I love being part of Daring Bakers, because every month what we're making is a surprise. When I logged in Feb 1, and saw the challenge was multi-part: panna cotta with gelee and Florentine cookies it was a definite surprise to me. I didn't know what any of them were! 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 made the vanilla panna cotta, fruit gelee, and sandwiched florentines. The directions are lengthy, so I'll just share the pdf to them here. The only change I made was in the florentine cookies, we try not to purchase corn syrup in our house, so I subbed brown sugar and water for the dark corn syrup.
I was a bit nervous about the amount of whole milk and cream in these recipes, two ingredients I try to avoid.
Making the gelee was a breeze. I used a frozen berry assortment from Trader Joe's (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries). The gelee on its own tasted excellent, and I think I'll use this technique again. It was very pretty, the raspberries broke down into a deep red liquid, and then the strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries popped out.
The panna cotta wasn't difficult to make, I was worried I would have trouble. I like baking, but whisking milk makes me nervous. It came together pretty easily though. I only struggled with getting those pretty lines of panna cotta and gelee like everyone else. I ended up with fruit on the bottom gelee, and they still sort of swirled together in places.
The florentine dough came together well. When it came time to bake the cookies, I realized I'd caught myself without enough parchment paper for all the cookies. At a holiday cookie exchange in December, one girl said you could substitute wax paper for parchment paper when baking. I was skeptical, but figured this was a good moment to try. I grabbed my worst looking baking tray, in case it ended up with wax melted to it forever. The end result was that the tray was fine, but the cookies stuck to the wax paper, and there was no removing them. I ended up trashing one sheet of cookies.
When I went to sandwich the remaining florentines, they seemed so thin to sandwich. I think next time I'd try to put the chocolate into the dough, and have it bake away with the rest of the ingredients.
Once again, Daring Bakers challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. The end tasting results: the panna cotta with fruit gelee was good, but knowing how much fat and how many calories were in it from all the cream and whole milk - it kept me from going wild with enjoyment. I'll make the fruit gelee again, but never panna cotta with whole milk and heavy cream.
The florentine cookies were good, and I think it is a recipe I'll play around with in the future. Thanks for the challenge Daring Bakers!