Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Redoux Again

Harkening back to our recent trip to NYC there was one other item at Arte' Cafe that we really did like. Their lunch is a three course prix fixe menu, with options for the first 2 courses but the third is whatever they make for the dessert of the day.  It is kind of odd to me because we never order dessert in the daytime, unless we are eating bread pudding as our lunch ( And yes we have done this before because technically bread pudding features all food groups.)  We were talking and drinking our coffee when a lovely molded pink dessert with a berry topping appeared at our table.  Until I took a bite I had no idea what it was, but after a mouthful I realized it was a mixed berry panna cotta.  I was full from the first two courses and really did not want it, so I ate no more than the first bite.  Well, I didn't want it until later that night when we were having another cup of coffee and then I really wished there was some way I could have saved it!

Today I thought I would try and replicate it__kind of.  I looked through every cookbook I own and found about 30 different recipes.  I settled on this one based on two specific things, ease in preparing and ingredients I had on hand.

Panna Cotta
8 servings

2 packages powdered gelatin
6 tablespoons  cold water
4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put the cold water in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and let it stand for about 5 minutes,
Heat the cream and sugar in a pan. Heat to very hot but not boiling.  Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and add vanilla  Pour into the bowl with the water and gelatin.  Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.  Let cool until just warm.

Ladle into wine glasses, champagne flutes, sherbet dishes, or individual jello molds.  Set covered in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  (This can be made the day ahead as long as it is covered tightly  with plastic wrap.)

To serve either top with berries or seasonal fruit.

I thought I had a bag of mixed berries in the freezer but I didn't.  Instead I had a large bag of bing cherries I had frozen throughout the stone fruit season this summer.  I took several and put them in my Magic Bullet and tried to puree' them but they were frozen and just wanted to become icy fruit slush.  I added about 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar* and 2 teaspoons hot water and  whirred the bullet again.  Success!  I wound up  with pureed  cherries that I spooned on the top of the panna cotta.  I really didn't like the way it looked so I took a few more cherries and blended them to a coarse chop, put them on the top of the puree' then topped each glass with 1 whole cherry.

 What I did differently: I used half the ingredients called for because I did not want a lot leftover.  Next time I will cut the recipe in fourths since there are just the two of us.  I did not use vanilla.  I keep a canister of vanilla sugar on hand all the time and it just saved me a step.   Only used 1/8 cup of sugar and added 1tablespoon of honey. ( We are really trying to reduce our refined sugar intake) 

I should have used a mold which is the traditional way of making this but I did not want the uncertainty
of it sticking.  Next time I might try it molded.  If you do choose to use a mold make sure to oil it prior to filling.  Use a neutral oil like grapeseed oil.

The verdict?  It was not berry flavored like we remembered, but the cherry taste was perfectly fine.  I think I would have preferred a blueberry/strawberry combination better but that was not an option tonight.  The Hub finished his in about 3 minutes.  I ate only half of mine.  I thought the serving was a little large and rich.

This is easy and something I will do again and will try some different flavors including mixing fruit puree into the cream.  It will take a little experimentation to find the correct gelatin/ fruit, cream proportion.  I don't think the amount I used would have kept additional ingredients firm.  Will let you know after I try it.

Ever had success trying to replicate a restaurant item?  Let me know about it.

p.s.  Vanilla sugar is nothing more than 2 cups of sugar and 3 split vanilla beans in an airtight container.  Turn the container or stir to mix daily. After about 3 week you have the most delicious tasting vanilla sugar, plus you can continue to add sugar as you use it.  The beans in mine have been in there at least a year and I have added additional sugar about 5 times.



  1. especially love the idea about vanilla sugar...I wonder if it would work with sugar substitute?