Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

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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…

Recipe: Cream Cheese Stuffed Figs with Fresh Fig Caviar Compote


I'm pretty sure the Gods on Mt. Olympus must have eaten these. Although my weekend did include the sighting of several mythological beasts, I didn't have to travel to Ancient Greece to experience this taste of ambrosia.


In fact, I didn't even have to leave California.  Last week, my Nerdy-and-Proud family headed down to San Diego for Comic Con 2014.  My girls dressed-up as characters from one of their favorite shows:  Supernatural


Our hotel turned out to be a complete dump (to put it nicely).  Our first sight, upon pulling in was of the upper balcony, where a guest had strung their laundry between columns -- delicates and all. Fortunately we were rescued from the roach motel by family who live in the area.

The girls and their cousins pitched a tent in the backyard.

The girls were thrilled to stay with their cousins, and my husband and I were treated to wine and appetizers that included these amazing stuffed figs when we returned from the convention one night.


Our family sent us home with a bag full of freshly picked figs.  As soon as we returned home, I began experimenting with my own version of this exquisite small bite appetizer.  The taste is sublime and the presentation sophisticated, but these really couldn't be easier make and prepare in advance.  The fresh figs provide a light, delicate fruit flavor that pairs well to the tart whipped cream cheese that puffs as it bakes like a souff.  The fresh fig caviar is made from the seeds and and tender flesh of the inner fig blossom.  Mixed with just a touch of organic sugar to bring out the natural honey and vanilla notes, it becomes a sauce that adds the delicate crunch of a fine caviar.  


Stuffed Figs with Fresh Fig Caviar Compote


Use these guidelines to make as many or as few as you wish.  The stuffed figs can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake.


Here's what you'll need:


Ingredients
  • Small (two-bite) fresh figs
  • Whipped Cream Cheese (Do not use regular)
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Organic sugar

Tools (Recommended but not required)
  • Melon ball scooper
  • Tablespoon sized stainless steel portion scoop
  • ceramic or glass baking dish(es)

 Preheat oven to 350° F

Step 1:  Slice figs in half.  Use a small spoon or melon baller to scoop out the seeds.  Set aside in a small bowl.  Arrange the fig shells in a glass or ceramic baking dish.


Step 2:  Stir 1 Tablespoon organic sugar into the reserved fig flesh (for each 1/2 cup of fig flesh).  Refrigerate.

Step 3:  Use a stainless steel scoop to portion around a Tablespoon of whipped cream cheese into each fig half.  Don't worry if it does not touch the sides.  The cream cheese expands and puffs as it bakes.


Step 4:  Lightly sprinkle the cream cheese with ground cinnamon. Bake on center rack of oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cream cheese has just begin to lightly brown.

Step 5:  When cool to the touch, top each stuffed fig with some of the refrigerated sauce.  Serve warm.


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