Creamy Dreamy Crunchy February

February 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m not one of those bakers that will make ten batches of things before getting them right. That’s not a statement of perfection; rather, that means I’m not going to whip up batch after batch of macaron batter to finally, haphazardly, get the highly-sought after feet on one tray of cookies. I wish I was that dedicated. Realistically, I’ll likely make two batches before giving up. I read descriptions of that process like this and can only be in awe of the dedication and say that this is probably why I am not pursuing a career as a pastry chef.

I’m coming up on a year since my whole life at college seemed like it was falling apart, and while I’m not sure I can realistically say that I am much closer to figuring out what I want to be in life, I can say that I am in a much better place than I was last spring. Sometimes I wonder if I was meant to be sitting on the kitchen floor at home watching cookies fail this spring, whether I was meant to be planning a trip to an Italian farm this summer, instead of frantically applying to the next prestigious internship, what I would be doing this year if things had worked out a little differently. But sometimes I think about how great it was to have an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate all the things in my life that were making me unhappy at the moment, even if that opportunity came with realizing that I was more unhappy than I had ever cared to admit.

Sure there are certain aspects of school that I really miss. I was sitting in a UCLA dining hall the other morning, for that Sunday morning brunch when everyone is in a weird daze and it’s likely that a quick and thorough scan of the room is necessary before choosing a table because of some awkward encounter the night before, and realized that I really missed recapping the night before over dining hall bagels. I missed walking around in Nike shorts 24/7, compulsive trips to the local froyo shop, the little things. And then there are the huge things that I don’t miss at all.

During that time last year, I spent a lot of time with my hallmates in the kitchen down the hall from our rooms, making cakes and cookies and the insane salted caramel bacon brownies, which I think are still the item of my blog with the most search-engine hits. Now as I’m setting up the lighting in the dining room, it’s easy to forget that this started out as me baking out of a dorm kitchen. It’s kind of comforting to have your progress over the past year very well documented; it makes you feel like you’ve already grown up even when you’re freaking out about having to be a grown up.

Speaking to growing up, a bunch of childhood seems to come up in the form of dishes as I’m rooting through items to use in photoshoots. Like these shot glasses I picked up on an obscure beach in British Columbia before I knew what a shot glass was. I made vanilla panna cotta when I got home from LA this evening, pictured alongside cranberry-cocao nib florentines. And yes, I made the florentines twice but not more than that.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies. I actually used a recipe from Joy of Cooking for the florentines, as I thought an almond version looked more traditional that one using rolled oats.

Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn’t boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

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