Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lavender Panna Cotta

This recipe is a piece of panna cotta. Super easy, very delicious, and leads to many serving possibilities. I’ve only shown the simplest photos, with a few blackberries thrown on top, but this humble lavender panna cotta was also turned into a multi-component dessert. This started off with a bottom layer of berries that the panna cotta was poured over, then topped with white peaches, white chocolate cream, and finally salty cookie crumbles. Both versions have their merits, but in a pinch, the simpler will do and is just as satisfying.

One thing I will admit, I’m always worried when using floral flavors (rose water cheesecake) that the dessert will end up tasting like potpourri. It doesn’t. As long as you keep the ratio of cream to flower down, and I always put in a bit extra sugar, it turns out fine. And if it does taste like soap, at least it’s yummy, sugary soap.

Lavender Panna Cotta

3 c heavy cream

½ c sugar

3 sheets gelatin

Lavender leaves/buds from several branches

*a note before cooking: I look at lots of other foodblogs and epicurious.com to come up with my own recipe. Many call any mixture of cream, half and half, milk, or even water. I wanted to use only cream. They also vary on the amount of sugar relative to the amount of liquid, and I weigh in on the ‘more sugar is better’ mindset. You can adjust according to your own tastes. They also differ on adding the sugar before or after you simmer the cream, so it’s up to you to find a recipe you’re happy with.

Put the cream in a large pot and bring it to just under a boil (if you’ve cooked cream before, you will know that once it heats up, it can boil over very quickly, so keep an eye on it). Add the sugar and lavender, either adding the branches whole or brushing off the leaves and buds into the cream. Let it steep for about an hour.

This is one step that can really affect how strong the flavor is, so if you just want a hint, leave it for about 15 minutes. While you’re waiting, soak the gelatin leaves in cold water, enough to cover them. When the leaves are soft and the cream is ready, wring out the leaves, put them in a bowl, and strain the cream over the leaves. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Pour into individual cups and put in the fridge overnight until they are solid. To serve, sprinkle with some berries (or you can fancy them up).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pink Peppercorn Truffles

Looking at this blog (and now restaurant) is what has whipped me back into posting. Whodda thunkit? Pictures of British cuisine inspiring me on the food front? But they are beautiful, mouth-watering photos. I am a bit surprised, because true or not, the English are not known for their brilliant, delectable food (case in point: jellied eels). Or at least they haven't been in the past. Although I know plenty people, one man in particular, who might rough me up for saying so. But looks like they’re learning. The British Larder sure has.

So, to start off I’ve just got to tell you about pink peppercorn truffles. I’ve done truffles on here before, I think just the pesto ones, which need to be repeated, but it’s hard with so many other flavors out there to play with. But these deserve a try, and according to an English friend, they were the best thing I’d made that he’s ever tried. I take that as a compliment, for sure, but I’m not gonna lie: they’re pretty simple.

The key is good chocolate, good olive oil, Maldon salt (in an ode to the Brits, I guess, since I’ve just bashed them a bit), and of course, pink peppercorns. If you’ve never tried them before, have a go. They’re slightly sweet, and oh-so-pretty floating in a bowl of golden olive oil accompanied by bread.

Pink Peppercorn truffles

from ME! not the British Larder...although I still love her pictures

400 ml cream

400 g dark chocolate (the better the chocolate, the tastier they’ll be. It is a fact)

¼ c olive oil (give or take…you can go up to 1/3)

3-4 Tbsp pink peppercorns

Maldon salt

another 250 g dark chocolate (I might have used less percentage as this is for the coating and I like it to melt quickly in your mouth)

Heat up the cream until almost boiling (I just do it in the microwave, although a double boiler will work). Take about 3 tablespoons of the pink peppercorns and crush them between your fingers, dropping them into the cream. I let it sit for a few hours, heating it up occasionally to help it infuse better. Every now and then I would taste the cream to see if I could get a hint of the pink peppercorns. I suggest doing this so you know if you should add more peppercorns (or potentially cream), or infuse more, etc. When you’re satisfied with it, after you heat it to almost a boil for the last time, have the darker, larger quantity of chocolate broken up into little pieces in a bowl. Pour the hot cream through a strainer over the chocolate and stir together until it’s all melted. Then stir in the olive oil (this is of course optional, I just like to use it whenever I can). Now you’ve got some waiting to do. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until the chocolate solidifies.

When you’re ready to roll your truffles, get some parchment paper on a tray and a spoon. I usually finish off each truffle by rolling it in my hands, but the less you handle them the better because they tend to melt quickly. I take a small spoon and curl the chocolate out into a ball as well as I can, and then roll slightly to seal edges and make it smooth. When you have rolled out all the chocolate, put the truffles back into the fridge to harden up again.

While you’re waiting, get your salt and whole peppercorns in two little containers to have at the ready. Melt the other chocolate completely. With a spoon, drop each truffle into the melted chocolate and coat it all around. Put back onto the parchment and drop with a few peppercorns and a pinch of Maldon salt. Wait as long as you can (I suggest them going back in the fridge for a bit) and then eat.

This one’s for you, CLee!