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 and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

February was a whirlwind of month with lots of baking projects going on, and while I actually completed this challenge a few days before the deadline I got a case of Oscar fever and completely forgot about posting until now. This month’s challenge was to make a creamy Panna Cotta along with a batch of Florentine Cookies. Our host gave us recipes for a vanilla and chocolate Panna Cotta. We were encouraged to play around with these base recipes and challenged to get creative with how we garnished them. I wanted to do a vegan version, so I set out to find a recipe that would work with what ingredients I had on hand. I got super stoked when I saw a recipe for a soy milk Panna Cotta in the Great Chefs Cook Vegan cookbook. I don’t usually keep soy milk around, so I used what I had on hand, which in this case was hemp milk. The reason this is important to note, is that while the recipe for the panna cotta set up nicely and tasted good, there was a little bit of an issue with how it looked. I’m not sure what happened, but it looked like the hemp milk had separated so there was a bit of a “cloudy” look to the final Panna Cotta. I don’t know if this occurred due to the particular brand of hemp milk I used or the fact that it wasn’t soy or something else entirely (perhaps liquid from the fresh fruit?), but it was a little disappointing to say the least. The Florentine recipe I used however was excellent, and they came out quite tasty. For the decorations I chose to make little agar agar fruit jellies inspired by Nature Insider. These turned out awesome and were quite the hit at the dinner table.

Since I’m late and pressed for time, I’m just going to provide the links to the recipes I used along with any alterations I may have made.

Soy Milk Panna Cotta from Great Chefs Cook Vegan
As previously mentioned, I used hemp milk in place of the soy milk. I also used 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean. I threw in some fresh fruit into the glass before pouring in the Panna Cotta, and I would probably omit that next time. I figured they would sink, but some stayed right up at the top and just didn’t look all that attractive.

Florentine Cookies from Strawberry Pepper
I omitted the orange zest and used whole wheat flour in place of the all-purpose. I also chose to use the chocolate to sandwich the cookies together, rather than drizzle it on top.

Fruit Jellies from Nature Insider
Instead of water, I made a half batch (which is more than you need) of the vanilla muscat sauce included with the Panna Cotta recipe and used that as the liquid. I did not add any additional sweetener, but if I were to do it again I would definitely add some. Granted, I neglected to taste the sauce before adding the agar-agar, but once they were set they were not very sweet at all.

It still needs some work, but maybe one day it will turn into something a little more visually appealing.

If you are interested in the original challenge recipes you can download them in a printable PDF here.

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