I’d be very happy if my lifestyle, waistline and conscience allowed me to bake a pie a day. Okay, maybe a pie a week. I really enjoy the process of stirring together aromatic fillings, paring fruit, making and rolling pastry and then assembling it all into a beautiful, edible object. It’s no secret I like my pies rustic. (more…)
You know the feeling when you’re served something nostalgic or something from your younger years and it gives you a sense of levity, or whimsy, almost as if it’s fun to eat? Or how eating something very ‘grown up’ like caviar on tiny blinis with champagne can make you feel like the ultimate in sophistication? Well, for me, panna cotta feels virtuous. You’d think that something more responsible, like bran, would be a ‘virtuous’ food, but no. For me it’s panna cotta. Perhaps it’s the pure paleness of it, or the delicate texture, the pleasingly (almost) bland almond perfume of it. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure that panna cotta is what angels eat. And who doesn’t want to feel a bit angelic once in a while?
As I’m sure you’re well aware, food, much like fashion, is cyclical and trends come and go, some lasting longer than others. Lately I feel like the world has gone a bit panna cotta crazy and somehow I’m late to the party. No issue, I’m sure I can make up for lost time. It seems that many blogs and magazines I read are extolling the virtues (see what I did there?) of panna cotta like never before and pairing it with beautiful sauces, marmalades and other sweet or spiced toppings. So what is a girl to do when faced with 2 pounds of deep red strawberries nearly past their prime? Cook them down in a sweet balsamic syrup and pour them over panna cotta. Obviously.
2 envelopes of plain gelatin
3 -¼ C cold milk, divided
¾ C light or ‘half and half’ cream
½ C sugar
1 tsp pure almond extract or vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, add the gelatin powder to ¼ C of cold milk. Stir well and set aside. Pour the remaining 3 cups of milk into a medium saucepan. Add the cream and sugar. Heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until the sugar is fully dissolved and almost boiling. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil. Once it’s very hot, remove it from the heat and pour it over the milk and gelatin you have already prepared, whisking to combine. Stir in almond/vanilla flavouring. Pour into 4 lightly greased* bowls or ramekins (or 8 smaller ones). Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. You can make these up to 2 days ahead if you keep them covered and chilled.
* Panna cotta is very pretty when it’s turned out of the dish it is made in and unmolded. If you plan to do this, very lightly grease the cups/ramekins with plain vegetable oil. If you are feeling less fussy, skip this step and just eat the panna cotta from the dish it is made in without inverting and releasing it. In the pictures above, I took the rustic approach without greasing the bowls and frothed the hot mixture up with a whisk so it was bubbly on top and the bubbles remained as the dessert set in the fridge giving them a unique look.
2 lb ripe (or very ripe) strawberries
¼ C sugar
¼ C balsamic vinegar*
Trim and halve the berries. Set aside. In a wide, shallow saucepan, mix the sugar into the vinegar. Add the berry halves and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the berries are very soft, but still holding their shape, about 20 minutes. The will become very juicy and the surrounding syrup will become thickened. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled. Keep in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
*Alternatively, if you are not a fan of balsamic vinegar or do not have any on hand, red wine makes a perfect substitution here.
Most of the time the recipes that I post here are my own version of something which I have imagined and then created. Occasionally I lean more heavily on a recipe from a book or website, but by and large, I just make this stuff up. I have a fairly extensive cookbook collection, but I rarely cook from them, I just use the recipes, anecdotes and pictures as inspiration. Before I make something, I deconstruct it in my head and try to figure out all the elements and how they fit together and in what proportion. Then I make it and see how it turns out. I’m proud to say I have a pretty good ‘batting average’ when it comes to new recipes, but even a ‘failure’ is usually consumable, just not all that it was meant to be. I share the ones that work and re-work the ones that don’t. Some recipes are a bigger ‘risk’ or better put: further out of my comfort zone or my immediate knowledge.
This tiramisu was a bit of a gamble.
I have had tiramisu many times, but I’d never made it. I understood the basic building blocks and I knew what the finished product should be like, but all the steps in between were a bit foggy. I considered looking up a few recipes online first, but decided against it. I wanted it, however it turned out, to be my version. So I jumped right in.
It worked. It has all the richness you could ask for but the unmistakable lightness as well. It’s boozy, but not over powering and the texture is soft and unctuous but not complete mush. Is it entirely traditional? No, I don’t think so. But it looks like tiramisu, smells like tiramisu and most importantly tastes like tiramisu. I’m going to go ahead and call this one a winner. Let me know what you think.
1 400g package of crisp Italian ladyfinger cookies
1 cup of very strong coffee or espresso
2 tablespoons Bailey’s liquer
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 cups ( one 454g tub) of mascarpone cheese (substitute cream cheese if you can’t find mascarpone)
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder for sprinkling on top
Prepare the coffee and stir in the Bailey’s. In the bottom of a 9×13 dish, arrange an even layer of ladyfingers.
Drizzle with half the coffee mixture, ensuring each cookie gets doused. Whatever is in the bottom of the pan will be absorbed.
Next, make the mascarpone cream. Start by beating together the eggs and sugar with a wire whisk in a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering – not boiling – water).
Cook the egs and sugar, stirring almost constantly for about 10 minutes until the mixture is a very pale and thickened custard. You’ll know it’s thickened enough when you lift your whisk the custard drips and makes an obvious ribbon on the surface. Remove from heat, continuing to stir it until it is warm but no longer hot, about 3 minutes.
Add the mascarpone, 1 cup at a time, stirring to incorporate before adding more. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the sour cream. Pour half the mascarpone cream over the layer of soaking ladyfingers, smoothing it with the back of a spoon to get it into the corners.
Repeat with a second layer of ladyfingers, drizzle on the rest of the coffee and top with the remaining mascarpone cream.
Sift the cocoa over top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.