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…

Tips & Tricks for the Perfect Caramel Apple

I make caramel apples twice every year -- for Halloween in the fall and for the end of the school year in the spring.  While my caramel recipe remains constant, I'm ever striving to tackle the common pitfalls of caramel apple-making.

Have you ever made caramel apples and had the caramel start to puddle when you set the apple on the tray?  This year, I came up with a simple solution that creates a nice smooth even coat of caramel all over the apple.  I used a baking rack to invert the apples as the caramel, and later the chocolate, set.  If you don't have a high baking rack, you can set either side of a legless baking rack up on a few cans.

Once you've bitten through the sweet candy outside, you're left with nothing but an apple on a stick, right?  Problem solved -- cut your apple with an apple slicer.  You lose nothing but the core! 

I used to play around with different flavor combinations, but the ones that always get the most applause are my caramel apples dipped in bittersweet chocolate, sprinkled with Heath Bar, and drizzled with white chocolate.  The Heath Bar adds the perfect amount of crunch to each sweet, sticky bite!

For my caramel, I use my basic 15-minute microwave caramel recipe.  You can find it HERE.  Prepare the caramel in a large bowl, stir in the vanilla, and let sit for 3 minutes to cool.  Then, dip apples right into the bowl of fresh caramel.   For the chocolate, I use Ghirardelli Bittersweet 60% Chocolate Chips.  They can be found at most grocery stores and melt like a couverture chocolate.  This recipe makes enough caramel to dip 12-14 medium apples. 

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