February has been a busy month - with a little travel, meeting new friends, new foods & new adventures! 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. Though making Panna Cotta is not new for me, I was excited for the opportunity to make the dessert again, playing with different flavors. When we decided to have a few of our friends over last weekend, it seemed like a perfect day to get the challenge done. And as always, it is so wonderful to have friends for dinner who are willing to be a part of my kitchen experiments!
For this challenge, I made a Coconut - Cardamom Panna Cotta with a Blueberry Coulis. For the panna cotta, in addition to the cream and sugar, mine is a vegetarian version with agar instead of gelatin. I also added about a cup of coconut milk and a couple of pinches of cardamom when the cream was cooking. In hind-sight, the flavor was not strong. Our friends could make out the coconut only after I mentioned it and the cardamom was kind of lost. Next time, I will have to use equal amounts of coconut milk & cream. Also, I started making the dessert only around 3 pm for a 7 pm dinner, that led to a little bit more anxiety. I added more agar than needed, which made the panna cotta a little bit more heavier than what I think it should be. I would have preferred a little bit fluffiness in it. No questions about the deliciousness of the dessert though :)
For the topping I made a blueberry coulis, with heating together blueberries and sugar. The color was so beautiful.
And finally for the Florentine cookies, I used almond meal, left out the oats, and added a lot of lemon zest. Can any dish go wrong when it has copious amounts of butter & sugar caramelized together with more delectable ingredients? They turned out to be perfect - a little chewiness from the honey, and crunchiness from the brown sugar + butter. I made two dozens of these for the 6 of us and none was left at the end of the evening!
The recipes for the Panna Cotta & Florentine Cookies can be accessed from the pdf posted here.