Friday, 11 December 2009

A Dessert to Mull Over

I haven't done a dessert in a while and so here we are. A cook's dessert that is easy to make, better when you let it set and fairly inexpensive.

Panna Cotta is a straight forward dessert that takes no time to make. The only catch is that you have to let it set in the fridge for a few hours before you serve. If you have the time to make it in advance for your party, it is well worth the patience.

Panna Cotta is strictly cream, milk, sugar and gelatin to let it set. An easy foundation that is highly adaptable.

Gelatin is available at all major grocers and is very inexpensive. If you are not aware, gelatin is a meat by-product that comes from the bone marrow. It can be purchased as a powder or as a clear, brittle sheet. It is usually found in, obviously, JELL-O, marshmallows, candies such as gummy bears and low-fat yogurt. When making a homemade chicken stock, if reduced too much, the stock becomes thick from the gelatin in the bone marrow. In fact, Demi Glace is a classic sauce, that essentially is a reduction of either beef or veal stock, that is so naturally thick from gelatin, that it is barely pourable. Very flavourful and usually very expensive.

Mulled cider has become a bit of a staple for me. Prior to working for a retailer that sampled Mulling Spices, I was not too familiar with the idea of spicing up cider or wine. And yet, I now appreciate the blend of spices for what they offer: a rich combination of flavours and an intoxicating aroma that spreads through the house. Mulling spices is basically a blend of whole cloves, cinammon sticks and allspice. However, that is strictly a base that you can expand from.

This recipe I recently taught in a cooking class and I was very happy with the final product. It had a nice appearance, vibrant flavours and a creamy texture that all came together.

Mulled Spice Panna Cotta

8 g Gelatin, powder (1 packet)
150 ml 2% Milk
350 ml 35% Cream
Mulling Spices (2 cinammon sticks, 4 whole cloves, pinch of ground allspice, zest of an orange)
Splash of Vanilla Extract
100 g Sugar
Drizzle of Maple Syrup
Berries and Mint for Garnish

In a stainless steel bowl, pour milk and sprinkle gelatin on top. Mix with a fork.

In a sauce pan, heat cream with spices and sugar. Bring to a scald and let her simmer for a minute. Strain spices. Add cream to milk. Add vanilla and stir. Pour cream into 4 ramekins (buttered is optional) and let set for at least 4 hrs.

Garnish with berries and mint.

Serves 4.

A Humble Chef's tip: it is easier to remove spices if you have a large infuser.

Variation: to keep it festive, try a Cranberry Orange Panna Cotta by subbing the milk with cranberry and orange juice.

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