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…

Make a Halloween Folk Art Candy Container from a $1 Blown Plastic Pumpkin

Do you remember the Paper Mache Black Cat Trick-or-Treat Bucket I shared last year? Using a plastic candy bucket that I picked up at Target for only a dollar, homemade paper mache paste, scrap paper and paint, I transformed this:

Into this:

I was excited for the pumpkins to be back in stores again this year.  As soon as they arrived, my girls and I picked up a bunch and brainstormed a plan for this year's creation.  We decided to create lidded candy containers -- the perfect place to store your candy for trick-or-treaters.  Decorative by day, functional by night!

This year, I had a few new tricks up my sleeve.  With this basic tutorial you can upgrade your cheap-o pumpkin any way you wish:

Folk Art Pumpkin Candy Container

  • Materials
  • 1 blown plastic pumpkin bucket
  • Masking tape
  • Homemade paper mache paste (my favorite recipe is at the end of this post)
  • Newspaper or kraft packaging paper 
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint pens (for detail work)
  • 1 paper mache witch hat (in the paper mache section at most craft stores, seasonally -- approx. $1.99)
  • 1 strip of black poster paper cut to 16" x 3" 
  • glue gun
  • Embellishments for the hat such as crepe fringe, vintage scrap paper, glitter and paint
  • Clear acrylic spray

Step 1: Remove the handles from the bucket.  Unless you plan to use the pumpkin's features for your design, use masking tape to tape over the features.  This will give you a more evening surface on which to paint your features or words.

Step 2: Tear newspaper or kraft packaging paper into small pieces.  Dip a piece in paper mache paste.  Swipe off excess with fingers.  Smooth out on to pumpkin.  Continue to cover the entire pumpkin -- outside and bottom -- with paper mache.  Covering the inside is optional.  Set aside to dry.

Step 3:  While the paste is drying, construct the inner band for the witch hat-lid.  Take the poster paper strip and roll it to fit just inside the mouth of the opening at the top of the pumpkin.  Use hot glue to seal the roll.  Next, cut 1/2 slits around the edge of one side of the roll.  Bend the tabs in toward the center of the roll.  Dry fit inside the witch hat.  If it fits, remove and apply hot glue on top of the bent tabs.  Working quickly, insert in hat and press tabs in place.

Step 4: Time to paint!  Paint the hat, inside, out, and band included, black. Paint pumpkin.  I used DecoArt Americana "Bleached Sand".  Set both pieces aside to dry.

Step 5: Decorate the hat.  I made decorative fringe by sewing black and creme crepe streamers together with a gather stitch.  Then, I folded it in half and fringed it with pinking shears.  I painted the polka dots and affixed a piece of vintage sheet music.  Around the edges of the hat, I spread Tacky Glue, then rolled it in German glass glitter.

Step 6:  For a face, sketch out your design with pencil.  Then, go over it with paint or paint pen.  For the rosy cheeks, I blended in an oil pastel.

For lettering, print out your desired lettering on regular copy paper.  Cut out around the edges.  On the reverse side, rub with pencil until the whole surface is covered with graphite.  Set paper in place on top of pumpkin.  Tape all around the edges.  Use a pencil to trace the lettering.  When you remove the tape and paper, the lettering will have transferred in graphite.  Go over the tracing with a paintbrush or paint pen.

Step 7: The final step is to seal your artwork.  I used Mod Podge Clear Acrylic Spray in the Gloss formula on both the pumpkin and the hat.  After the first coat dried, I applied a second.

Once the hat and pumpkin are completely dry (I recommend waiting 24 hours just to be sure that the hat and pumpkin don't fuse together), you're ready to assemble.  Fill with candy and enjoy!


Paper Mache Paste

(From Family Fun Magazine)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups cold water

2 cups boiling water

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Whisk together flour and 2 cups cold water in a medium bowl.  Add this mixture to a saucepan of 2 cups boiling water, gently whisking, and bring to a boil again.  Remove from heat and stir in the sugar.  Let it cool.  Paste will thicken as it cools.  When it does, it's ready to use.

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