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?