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…

Oyster & Pearl Madeleine Cakes ~ Sweet Shells by the Seashore

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter's 10th birthday with a party at the beach; sand between our toes and a panoramic view of the bay.  What better way to add a "sweet" touch to a beach or ocean themed party than with some sweet little cakes that look like oysters? The cakes are so easy to make -- you don't even need to bake!  As you can see, the "oysters" are made from Madeleine cakes, which is especially meaningful for my family since Madeleine is my daughter's name.  The pearl is a white gumball, so the kids get an extra treat once they've finished their cake!

Here's how to make a bed of beautiful "oysters" of your very own:

Oyster & Pearl Madeleine Cakes


Madeleine Cakes (store bought or homemade)
You'll need two Madeleines for each "oyster"

White gumballs
(Bought mine in a multi-color pack at Target
for $2.99.  There were about 25 whites)

Pearl Dust -- Super Pearl
(Purchase online through Etsy, Ebay,
or cake decorating stores)

Soft bristle paint brush
(like a small blush brush)

Royal Icing
(my recipe follows)

Pink sanding sugar (at least 1/3 cup)

Raw or Turbinado sugar for
the bed of "sand"

Step 1:  Prepare the "pearls" by placing the white gumballs in a small lidded container (like Tupperware).  Put a small amount of pearl dust (1/4 teaspoon) in the container.  Fasten lid and shake to thoroughly coat the gumballs.  Remove lid, and with a soft, wide brush, gently brush excess dust from the gumballs.  Brushing will also help polish the "pearls".  Set aside.

Step 2:  Fill your serving tray with turbinado or raw sugar to create a bed of "sand".

Step 3:  Place one Madeleine cake on the sand.  This helps give the curved shape some stability.  Pipe a thin line of royal icing along the back edge of the cake and a small dot in the center.

Step 4:  Gently press pearlized gumball in to place over the dot of royal icing.  Hinge the second cake on top and gently press to adhere.  You can use a small, thin paintbrush, lightly moistened, to remove any excess icing that squeezes out the back.  Repeat with remaining Madeleines. 

Step 5:  Let royal icing dry for 20 minutes.  Place pink sanding sugar in a small, deep bowl (wide enough to accommodate the front end of the "oyster".  Pipe a very thin bead of royal icing on the front top and bottom of the "oyster".  Dip immediately in to the sanding sugar.  Place back on the bed of "sand".  You can use a small, thin paint brush to gently notch the sugared icing to give a scalloped appearance.


Step 6: Repeat with remaining cakes and you're done! 

Easy Royal Icing
(enough for 60 Oysters)
1 cup confectioners sugar (plus more, depending on humidity)
1 Tablespoon meringue powder
2 Tablespoons water
*Note, you can substitute 1 egg white for the meringue powder.  Omit 1 TB of water.

Whip all ingredients with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 5 minutes.  Volume will have increased and the glossy sheen will begin to dull.  The icing should hold its shape.  If it is too loose, add another Tablespoon of confectioners sugar.  Transfer to a pastry bag (or ziploc) and snip a small hole in the tip.

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