Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce

Blueberries are in season here. I love berry season, but I almost never buy blueberries because I don't know what to do with them. Unlike grapes or strawberries, I'm unlikely to just sit down and eat a bowl of blueberries... So I spent a few days thinking about things I could do with blueberries that would be delicious.

Fortunately for me (and you, by extension) for Christmas, Santa had brought me the Dec 2011/Jan 2012 issue of Delicious magazine, which had a recipe for Yogurt Panna Cotta with Cherries.  I don't much like cherries, but I figured that blueberries could easily be substituted for cherries.  I was right.  Really, any type of fruit could be used for a sauce, but I think something with a little bit of tartness best compliments the rich flavour of the panna cotta.

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce
Panna cotta
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) thickened cream
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
3 gelatine leaves (recipes calls for 2 titanium strength leaves, but I used a different type)
500g thick Greek-style yoghurt

Blueberry Sauce
1/3 (75g) cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
1 punnet fresh blueberries

Panna cotta

  1. Mix vanilla seeds and pod, cream and sugar in saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Stir until sugar is dissolved, brining to just below boiling point.
  3. Remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Soak gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes to soften.
  5. Remove vanilla pod from mixture and discard.
  6. Squeeze excess moisture from vanilla leaves and whisk into warm cream mixture until dissolved.
  7. Add yoghurt.
  8. Strain (I used a mesh seive) and divide into containers. Makes ~4 cups of panna cotta.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for ~3 hours.

Blueberry Sauce
  1. Combine caster sugar and water in a small saucepan, heat over medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add blueberries, mash slightly (I used a potato masher to really release the colour and flavour, this isn't super necessary).
  3. Remove from heat and allow flavours to settle.
  4. Best served room temperature or cold.
To Serve

  1. Dip the base of molds into hot water for a few (~10?) seconds to loosen, then invert onto serving plates.
  2. Drizzle sauce on top.

* Something important to keep in mind about this recipe is that it involves gelatine. This is only the second time I've ever made something with gelatine (I made Champagne Jellies for dessert on Christmas day), and it's confusing.  First, there's all sorts of different KINDS and strengths of gelatine - powdered or leaves? Platinum or gold strength?  It's confusing. All I can recommend is that if your recipe calls for gelatine leaves, buy those instead of the powder, and vice versa because the conversion is confusing (I think it's about 1 1/2 - 2 tsp (heaping) of powder to a leaf, but who the eff knows).    If this is your first time playing with gelatine leaves, I recommend getting your hands dirty first, so to speak.  What you need to do (and the instructions should be on the packaging anyway), is fill a cereal bowl (or similar sized mixing bowl) with cool water, and dunk your gelatine leaf in the water. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and then pick it up and squeeze out the excess water.  It has a tendency to clump, which I find makes it more difficult to evenly mix into the recipe.  This gooey-sticky plastic-y sheet is what you're mixing into your recipe to allow it to set.

* Another point for this recipe, and any other gelatine based recipes is about gelatine molds.  At your local kitchen-ware stores you can buy gelatine molds in a variety of shapes and sizes and materials, and I'm pretty sure they have neat little features to make your life easier.  However, if you're like me, meaning a little bit cheap, you don't need these specialty containers.  I have used ramekins and small glass (probably Pyrex) mixing bowls to make individual portion-sized servings.  For this recipe, you'll want to wrap the top with saran wrap, but the other trick I learned, since my ramekins don't stack and my fridge is tiny, is to use the tops from tupperware containers (or yogurt containers, or even cardboard probably) to balance on the top of a ramekin so you can stack another one on top.

This was a massive hit, and it kept well in the fridge for several days (the last one was eaten maybe 5 days later, and it was still delicious).
It's been a good month for fresh fruit for me, I've got a bag full of ripe plums as well a bunch of rhubarb which I stewed using this recipe from the blog, some strawberries, more blueberries, and a big juicy bunch of grapes.  We've been enjoying the rhubarb over greek yoghurt, and the blueberries and grapes have been frozen.  Frozen grapes make for a good snacky food.

Also - in looking for a good photo of the magazine's recommended plating, I couldn't find this exact panna cotta recipe online, but I did find a recipe for Panna Cotta with boozy berries, which is quite similar, though probably less rich.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Strawberry and Apple Crumble

Note: I actually wrote this post months and MONTHS ago, and was just waiting on getting photos downloaded to my laptop.  Since that is clearly not happening, have a recipe! It was great, though the crumble topping was a bit heavier than I'd prefer.

One of the many, many reasons I don't often make dessert to eat at home is that with just the two of us, pies and cakes end up going bad before they get eaten.  Enter personal sized deserts! They're like the personal pan pizza of desserts! Ramekins are so handy.

Strawberry and Apple Crumble
2 sweet red apples
half pint frozen strawberries*
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup white flour
1/3 cup oatmeal
5-6 T brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1-2 t vanilla essence
ground cinnamon, ginger and cloves to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Peel and core apples, chop into small (1-2cm) segments.
  3. Place apples in a small sauce pan and just cover with water.
  4. Simmer until soft - 5-10 minutes.
  5. Drain apples and mix with cinnamon, caster sugar, and slightly thawed strawberries (chopped into small chunks).
  6. Combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar and spices in a bowl to start crumble.
  7. Melt butter in microwave (~30 seconds), mix in vanilla and stir.
  8. Mix butter mixture and dry crumble ingredients with a fork until well combined.
  9. Grease the inside of 4 ramekins, then spoon in apple/strawberry mixture, covering with crumble.
  10. Bake ~25 minutes.
  11. Allow to cool slightly before eating. Can also be refrigerated and served cold.

Recommend serving with vanilla ice cream.

* Frozen strawberries:  I recently found some nice, ripe strawberries on sale so I bought a few pints and froze them.  Wash and hull strawberries, then place them into a freezer safe container (I use a ziploc bag and remove the air) with a teaspoon or so of sugar.  This recipe, of course, would also be good with fresh strawberries.

This recipe would also be great for making a full sized crumble, but you'd need to adjust the proportions - for a regular sized pie dish, you'd want probably about 8 apples and maybe double the crumble recipe.  Lots of other fruits can be used as well - peaches, rhubarb, any kind of berries, etc.

Another nifty trick, for a lighter crumble, use cold butter and mix with a hand blender instead of using melted butter.  Either way, it's delicious.