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…

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow "Elf" Mugs ~ A Delightful and Diminutive Holiday Treat

Every year I enjoy coming up with a new way to decorate chocolate-dipped marshmallows for the holidays.  Chocolate-dipped marshmallows are so easy and fun to adorn, and they're delicious too!  This year, my inspiration came from the "Mini Christmas Cups of Cocoa on a Stick" from Hoopla Palooza.   From the moment I saw Lisa's adorable chocolate mugs, I knew just what I'd be creating to donate to the bake sale for my daughter's holiday music performance. 

Introducing, Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Elf Mugs -- a bite sized treat that combines the delicious flavors of chocolate and marshmallow, with the crunch of a salted pretzel handle.  You can find everything you need to make these little cups of cuteness in your grocery store.

The mugs made for some excellent hijinks for our Elf on the Shelf, Elfonso, as well...

 Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Elf Mugs

Yield:  approx. 30 mugs

1 l6 oz. bag marshmallows
10 oz. high quality dark chocolate
20 mini pretzels
Jet-Puffed Mallow Bits (approx. 1/4 cup)
Optional: 1/3 cup milk chocolate, 1/4 cup white chocolate 
A knife with small serrations (like a steak knife)
30 toothpicks 
Wax paper lined baking sheet
Optional:  Pastry bags fitted with a small tip for writing on mugs in white chocolate

Step 1:  Place a toothpick in each marshmallow (going at least to the middle of the marshmallow).

Step 2:  Using a knife with small serrations, saw the two upper arches from a mini pretzel to use for handles.

Step 3:  Temper your chocolate by doing the following:  Place half of the dark chocolate in a small bowl.  Microwave on low power in one minute increments till melted.  Stir in the remaining chocolate and set aside until the chocolate begins to haze over.  Return to the microwave and heat on low power just until the chocolate has melted.  Stir and set aside.

Step 3:  Dip marshmallow in melted chocolate until it comes just up over the sides of the top.  Shake off excess chocolate.  You may want to lightly scrape the bottom of the marshmallow against the side of the bowl, so that excess chocolate doesn't puddle when you set the marshmallow down.  Set the dipped marshmallow on the prepared baking sheet.  Immediately set a pretzel handle in place.  Continue with remaining marshmallows.

 Step 4:  If chocolate does not set at room temperature, put your pan in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.  Next, transfer some of the melted chocolate to a small bowl that is deeper than the height of the pretzel handle.  Holding the toothpick, gently dip the pretzel handle in the melted chocolate.  Use another toothpick to quickly poke inside the opening in the "handle".  Shake off excess chocolate, then return the marshmallow to the pan.  Repeat with remaining marshmallows.

Step 5:  If you wish to add a white chocolate embellishment to the mugs, now is the time to do it.

Step 6:  When chocolate has completely set, remove the toothpicks by placing a finger on either side, then pulling up.

Step 7:  Place remaining chocolate (or melted milk chocolate, for contrast) in a zip bag or pastry bag.  Snip a small hole in the tip.  Pipe chocolate into the top of the "mug".  Immediately garnish with mallow bites.  Repeat with remaining marshmallows.


Important Tips:
  1. When buying the marshmallows, look for a bag where the marshmallows are not stuck together and appear to be in good shape (with minimal distortions).  The more perfectly shaped the marshmallows, the better the finished mugs will look.  Out of a 16 oz. bag of Jet-Puffed brand, I was able to get 30 useable marshmallows.
  2. You may substitute bark or candy meltsfor the chocolate, but I recommend using Ghirardelli 60% Chips.  They're the only grocery store chocolate I've found that has both excellent taste and melts perfectly for dipping.
  3. Sawing the pretzels can take a little practice and patience.  I ruined around 10 pretzels in the process of cutting 30 handles.  Hold them lightly while sawing and saw gently.
  4. Work in a cool room.  If your room is too warm, work near an open window.  This will help your chocolate set more quickly.   
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