I was invited to a Hanukah party last night, and needed to bring a dessert that was nut-free and vegan. I wanted to bring a traditional Hanukah dessert, but soon realized I didn’t know of any. I guess I never really made it past the mountains of latkes at my family’s Hanukah celebrations. A quick search revealed that oily, fried foods like jelly-filled doughnuts are often eaten at Hanukah, but I wasn’t about to fry up a big pile of donuts to be eaten hours later. I also don’t really like jelly-filled desserts; I feel that jelly belongs at breakfast. Since I had dreidel and Star of David cookie cutters, I decided Hanukah sugar cookies would have to be traditional enough. I also got out my snowman and snowflake cookie cutters, since winter is almost here.
My next task was to find a great vegan cookie recipe. Since the cookies had to be nut-free, I soon realized it would be very hard to make them gluten-free as well. So, these cookies are a total gluten bomb. I promise to be back with more gluten-free eats very soon!
Have you ever had panna cotta? It’s a really simple Italian dessert and its name means “cooked cream”. It comes out kind of like a cross between a flan and a vanilla pudding (read: delicious).
The first panna cottas I made were delicious, but a total fail aesthetically–there wasn’t enough gelatin to unmold them in a shapely manner, and the fruit curds I layered in weren’t helping at all. But, this version is just as delicious and much nicer to look at.
Here I’ve paired panna cotta with a delicious raspberry coulis and some fresh blueberries for a special Fourth of July treat. Panna cotta is also delicious on its own, or with chocolate sauce. There are lots of other flavors of panna cotta that I’m dying to make (well, mainly mocha!) but that’s all for another day.
For now, impress your friends with this elegant and easy Independence Day dessert!
Ingredients for the panna cotta (makes 4-6 servings; adapted from David Lebovitz):
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup 2 % milk (or use all cream)
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
3 tablespoons cold water
1 packet plain gelatin
Butter for greasing ramekins
Ingredients for the raspberry coulis (makes about 1 cup):
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon kirsch or framboise liqueur
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
1 tablespoon cold water (optional)
2 cups fresh blueberries
Place the cream, milk, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean, and drop the pod in, too. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar is melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the mixture infuse for half an hour.
Lightly grease individual ramekins with a little butter if you’re planning to unmold your panna cotta to serve (this is not necessary if you plan to serve it still in the cups). If your molds hold half a cup, you will need four of them. If they’re smaller, you might be able to fill 5 or 6.
In a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Let it sit for about five minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the vanilla pod and heat the cream back up until hot. Pour the mixture (through a sieve if desired) into the bowl with the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Divide the mixture among your molds and refrigerate, covered, for at least two hours before serving. Panna cotta will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
To unmold, dip the bottom of each ramekin in hot water for ten seconds, run a thin knife around the edge, then invert onto a plate.
To make the raspberry coulis, place the raspberries, sugar, salt, and water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Strain the mixture, discarding the solids, and stir in the liqueur and vanilla. If you would like a thicker coulis, mix together 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water until smooth. Return the raspberry mixture to the saucepan, add the cornstarch paste, and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Cook and stir for one more minute, then remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature before serving with panna cotta. Store coulis in the refrigerator for up to one week or until ready to use.
To serve, invert the panna cotta onto a plate, surround with coulis, and sprinkle with fresh blueberries.