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…

Perfect Pumpkin Hand Pies ~ The Homesick Texan's Pumpkin Empanadas

While the first official day of fall isn't until September 23, it sure feels like autumn has arrived here.  The air is crisp; skies are grey, and I can't seem to shake off the urge to sit in front of the fire with a good book and a mug of warm cider.

So with the season of pumpkins and spice just around the corner, it is no surprise that I was drawn to the recipe for Pumpkin Empanadas during this, Week 3, of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Challenge & Cook-off.

These addictive little pumpkin hand pies start with a perfect cream cheese pie dough that rolls like a dream. The tender and flaky crust is filled with mixture of pumpkin and pecans that conjures memories of the best pumpkin pies.

Imagine packing these tidy little treats for your fall picnic or tailgate. They'd tuck nicely in to a school lunch, although if your family is anything like mine, they won't last that long.

Pumpkin Hand Pies
adapted from the Pumpkin Empanada recipe from The Homesick Texan Cookbook
makes about 3 dozen

For the crust
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks (16 TB) butter, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling
1 15-oz. can of pumpkin puree
1 1/2 TB heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the topping
1 large egg
2 TB whole milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 TB granulated sugar

1.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Stir in flour and salt, on low speed, until a smooth dough is formed.  Shape dough in to a ball, flatten to 1", then wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the filling by combining all ten of the filling ingredients.

3.  Preheat oven to 375 and lightly grease a baking sheet.

4.  Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it out on a floured surface to 1/8" thick.  Cut in to 3.5" - 4" rounds.  Gather up the scraps, form into a ball, then refrigerate.

5.  Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center of each dough circle and carefully fold the dough to the other side so it forms a half moon shape.  Crimp edges with your thumb and forefinger, or with a fork to seal.

6.  Prepare the topping by whisking together the egg and milk.  Brush the egg mixture on top of the pies.  Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on top of the pies.

7.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are browned.

8.  Remove remaining dough from refrigerator, roll and repeat until you've used all the dough.


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