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…

Family Recipe ~ Ouzo Kourambiedes ~ Greek Butter Cookies

Cultures from all over the world have their own version of the powdered-sugared butter cookie:  The Mexican Wedding Cookie, the Russian Tea Cake, Viennese Crescents, English Butterballs, American Snowballs.  No matter the variation or what you call them, these buttery little morsels are delicious.

This recipe hails from the homeland of my husband's ancestors -- Greece.  Even within this single country, there are many variations on the Kourambiedes recipe.  Some recipes call for almonds, some for brandy, and others for whole cloves.

So with so many variations and recipes out there, why try this one?

My husband's people, who lived in the village of Vlahokerasia (in the Arcadia region), made their kourambiedes with butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, vanilla, an egg yolk and a generous pour of ouzo.  The recipe yields a bite-sized cookie that is ethereally light.  They really do melt in your mouth.  They're not too sweet and the ouzo adds a certain-something that makes the cookies irresistible.

Try'll see!

Ouzo Kourambiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)
Makes approx. 3 dozen cookies
    • ½ pound (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature (plus more for greasing 2 baking sheets
    • ½ cup granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • ½ teaspoon real vanilla extract
    • 3 Tablespoons Ouzo*
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

      Grease two baking sheets with butter and set aside.
      Preheat oven to 350 ° F

      Step 1: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy (at least 3 minutes). Add sugar and egg yolk and continue beating until well whipped. Mix in vanilla and ouzo and beat to combine.

      Step 2: In a medium bowl, sift flour and baking powder. Add to the butter mixture and beat on low, just to combine.

      Step 3: Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes. Then scoop by the level Tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet, 1-inch apart. Bake for 15-17 minutes, till bottom edges just barely begin to brown. Cool for 5 minutes, then roll in sifted powdered sugar. Set on a rack to finish cooling.

      *Despite the presence of the Ouzo, the finished product does not contain any alcohol and has only the lightest anise flavor. Don't be tempted to omit it, even if you're not the biggest fan of anise.  The butter, vanilla and Ouzo combine to create a flavor that is totally new.

      A few weeks ago, my daughter prepared a batch of kourambiedes for her middle school history class.  We all remarked that this recipe was too good to secret away for ourselves.


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