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…

How to Make Lavender Egg-Shaped Soaps
By Reurposing Plastic Easter Eggs

Chances are, if you celebrated Easter this past week, you probably have a dozen or more of those colorful plastic eggs lying around.  So, what to do with those empty plastic shells once the last jellybean has jumped and the last peep has popped into your mouth?

Last April I came up with this simple little tutorial for making lovely egg-shaped soaps with the help of plastic Easter eggs.  Even the packaging is made from upcycled materials. I shared the tutorial in a guest post at My Repurposed Life.  Today, I'm sharing it here on Rook No. 17! 

How to Make
 Egg Shaped Soaps from Plastic Easter Eggs

Pour & Mold Soap
(2 pounds will yield 1 dozen egg soaps)
Essential Oil for scent -- optional
Cardboard Egg Carton
Acrylic craft paint & paint brush
Small funnel* (typically available at craft stores)
Drill with a 7/32 bit and a 11/32 bit
Piece of scrap wood
Plastic Easter Eggs
Gorilla Tape & scissors
Bamboo skewer

Note:  For my eggs, I made LAVENDER soap by adding a few drops of lavender essential oil and a few teaspoons of real dried lavender to the melted soap.  You can add any scent or color to the soap once it's melted.  If adding dried herbs, flowers or natural exfoliants, be sure to get a soap specially formulated for "suspension", so the add-ins don't sink to the bottom.  For half of my "eggs" I ground the lavender in a spice mill to break it into finer pieces.  When mixed in the melted soap, the milled lavender added a subtle green tone.

Step 1:  Fit your drill with the smaller 7/32 bit.  Drill a hole through the center of the bottom of the bottom-piece of the egg.  Use a scrap piece of wood beneath the egg to protect your work surface.  

Step 2:  Now enlarge the hole by redrilling with the larger bit.  

Step 3:  With your scissors, cut small pieces of Gorilla Tape and use them to cover the holes on the pointy-end of the egg.  Use another small piece to help hold the two sides of the egg together.  I learned the hard way that this step is necessary -- the egg opened up and hot soap went everywhere!

Step 4:  Chop the soap base into small pieces with a kitchen knife and melt according to manufacturers instructions.  For mine, I microwaved a cup at a time, in a glass measuring cup, for 30 seconds, then at 10 second intervals until the soap was melted (this fills 2-3 eggs).  Stir in any desired color, scent, or exfoliants. 

*Try not to laugh at my doofishness -- Somewhere amidst the
leaning towers of craft bins in my art room, there lives a
 family of nesting funnels.Try as I might, I couldn't find them
and feared an ensuing avalanche if I continued. As a substitute
I used one of my kitchen funnels, and created a smaller tapered 
end with Gorilla Tape.  By golly, I love Gorilla Tape!  I wouldn't
recommend this method over a proper funnel, but in a pinch it'll do.

Step 5:  Set the prepared plastic eggs in a carton or egg cups to stabilize, hole side up.  Place funnel in the hole of one egg.  Gently pour in melted soap.  If funnel clogs, use the bamboo skewers to help move things along.  When soap has reached the top, gently tap  the bottom of the plastic egg on a hard surface (with a finger over the hole). This will help the soap settle and help release air bubbles.  Top off with more soap.  Repeat with remaining eggs.  

Step 6:  Let eggs set for 30 minutes to an hour.  Then, remove the piece of tape holding the two sides together, and open egg.  You may need to give the egg a gentle squeeze.  When the eggs come out, they may have a slight lip near the center.  You can trim this away carefully with a craft knife.  You can also use your fingers to buff out any imperfections.  It will not adversely affect the sheen of the finished egg.

Step 7:  Package -- For my repurposed packaging, I cut a cardboard egg carton in half and painted the inside and outside of the lid with DecoArt Americana French Blue acrylic paint.  When dry, I filled the carton with little bunches of paper shred and then placed the soap eggs inside.  Lastly, I found a beautiful vintage label from The Graphics Fairy, made some modifications, printed it on handmade paper and glued it to the top of the carton.  

You can download my version of the label by clicking on the image:

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