Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Panna Cotta & Florentine Cookies

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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  and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Let me tell you, as daring and fun as this adventure was, most of all, it was easy.  A snap.  Easy as pie.  A piece of cake.

Let’s start with the panna cotta.  Panna cotta is the result of what would happen if jello and pudding got together and had a love child.  It is cold and creamy but also has more body than creme brule.  Panna cotta is elegant enough to serve as a dinner party dessert–and yes, easy enough to actually make from scratch.

The party gets started by softening some unflavored gelatin in water.  And this is about where I diverged from the original challenge.  The original recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis.  Now, I like Giada just fine (and TD likes her considerably more than just fine).  But, I sort of had an itch for coconut panna cotta.  So, that’s what I made.

While the gelatin was…wait for it…gelling, I mixed coconut milk, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together in a heavy sauce pan and heated it until just warm.  Then I mixed in the softened gelatin and whisked until everything was combined.

After this, the mixture went into glasses and then into the fridge.

That’s all.  Seriously.

Really, I promise.  That’s it.  With the panna cotta cooling, I turned my attention to the florentine portion of the challenge.

Well, first I made an offering to the Kitchen God.

Since I had already gone a different direction with the panna cotta, I figured why not continue with the florentine.  Still feeling tropical, I added shredded coconut and some chopped macadamia nuts to the cookie’s dry ingredients.

The method for this cookie is really fun.  After mixing together the dry ingredients, butter is melted in a sauce pan.  Once melted, you dump in the dry ingredients et voila!  Instance cookie dough.

These cookies spread very thinly.  Not wanting giant florentines, I spooned scant teaspoons of dough on to parchment-lined baking sheets leaving plenty of room in between each.

Once they come out of the oven, let them cool and harden on the parchment.  When ready to fill, match the cookies up, flip them over and gently fill with melted chocolate.  I used both bittersweet and white.

By the time I filled sandwiched the last florentine, the panna cotta was set-up. I also added a thin layer of lime gelee to the top of the panna cotta.  I just couldn’t help putting the lime in the coconut.

It’s almost like being in Hawaii.  Almost.

Coconut Panna Cotta

Reprinted in the LA Times, December 10, 2003.  Original source: Hawaiian Cooks, Roy Yamaguchi, Ten Speed Press

Total time: 15 minutes, plus 4 hours chilling time

Servings: 6

  • 2 envelopes granular gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In a small bowl, combine the gelatin with the water until softened.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk, cream, sugar and vanilla. Place over medium heat and warm until hot to the touch (about 110 degrees). Add the gelatin and stir until dissolved.
  3. Pour into 6 (6-ounce) ramekins or custard cups. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, or until set.

Lime Gelee

Recipe by Daniel Boulud

  • 1 t unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C fresh lime juice
  • 1 t lime zest
  • Food coloring if your husband says the first uncolored batch doesn’t look limey enough
  1. In a small cup, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 tablespoon of cold water and let stand until softened.  Fill a medium bowl half full of ice water.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of water and simmer over moderate heat just until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove sugar syrup from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin until dissolved.  Stir in the lime juice and zest.  Set the saucepan in the ice water bath and stir until the gelee has cooled.  If you have any gelatin clumps, strain mixture.  Pour into desired serving cups and chill until set.

Coconut Macadamia Nut Florentine Cookies

Adapted from Nestle Classic Recipes

  • 2/3 C (150 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 C (160 grams) quick oats
  • 1/2 C  (100 grams) shredded coconut
  • 1/2 C (150 grams) chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 C (240 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 C (95 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 ounces chocolate (you pick–milk, white, bittersweet etc)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1. Melt butter in medium saucepan, remove from heat.
  2. To the melted butter add oats, coconut, nuts, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla and salt, mix well.
  3. Drop teaspoons-full (for about a 4 inch cookie) of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 3 inches apart.  Flatten dough with back of spoon.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.  Cool completely on parchment paper.
  5. Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave.
  6. Peel cookies from parchment (they should be delicate but hard), match them and flip cookies over.
  7. Spread a tablespoon of melted chocolate over one-half of each pair.  Top with each cookie’s mate.

6 thoughts on “Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Panna Cotta & Florentine Cookies”

  1. WOW I just the colour of the layers you got on the panna cotta and lime and coconut is superb and your Florentine cookies are the best I have seen so far on this challenge so so so thin and crisp well done on this challenge.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. This is a SERIOUS dessert, like one you might find in a restaurant. Very impressed. And I love this combination of “flavor profiles” as they say on Top Chef (god help me).

  3. You can never have too much Top Chef. Well, unless it’s Marcel, but that’s just my opinion. This “flavor profile” will make another appearance on TMH near the end of April in cake form.

  4. Wow, your panna cotta is AMAZING!
    Great idea to pair it with lime and the lime layer with this vibrant green is amazing!
    So great! 🙂
    Great idea to do florentine cookies with coconut, that’s what I wanted to try next 🙂

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