Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

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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…

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU POLLY POCKETS...MAKE CAKE!

A CREATIVE SOLUTION TO "THE POLLY POCKET PROBLEM"
(cake model courtesy of Mackenzie Erickson, age 3)
Rook No. 17 friend Gina H. from Oklahoma City recently posted a comment on Facebook that struck a chord, "We have entered the Barbie and Polly Pockets era of parenting." Anyone else been there? Are ya there now?
It was just a few years ago when the Pollys invaded my home en masse. Their teeny tiny shoes and micro mini skirts were scattered everywhere and I'm absolutely certain that if our civilization were to vanish, Polly Pocket shoes would be one of the few things that archaeologists would be able to find. I'm getting a disturbing visual of cockroaches skittering across an Armageddon landscape in little pink rubber shoes, but I digress.
It got to the point where I would vacuum even more than usual, in the hopes that I'd suck up half a dozen Polly pieces in the process, but this tactic was futile. Polly apparel is apparently the only thing that multiplies faster than dust bunnies.
So, I got to thinking, "How can I rid myself of these blasted toys once and for all and give the impression (to my children) of a loving and creative mom all at once?" The answer: The Polly Party. Yes, the Polly Party. All it took was an inexpensive pan, a box of cake mix, a box of instant pudding, some frosting and sprinkles, a gaggle of little girls, and all the flippin' Pollys in the house. Can you make the cake from scratch? Sure. Will the kids know the difference? No. I'm not always an advocate of cake mixes, but in this instance we're focusing on decorating and having fun, not a gourmet experience.
The inspiration for this idea was the classic "Barbie Cake" (aka the cake decorators' nemesis). You know the one: it's a big mound o' cake decorated to look like a ballgown. You stick a Barbie doll in the top and voila! Edible couture! In this case, you use the Wilton Mini Wonder Mold Pan (you can find it local craft stores for around $12) to make four mini "gowns" at a time.
Bake your "gown" cakes, set out some frosting and sprinkles, and let the kids go to work decorating! When they're finished simply insert a Polly in the top. Your child gets a fun and memorable party; your child's friends get a party favor; and your Polly Problem is gone!
Here are some links to get you started if you want to throw your own (Farewell to) Polly Party:
Excellent Selection of fancy sprinkles and decorations at Fancy Flours: http://www.fancyflours.com/cgi-bin/fancyflours/index.html
Easy Cake Recipe:
1 box cake mix
1 small box instant pudding mix
4 large eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour your pan. Mix all ingredients on medium speed for 2 minutes. Fill each cavity in the mini wonder pan 3/4 full. Bake for approx. 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool.

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