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.
Panna Cotta. That simple, yet oh-so-satisfying cream-based dessert. It stands the test of time. It’s a go-to recipe for anyone who wants to delight their dinner guests, and it’s relatively uncomplicated…until you go and throw that whole dairy-free thing in there.
But alas, this is why I joined Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks – to not only take on the challenge of making something new, but also to make it gluten and dairy-free. It hasn’t always been a complete success, but sometimes, it’s that whole “thrill of the chase” thing that keeps me coming back for more. And honestly, the panna cotta was not any more difficult to make non-dairy.
This month, I opted to take a risk and share the (hopefully) successful fruits of my challenge with my sister and her husband. They arrived on a Saturday afternoon, twin girls in tow, ready for an evening filled with grilled pork chops topped with sauteed apples, onions, and melty colby-jack cheese (made by my brother-in-law, with Daiya on mine instead of cheese – sweet-and-savory deliciousness!), a simple spinach salad, mashed sweet potatoes, and this roasted cauliflower dish. Glasses of inexpensive zinfandel were filled, and filled again. Warm, comfortable conversation was made in between baby feedings, rounds of Mario Bros. on the Wii with Brittany (who decided to spend the weekend with us), the debut of a new little video camera, and an occasional attempt at distracting a slightly grumpy, teething baby. And dessert.
We sweetened the end of the meal with creamy, rich, dairy-free panna cotta with a peach-thyme gelee, and an overabundance of gluten-free, dairy-free florentine cookies. The panna cotta was made with coconut milk and almond milk instead of cream and milk. The gelee was inspired partly by the lonely bag of frozen peaches leftover from last summer, and this jam recipe. It was a lovely blend of rich and sweet, but not overly so – the fact that I kept it refined sugar-free definitely helped to keep the sweetness at a more natural level.
The florentine cookies, on the other hand, were definitely sweet. In spite of my use of dark chocolate, they still were still plenty sweet – although not cloying. While I’d never enjoyed this cookie before – a lovely oat-y sandwich, filled with chocolate – I knew it would be a favorite. It was definitely well-received by my sister and brother-in-law. As I know my limitations on self-control around good cookies, and they were both so excited about them, I sent them home with the rest.
It was a good day.
These two recipes were lovely – and I was excited to finally get around to making panna cotta. The cookie stole the show, however. A big thanks to Mallory for this month’s challenge!
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Panna Cotta with Peach Thyme Gelee
1 c unsweetened almond milk (I made my own using this recipe – it’s really easy!)
1 T (1 packet) unflavored gelatin powder
2 cans coconut milk (not light)
1/3 c honey
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean
Pour the almond milk into a bowl and sprinkle gelatin over evenly. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
Pour the almond milk into a saucepan and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat until hot, but not boiling. Whisk a few times during this process. Next, add the coconut milk, honey, and pinch of salt. With a small knife, carefully cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds into the saucepan. Making sure the mixture doesn’t boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the honey has dissolved, 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Then pour into glasses or ramekins. (I used 5, but you could easily make this a 6-serving recipe.) Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
(If you want to layer the gelee on top, allow the panna cotta to firm up for a few hours in the fridge first. If you wish to top with another layer of panna cotta, as I did, you have to reserve some of the panna cotta, and wait for the gelee to firm up before carefully layering the remaining panna cotta on top.)
Peach Thyme Gelee
3 T water
2 T (2 packets) unflavored gelatin powder
1 lb peach slices (can use frozen), chopped finely
1/4 t fresh thyme leaves
2 T honey
pinch of salt
Sprinkle gelatin over water. Place fruit and honey in a small saucepan and simmer until honey has dissolved. Mix the gelatin mixture into the fruit and stir until gelatin has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree in a blender. Once panna cotta is sufficiently gelled, carefully spoon gelee over top. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Florentine Cookies
2/3 c vegan buttery sticks (I used Earth Balance)
2 c gluten-free quick oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 c granulated sugar
2/3 c gluten-free flour mixture (3.5 oz – I used 1 oz teff flour, 1 oz potato starch, and 1.5 oz sorghum flour)
1 T combination of chia seed meal and flax meal, plus 1 T boiling water, mixed into a slurry
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 c almond milk
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 c dairy-free chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat. Melt vegan buttery sticks in a small saucepan and remove from heat. Add oats, sugar, flours, chia/flax slurry, agave nectar, almond milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop by the tablespoonful, three inches apart, on the baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your spoon. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on baking sheets.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (I use a stainless steel bowl large enough to sit on top of a small saucepan with an inch or so of simmering water) until smooth. Place the cookies upside down and spoon a bit of chocolate into the middle of each, and place another cookie on top to make a sandwich.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.