chocolate cream mixture. Whisk until gelatin has dissolved.
  • Transfer to ramekins, or nice glasses for serving.
  • Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight

The Ingredients for the Florentine Cookies

I found the cookies baked best when I placed the dough on a preheated or hot baking sheet. The next time I make this recipe I will put two cookie sheets in the oven as it preheats. Then as soon as I take the sheet out of the oven, and after removing baked cookies from their sheets, I'll drop the next batch on immediately, flatten as much as possible and let the heat soften and melt out the dough. The image above shows the difference between dough baked on an unheated sheet at left and after putting the dough on hot sheets on the right.

See how the heat melts and softens the dough before baking?

Important Tips I Learned During this Baking Challenge:
  1. To create a mini ice cream cone shaped cookie make sure you heat the metal pastry tip. I rolled the metal tip along the hot cookie sheet while the cookies set for one minute right out of the oven. But be careful not to burn yourself, it gets really hot! I tried to roll two cookies onto a room temperature metal tip and they broke each time. Finally it dawned on me that if it were heated the cookie would remain more pliable.
  2. The easiest way to pour the cooked, liquid, Panna Cotta mixture into narrow glasses is to first pour the exact amount of the mixture you want to use into an extra glass. Then carefully pour it from the first container into your final serving glass. It worked like a charm.
  3. As illustrated above the cookies bake best when the dough is placed on a preheated baking sheet. Make sure your baking sheet is hot and I used my fingers to flatten down each ball of dough as much as possible.

And one of my favorite parts about the Daring Bakers' Challenges: Showing you the range of finished desserts some of the other Bakers made! You can click on their blog names below to visit their blogs and view many more recipes and fantastic creations!

Click on the Image to View an Enlargement on flickr

Row 1
Cooking Weekends - Vanilla Panna Cotta with Rasptberries
Heart Soul Desserts Ginger PC with Cointreau Mandarin Syrup
Chez Lucie - Black & White Chocolate PC with OJ & Cointreau Jelly
Half The Sugar Bowl.com - Green Tea Vanilla PC with Raspberry Gelee

Row 2
I Can Do That - Nutella Panna Cotta
There's a Newf In My Soup - Meyer Lemon & Basil PC with Blackberry
Hot From My Oven - Mango PC
Chez Lucie - White Russian Vanilla PC with Vodka & Kahlua Jelly

Row 3
Lady Cakes - Vegan Panna Cotta with Berry Puree
Finger Licking Food - Lychee Panna Cotta with Lychee Gelee
Magpies Recipes - Vanilla Bean Yogurt PC with Blackberry Coulis

Row 4
Crumbs of Love - Coffee Jelly with Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean Sour Cream PC
Thursdays Cooking - Panna Cotta with Caramel
A Little Less Vanilla Clove Panna Cotta with Fresh Fig
Tasty Treats - Vanilla PC with Pomegranate-Blueberry Gelee

My thanks to The Daring KItchen for their terrific website and to Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen for choosing such a great challenge for all of us to attempt! If this looks like fun you should apply to join The Daring Kitchen too! It has quickly become one of my most favorite sites on the internet!

If you enjoyed this post you'll probably like this one too:

• January 2011: Joconde Imprime Entremet
• March 2011: Meringue Coffee Cakes
• April 2011: Edible Container and Maple Mousse


  1. The lemon panna cotta on top is calling to me! I love lemon, it tastes so clean and with this creamy dessert I bet it's heavenly.

  2. Hi Rochelle!

    With any luck the recipe will be in Miette's new cook book being released this June! Then we can both learn how to make theirs :)


  3. Great work on the challenge!

    P.S. I love the cartoons! very adorable :)

  4. Thank you Asha and your challenge came out BEAUTIFULLY!

    I am going to include the link to your blog post here so that any one who reads this can go see for themselves:


    Thank you for stopping by and the kind words.

  5. Wow - your challenge desserts came out so amazingly. The rolled florentines filled with the chocolate panna cotta are inspired, and all of your photographs are outstanding. Really awesome job!!

    PS - love your blog!!

  6. Thank you Shelly! Your Congrats on your successful challenge as well!

    You went so much more in depth with your photos, documenting each step of the recipes, than I did. I'm adding the link to your blog post in case others would like to follow along.


    I really love that your challenge is always a family event. Here it's just always me, alone in the kitchen, with the dog playing the part of a pigeon waiting for some crumb to hit the floor so he can gobble it up :P

  7. While I love the sound of the meyer lemon panna cotta (and the jars), the mini cones are just adorable!! Thanks once again for featuring my photo in your montage- I am humbled.
    Best, Sandie

  8. The fun you've had with the challenge! :-) The cookies came out beautifully. I love the poster you've made too, great work!

  9. The meyer lemon curd sounds great - I could just eat that without the panna cotta. The florentines look like they cam out great as well. I love your little showcase at the bottom.

  10. Love your graphic and the photos! I almost added ground nuts as well. And filling the florentines with the panna cotta? genius!

  11. I fun your enthusiasm it so striking your lemon curb is outstanding it is amazing combination well done. The cookies are so cute. I love your montage thank you so much for sharing. Excellent work.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  12. Great looking panna cotta and those lovely florentines are just perfect. Love the lemon panna cotta in the little jars.

  13. Wow, the lemon panna cotta has me drooling! Very nicely presented. Love your montage,thanks for sharing it on here. :)

  14. I absolutely love the florentine cones filled with panna cotta. What a fun way to present this yummy dessert! The jars of lemon panna cotta are so beautiful. I love seeing your post every month, and look forward to seeing what you come up with next!

  15. I love the way you present everything here - so eye-catching!

  16. I just love how you make your post so funny and pleasant! Your Panna Cotta is just beautiful and sounds delicious! Rolled Florentines filled with Panna Cotta are to die for!

  17. I adore the chocolate panna cotta with that frozen raspberry topping, it is the most beautiful color, it reminds me of a vibrant granita. I also love that you rolled the florentines then stuffed them, they look oh-so scrumptious. Really beautiful post!!

  18. WOW! I was gone all day yesterday attending a wedding industry event in San Francisco, came home, walked my dog, went to dinner and promptly passed out from a long day so my apologies in responding to your many comments.

    Thank you EVERYONE for your kind words. This challenge was Fun with a capital "F" and I know all of you had fun too because I've visited all of your blogs and have seen what everyone created in this challenge!

    And just wanted to clarify that I didn't make the little Lemon Panna Cottas in the jars, I went out to do some research regarding appearance, texture, etc. before undertaking making my own challenge. But I can assure you that learning how to make Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta is on my short list of future Panna Cotta projects :D

    I appreciate all of you taking the time not only to drop by The Flirty Blog but to leave a comment too! Looking forward to next month's challenge... See you all there!

  19. Just love how the frozen raspberries sit so beautifully on chocolate panacotta. The sweet flavor of chocolate and sourish of raspberries are such a match... Excellent choice for the challenge!

    I also enjoy your Lemon Panacotta very much, always have the thing for lemons :-)

  20. Oh lovely! I love the idea of a simple frozen raspberry topping to cut the sweetness. i went the other direction and made a sweeter orange caramel sauce to put on top, as I felt the panna cotta I made wasn't super sweet (I cheated and used a different recipe).

    Oh and the mini florentine "ice cream" cones are adorable! Love it.

  21. wow your panna cotta and florentine looks beautiful!
    Thanks for the tips for making flat florentines...I have troubles on that and with your tips I'm going to try that again!

  22. Gorgeous job on this challenge! I'm so upset I missed the contest. Just now got around to looking at everyone's posts.

  23. Stunning photos! Love the little "ice cream cones" you made. :) Fabulous job on the challenge.

  24. Your florentines look so yummy and crispy! It was a nice challenge :)
    Great compilations, by the way :)

    Greeting from Switzerland

  25. Thank you to EVERYONE for stopping by my little blog and for your kind words. I am so loving everything about the Daring Bakers. Every website should be as inspiring, as much fun and as supportive as the Daring Kitchen!

    I loved everyone's finished projects and celebrate everyone's best efforts. I was talking to my Auntie on the phone last night and she marveled at how many different variations are made by all of the members, starting from the same recipe. She really enjoys looking at everyone's pictures too.


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