07 March 2011

Florentines Cookies & Panna Cotta

florentine cookies and coquelicot panna cotta

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.

A true cookies and cream combination!  Silky panna cotta, served alongside a chewy oatmeal sandwich cookie filled with rich chocolate.... sounds like the perfect coffee break indulgence to me.  I was immediately curious about Giada's panna cotta recipe, and if it was closer to the thick, velvety strawberry panna cotta hubby and I tasted in Sausalito, or like the thinner, wobbly nectarine-basil panna cotta I made after we got home.  One thing I knew for sure, it wouldn't take long to make.  As for the florentines, I was surprised to see they were what I have always known as Lace Cookies, something completely different from the thicker, caramel and almond treat with a shortbread base, dipped in chocolate.  Regardless, it's a new recipe to me, as I've never made either one - and you know how I like to try new recipes!

Coquelicot Panna Cotta with an extra drizzle of syrup

I whipped up the panna cotta, knowing full well that it needs hours of chill-and-set time in the fridge before it can be served, whereas cookies are always better when they're warm and fresh.  Given the fact that winter still has a vice-grip hold on this part of the world, fresh nectarines were out of the question, so I dipped into my stash of edible souvenirs that I managed to fit in my luggage from my recent trip through Europe; chocolate, chocolate, pistachio nougatine, french butter, more chocolate, french mustards, bacon flavoured potato chips for hubby, violet sugar, dutch caramels.... bingo!  The bottle of sirop de coquelicot that I picked up in a gourmet market in Dublin!  When I purchased this syrup, the translator part of my brain was on strike after being in so many countries, each with a different language, so I couldn't immediately remember what coquelicot was (it's French for poppy).  I bought it anyway, knowing I'd be able to find a use for it.  When I returned home and Shannon & her hubby came over one evening, she and I were poking through these treats, and started opening bottles, smelling and tasting the latest additions to my pantry.  She cracked the seal on this small bottle of syrup, inhaled deeply and her eyes opened wide, "Ooh, smell this! It smells like cream soda!"  I took a whiff, and could almost feel the carbonated bubbles of sweet pink cream soda on my tongue.  We pondered the possibility that cream soda was in fact poppy soda, but we were wrong - turns out cream soda is actually vanilla flavoured, though poppy seems far more accurate to me.  Faced with still-unflavoured panna cotta for dessert, I found the syrup and knew the pairing would be perfect.  After all, if it smells and tastes like cream soda, it must taste good with cream!

sirop de coquelicot...  poppies are delicous!
I added about a tablespoon of poppy syrup to the warm cream base and tasted... nothing.  Another tablespoon and then another.... before I knew it, I had poured in almost the entire bottle (don't panic - it was a pretty small bottle), but the flavour was finally coming through.  That said, this recipe makes an enormous amount of panna cotta, a half-batch would have been more than enough.  I poured the custard into cups and put them in the fridge to chill for a few hours and got to work on the cookies.

florentine batter - so simple!

Having never made florentines before, I didn't know how labour-intensive they might be, but as I read the recipe through, I was surprised at how little work they seemed to be.  I read the recipe through a couple more times, just to be sure I hadn't missed anything, and got started.  In about 5 minutes, I had the first batch of cookies in the oven and immediately sent a text to my sister, who has very little patience for complicated or time-consuming recipes.  She'd love these - there weren't even very many dirty dishes, just one saucepan and a cookie sheet or two.  I took a peek at the oven to see how the cookies were doing and found the only problem I had with this recipe.... if you try to bake 12 cookies on one sheet like you do with most cookies, you actually end up with one very large, rectangular florentine.  Ok, lesson learned.  When I took them out of the oven, I let them cool slightly and then cut them into cookie-sized squares before they set up too much.  For the next batch, I put only 6 spoons of batter on the cookie sheet, and they turned out perfectly.  After that, it was just a matter of melting some dark chocolate and spreading a thin layer on the underside of half the cookies.  Topped with a second cookie and allowed to cool, I had a stack of beautiful florentines in no time.

almost ready.....

sweet, chewy and chocolatey
As for the recipes, my only advice would be to cut the panna cotta recipe in half, unless you have at least 12 people to serve, and portion out smaller amounts of the cookie batter than you normally would with other cookies.  Using the same #70 disher I usually use for cookies turned out florentines that were a full 4-inches in diameter, but these cookies are so rich that one cookie is more than enough to tackle a sweets-craving.  Less is more in this case.

There you have it.  I am attaching the recipes as posted by our host Mallory so you can give these both a try.

Oh, and on a final note, this still isn't the velvety panna cotta of Sausalito... much closer to the wobbly version I made before, but it still tastes divine!

Happy baking!

Giada's Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ 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 refrigerator 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!

Nestle Florentine Cookies

Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). 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. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
  4. 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).
  5. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
  6. 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).


Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

What amazing texture contrasts! I like that you can see the chocolate peeping through in that stack of florentines.

Hazel said...

Sweet, chewy and chocolatey sounds pretty perfect to me! I agree with Brittany above, an amazing contrast of textures with the panna cotta and florentines. After reading how you said they are surprisingly little work, I may try making some florentines myself!

Jackie Cooks said...

Love, love,love it! Nice idea to combine two florentines, haven't seen that before

Turmeric n Spice said...

Absolutely love the lace cookies, love the crunchy look of it

Gluten Free Biscuits said...

The combinations looks delicious. It looks like crunchy and sweet but I think this is something chewy. I think I have to try this.

delicacies said...

It's incredible! Every part of the Cookies and the Panna Cotta looks so yummy. And the combination of the two is so perfect! I love it!

Jonas Abuhan said...

That florentines & panna cotta was incredible..,maybe it will be look pleasant when you prepare in a formal dining room and it make that in wooden kitchen it will be great and beautiful to look that recipe.

dining tables and chairs