Panna cotta is a close relation of the blancmange of France; whereas panna cotta is thickened with gelatin, blancmange typically relies on cornstarch. Pure, subtle and delicate. They vanish in front of our eyes and melt in our mouths.
She collaborates and writes assiduously through her popular column for Food52. Her blog has received many accolades and mentions. Now, in her new and stimulating premiere cookbook The Sweeter off the Vine, Arefi emphasizes recipes “written with peak-season fruit in mind,” transforming heirloom seasonal fruits into mouthwatering desserts to which Arefi impresses her personal style of baking.
Recounting her life as a kid living in this very region – the Pacific Northwest – which is known for the abundance of berries growing wildly in the bushes, she remembers her parents’ lessons, teaching her to only pick the berries that slid easily from their stems. Both her parents loved to garden. Both of her parents are avid cooks.
She vows: “my dad cooked just as often, mostly savory dishes from his homeland of Iran. He introduced me to the flavors of Middle Eastern cooking that have become so comforting to me as an adult.”
Her love for baking began at home at the hand of her mom, and after moving to New York from the place I call home – Seattle -, she envisioned transforming her home-cooking skills into professional ones, but realized upon graduating from college that taking on a heavier financial burden to attend culinary school was not the best choice at the time. She took a job at a restaurant and looked for a way into the kitchen. When a position to bake opened up, she convinced her boss that she was up for the job and could handle the kitchen; he gave her the chance.
She enjoyed the job for many years, the sweet smells of baking, sugar and rustic ovens. She remembers those years with nostalgia: “I had burns all over my arms from the broken oven doors that swung closed unexpectedly…but learned how to make the best buttery pie crust and tall, frosting-covered layer cakes… I loved the work.”
The book is divided into seasons, where I found Chamomile Honey Panna Cotta in the Spring chapter. I stopped, bookmarked it, and went to my pantry to gather gelatin, chamomile flowers, honey and vanilla. The recipe optionally calls for bee pollen, which I did not have at hand. Later that day, I drove to the natural products section at a local store and found it. I was intrigued by it, as this was the first time I would use it in baking. It holds an intense and fresh scent of honey. So fresh.
I returned home to prepare the chamomile-infused cream and to finish up the recipe.
I divided the panna cottas into six ramekins and refrigerated them for over 4 hours. Once set, I photographed a few, before three found their way to our dinner table. Arefi suggests garnishing them with finely chopped pistachios, and dusting them with a few grains of gorgeous bee pollen, which I used with excitement.
If you have the time to shop for bee pollen, I can’t stress enough how special (and nutritious) it is. Just a few grains on top of each panna cotta rounds out the recipe, highlighting the excellent paring of freshly-infused chamomile flowers, clover honey and the bright yellow-orange bee pollen. Hope you enjoy them!
Until we meet again very soon!
The book trailer follows below.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ½ cup fresh chamomile flowers, stems and leaves removed, or 2 chamomile tea bags
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
- ¼ cup mild flavored honey, like clover or wildflower
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup chopped pistachios, to serve
- 2 tbsp bee pollen to serve (optional)
- Lightly grease six ramekins with a paper towel dipped in a bit of canola or grape seed oil. Heat the cream in a saucepan set over medium heat until just barely simmering. Add the chamomile flowers and turn off the heat and let sleep for 20 minutes.Strain the cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and reserve.
- Pour the milk into a clean saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top, but do not stir. let the gelatin soften until the grains look wet and like they are beginning to dissolve, about 5 minutes. After the gelatin has bloomed, warm the milk and gelatin over very low heat whisking occasionally, until the gelatin dissolves, 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to le the mixture bubble or simmer, which will inhibit the gelatin's ability to set.
- Whisk in the honey vanilla, and salt. Add the chamomile infused cream and whisk to combine. Dive the mixture among the ramekin and chill them in the refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours and up to overnight. If you are going to leave them overnight, cover each ramekin with plastic wrap.
- To unmold the panna cottas, run a think knife around the top edge of each ramekin o release the sides, and invert it onto a plate; you may have to shake the ramekin gently to get the panna cotta to release onto the plate. Top each panna cotta with sprinkle of chopped pistachios and a dusting of bee pollen.
I have received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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