Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert of silky, sweetened cream set with gelatin, is all at once simple, classic and elegant.  It is, at its best, subtle, not overly sweet, and the perfect way to end a meal on a light and refreshing note.
Panna cotta comes together quickly and can be molded in any type of vessels you choose -- from ramekins to demitasse, martini glasses to mason jars.  I like to compliment my panna cotta with a thin layer of gelée -- a gelatin stabilized glaze made from fresh fruit.  Apricots are in season right now, and are bursting with summer sweetness, so I chose to do an apricot gelée.  You can use my recipe with any type of fruit you'd like.  
Here are some photos of panna cottas I've made in the past with a variety of gelées and vessels:
Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Honey Gelée and Bee Pollen
Lemon Panna Cotta, no gelée
Meyer-Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gelee

I like to decorate my desserts with edible flowers, especially in summer and springtime. My theme fo…


On the few occasions I was treated to a chocolate eclair as a child, I remember getting that oh-so-special feeling, imagining what it must feel like to be a queen, nibbling daintily on a fancy treat flown down by twittering bluebirds of happiness from the enchanted kitchens of the court fairies.  Yes, the eclair had the power to transport this awkward 70s kid in a velour shirt and tan cords to a kingdom in the clouds with a single bite!

Perhaps this is why I've spent so much of my life elbow deep in flour, concocting fanciful treats for anyone who will have them. I'm pleased to share one of my most favorite recipes, not fairy made, but nonetheless magical with every bite...

(Makes approximately two dozen mini eclairs)

The Pate a Choux recipe is fabulous for cream puffs and ice-cream filled profiteroles as well, but here it is used for the classic French eclair.

Step 1: Prepare the Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water, inset with a medium bowl, left empty with a strainer placed on top.

In a medium bowl, combine:

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Next, stir in:

  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Whisk until smooth and pale and yellow. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine:

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped into milk, and pods added to infuse extra flavor

Stir over medium-high heat until milk begins to steam.

Whisking constantly, add half the hot milk to the egg-yolk mixture.

Stir until smooth; add combined mixture back to remaining hot milk in the pan.

Bring mixture to a boil to thicken, whisking rapidly to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat, and stir in:

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour hot mixture through strainer into medium bowl set in the ice bath.

Let strained mixture stand in ice bath, stirring occasionally until cool.

Remove from ice bath, and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on to surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Step 2: Prepare the Pate a Choux (the dough)

Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium high heat, bring to a boil:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

When butter melts, remove pan from heat.
Add all at once:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour, and beat until well blended.

Return pan to burner on low heat

Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan.

Remove pan from heat again.

  • Add 2 eggs and beat until smooth
  • Add 2 more eggs and beat until smooth

Transfer warm dough into a pastry bag fitted with a pastry tip (plain, 1/2 - 3/4 "). If you don't have a pastry bag and tip, transfer dough to a ziploc bag, seal after removing air. and snip a 1/2" hole in one end.

Pipe 3" lengths of dough on to parchment lined baking sheet (about 1" apart).

Bake in top half of oven for 15 minutes.

Lower heat to 375 and bake 15 minutes more.

Open oven door to allow steam and moisture to escape, turn oven off and allow eclairs to dry-out and cool for about an hour.

Step 3: Fill the Eclairs
When eclair shells have cooled, use a skewer to poke a hole in one end and move it around gently to expand the opening for the cream.

Next, fill a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and filling tip with cooled pastry cream.

Insert tip into skewered end of each eclair and fill. Refrigerate filled eclairs while preparing glaze.

Step 4: Glazing

In a microwave safe bowl, combine:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Microwave for 2 minutes

Allow to rest for 2 minutes

Stir until thoroughly combined.

Transfer to a shallow bowl for easy dipping.

Dip the top of each eclair into glaze; let excess drip off before turning over.

Transfer to a wire rack to allow glaze to set.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This post has been linked-up with:
French Food Recipe Link @ Carole's Chatter 

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