Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hostess : Daring Bakers February 2011

Nearly a year ago I was approached about hosting my very own Daring Bakers challenge. I was a little new to the game but loved it so, and there were no hosting months available for nearly a year. Sure, I thought, plenty of time. I knew immediately I wanted February. A month with a fun, colorful little holiday smack dab in the middle, the perfect excuse to challenge the bakers to make something a little dreamy, even love inspired. For the first, oh, 10 months I was set on having them whip up Charlottes. I even bought two boxes of Rose de Reims biscuits in New York for the occasion, then made, and photographed two different versions. Yet, as the challenges wore on, and my month got closer, I felt it better to give the bakers something a little lighter and a little creamier, something a bit different than what we've been baking up. It was between panna cotta & creme brulee, desserts I adore equally. After a bit of hemming and hawing I chose the panna cotta, I felt it was a bit more versatile, adaptable, and fun. Still, as I told them, we're bakers, not whiskers and chillers. So while creamy, dreamy panna cotta was divine, we needed bake something. Then it came to me, florentines, wonderous little oat cookies that spread out in a large buttery puddle upon baking, slathered with chocolate. Smooth, silky panna cotta served alongside crispy, chewy, chocolatey florentines. . . it was as if the sun shone bright and angels sang out from above. 

I'm always awe-inspired by my fellow bakers. The wonderful variations they come up with never fail to drop my jaw. Hosting this month I felt that ten-fold, what these bakers whipped together was beyond expectation, I didn't know panna cotta or florentines could be so beautiful, creative, or unique. From gorgeously tipped layers, to unique flavors and textures. To say that I was wowed does not do my amazement justice. I urge you, truly, to seek the bakers blogs out and marvel at the wonder they've created, they put my vanilla bean strawberry panna cotta and milk chocolate stuffed florentines to shame! 

Thank you everyone who participated, encouraged one another, whisked, baked and created a frenzy of beauty. I hope in the end that you enjoyed my picks, had a blast making it. Everyone was so kind, supportive, and inventive, thank you again for inspiring me and allowing me to be your hostess this February! 

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.

Giada's Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 Tablespoon (generally one packet) (15 ml)(14.3 grams) (.5 oz) powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) (14.3 grams) (.5 oz)granulated sugar
pinch of salt

1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigetor for a few minutes before you start making the panna cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage). 
3. Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin. 
5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve. 

Hope you love it!

Chocolate Panna Cotta: 
Bon Appetit


1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2  cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top, set aside for 2-5 minutes. 
2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil.
3. Add chocolate and whisk until melted. Whisk the milk/gelatin mixture into chocolate cream mixture. Whisk until gelatin has dissolved. 
4. Transfer to ramekins, or nice glasses for serving.
5. Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Nestle Florentine Cookies:


2/3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups dark or milk chocolate


Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) 
Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
2. To the melted butter add oats, sugar,  flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well.
3. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flaten slighty with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula. 
4. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets. 
5. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).
6. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire wrack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean). Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end)cookie atop the chocolate. This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).


Anonymous said...

Although I procrastinated my way through the entire month, I loved this challenge! Not sure why I'd always been scared of panna cotta, but no more! Loved, loved, loved this challenge, Mallory! Thank you for hosting!

Cheryl Harris said...

thank you for hosting such a wonderful and fun challenge, and warm wishes for a beautiful and healthy life with your beloved.

Mary said...

This was a fun one--thanks for a fabulous challenge! Love the flavor combos!

Jeanne said...

Thank you for such a fun challenge! I loved the cookies, and the panna cotta was a true challenge for me since it never set. I'll have to keep working on it till I get it right!

Simona said...

Very nice choices for the challenge: it was fun. Thank you so much!

Ruth H. said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for such a great challenge! I loved the simplicity, I loved the flexibility, and I REALLY loved the florentines! Your help and support throughout the month were greatly appreciated, and I am so glad I got to work "with" you!

Sheena said...

Thank you so much for hosting this month's challenge, Mallory! I fell in love with panna cotta and the florentines were such a nice little cookie.

LittleRed said...

I would never have though to try Panna Cotta. So glad you chose it! Thanks for hosting!

Tinygami said...

Thank you for the WONDERFUL challenge! It was perfect, fun and so delicious. I have now expanded my dessert repertoire of several cookies and two cakes I know how to make to the Panna Cotta that is almost as unusual as it is delicious! And the Florentines are so beautiful

I never would have thought I could make either!

I am going to continue making new flavors since the possibilities seem endless :D

Unknown said...

This looks like so much fun. I have been doing so much cooking alone in my kitchen. I am definitely experimenting and learning and so afraid to cook for anyone other than my family. It would be fun to be in one of these groups. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Thanks for picking such great recipes for this months challenge! I enjoyed every minute of making mine and of course eating them!

Minu said...

Thank you for a wonderful challenge. Loved it.

Renata said...

We are the ones who have to thank you! The challenge was fun, had room for lots of creativity and I'm sure everyone has learned something, even the ones who weren't making it for the first time! You were a wonderful hostess!

Simon @ the heart of food said...

Thanks for hosting the challenge. Very simple recipes but tasty results all the same.

Nice work :)

shelley c. said...

Thank you so much for hosting and preparing such a wonderful challenge for us! I was so excited to make panna cotta for the first time, and this challenge was the perfect opportunity. You really inspired such creativity in all of the Daring Bakers!! Thank you!!!!

Sarah said...

Thanks, Mallory, for a fantastic challenge. I really loved the panna cotta and I will make it many more times. I thought the cookies were an odd pairing at first but after tasting them together I thought it was genius. Thanks for hosting this month!

GrammaSusan said...

I've just gotten into this. Been following Small Town Oven. I never heard of Panna Cotta before. It looks easy and super yummy! I'll give it a try soon!

chef_d said...

Thank you for hosting this challenge!

sara @ Belly Rumbles said...

Thank you for such a wonderful challenge :)

Cakelaw said...

Thanks for hosting this month. I have never made panna cotta before, so it was another DB first for me.

Mary said...

Thanks for such a great challenge and for being a great hostess! I think any one of your three ideas would have been amazing, but I was so happy with this one.

Mary said...

Thanks for such a great challenge and for being a great hostess! I think any one of your three ideas would have been amazing, but I was so happy with this one.

creampuff said...


Congratulations! You did a faboulous job and your challenge was a tremendous success! Loved it!

Suz said...

This challenge was perfect, thank you! The panna cotta was so delicious. I'm sure I'll be making it again and again. The biscuits were lovely too. My friend tried one and declared it the best thing that had happened to her all day!

Your photos are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Wow Mallory that looks so amazing. I will have to give this a try this weekend.

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I am a little late, but wanted to thank you for choosing such a nice challenge even though I was a little hesitant about another "sweet" challenge. :)
I finally conquered agar in panna cotta and made my first florentines.

RamblingTart said...

I love the clean, smooth look of your panna cotta. :-) The colors are lovely and would be perfect for one of my family's Denmark gatherings - red and white is everything. :-)

Beth said...

Great challenge! They both look amazing!