Daring Bakers Panna Cotta: Greek Honey Ginger with Caramelized Pears

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.

I chose to make a diet version of the recipe, substituting nonfat Greek yogurt for the cream, plus agar instead of the gelatin. I used honey flavored yogurt, and added a bit of candied ginger and vanilla bean paste. The panna cotta is topped with honey roasted pears in a orange caramel reduction.

For the panna cotta, I cut down the recipe to make two servings, using a 6 ounce container of Chobani Honey yogurt and 2/3 cup nonfat milk.  The milk was heated with 1 Tbl. of agar flakes until the agar melted. Then I folded in the yogurt, plus 1/4 tsp. vanilla bean paste, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 packets of Splenda, and chopped candied ginger (1/4″ piece, minced, was folded into the mixture, and another 1/4″ piece was chopped and sprinkled on top). The mixture was divided between two ramekins and chilled in the fridge.

For the topping, I sliced a pear and drizzled it with honey (about 1 Tbl.) and some water (about 4 Tbl.). This roasted for about an hour at 425 degrees. You need to toss the pears a bit as they roast to keep them moistened by the caramelizing sauce. For the orange caramel sauce, I tossed the roasted pears with some orange juice and boiled the juice down until it was thick.

The result? The mixture was smooth and creamy before the agar set up, but the agar set quite firmly, and gave the panna cotta an almost crumbly texture. The flavor was excellent, but I would think that either much less agar or using gelatin would be better for getting the creamy, delicate texture of panna cotta. I think that Ko-Jel might also be a good bet for getting a more delicate set.

I made the cookies completely separately–not diet food! My father is a huge fan, so I made them mostly for him. He usually orders this kind of cookie from the bakery, but these are much better, even made with Earth’s Best Margarine instead of butter and with rice milk instead of milk. I added a blob of shortening to the melted chocolate to make it flow better and so it would set up softer (I was using semisweet chips, which gets hard when it sets up,  instead of milk chocolate called for in the recipe, which never gets particularly hard.)

These are very thin, translucent cookies:

See how thin they are, even when sandwiched together with chocolate?

6 Responses to “Daring Bakers Panna Cotta: Greek Honey Ginger with Caramelized Pears”

  1. Lauren Says:

    I bet the flavor would have been sooo much better with Greek yogurt instead of cream–I love Fage Total with honey but did not like the panna cotta (which I made as written). Paul and I both adored the Florentines, though. I used semisweet chocolate, too.

  2. carlysulli Says:

    I used Greek yogurt for the panna cotta challenge as well and was really pleased with the results! Now I feel a little less guilty for indulging🙂 The caramelized pears sound delicious!

  3. Aparna Says:

    Your panna cotta looks good and those florentines are perfect. Wish mine had turned out lacy too. And I need to try the “diet” version next. All that cream is nice on the tongue but not elsewhere inside me.🙂

  4. Jeanne Says:

    I’ll have to give agar another shot (or just try Ko-Jel next time)! I do like the sound of the Greek yogurt panna cotta. And your cookies came out so thin and lacy!

  5. Irvin Says:

    I’m obsessed with greek honey flavored yogurt so your panna cotta sounds fantastic! And the additional caramelized pears sound wonderful too! Great flavors!

  6. pragmaticattic Says:

    Thanks everyone for the nice comments!

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