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I had fantastic plans for this year’s Valentine’s Day gelatin mold – it was going to be the gelatinous exemplification of my disillusioned feelings towards this holiday, while paying tribute an amazing band that wrote at least 69 of my favorite love songs. However, since the super boozy gelatin of my imagination requires a great deal of work (including my friend Matt’s assistance in using a kitchen floor vacuum former), it will not be completed in time for V-Day. Therefore, I’m re-posting last year’s popular chocolate and strawberry panna cotta instead.

Here are some fun variations for this recipe:

  • If you are not a fan of intense dark chocolate, reduce the baking cocoa to ¼ cup.
  • Add two tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to liven things up. An orange or raspberry liqueur would nicely compliment the chocolate.
  • Replace strawberries with raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Orange or tangerine juice would work as well.
  • Instead of adding a fruit layer, make a blackberry syrup or strawberry coulis.
  • Instead of having two layers, add ¼ of pureed and strained berries to the chocolate panna cotta. Reduce heaving whipping cream to 1 ¾ cups.
  • Add a ½ cup of a flavored simple syrup (see chocolate cardamom panna cotta), reduce milk and cream by ¼ cup each.

Strawberry top layer (Recipe for 1 ¾ cups)

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries, seeds strained (NOTE: it is very important to strain the seeds! Otherwise, they will sink to the bottom of the mold, and show up on the surface. Not pretty!)

Put ¼ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 1 packet of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed strawberries. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until almost set. It should stick to your fingers when slightly touched.

 Chocolate Panna Cotta (Recipe for 2.5 cups)

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup baking cocoa powder

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ½ cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up cream and sugar. Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. If clumps of cocoa remain, strain to remove. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Refrigerate until not set, but cool. Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of hot water for a few seconds. After removing from hot water, gently shake the mold side to side. Put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process.

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Since starting this blog a year ago, the chocolate amaretto panna cotta is my most popular post. This surprises me, especially since I didn’t post a recipe. Instead I linked to one of the only chocolate panna cotta recipes I could find at the time.

Over the past year, I’ve experimented with chocolate panna cottas, and finally settled on my own recipe. No disrespect to the fine folks at William-Sonoma, but I like my recipe more. I’m happy to share it with you!

Chocolate Amaretto Panna Cotta Recipe for 2.5 cups

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup baking cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup amaretto

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ½ cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, heat up cream and sugar (do not boil). Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves, and add ¼ cup of amaretto. Strain mixture to remove cocoa powder clumps – there will be clumps!  Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Original post:

Panna cottas, like all gelatin desserts, offer a blank slate for flavor experimentations. Here I combined two of my favorite things in the world – chocolate and almonds. The chocolate creaminess and boozy almond sweetness tasted divine. This was my first attempt at a chocolate gelatin mold, and am thrilled by limitless chocolate possibilities. Oh the fun I’m going to have!

To make the chocolate amaretto panna cotta, I adapted this recipe from William-Sonoma (I substituted milk for the mascarpone and added  amaretto). While most panna cotta recipes call for straight heavy cream, I prefer substituting some of the cream with milk. I find it creates a lighter, silky texture.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I love stories about vampires. Especially the vamps of True Blood and Charlaine Harris’s addictive Sookie Stackhouse novels. Unlike vampire tales that focus on restraint, True Blood is a story of a strong southern woman entering the vampire world of visceral excess: An extravaganza of sex, blood, and southern charm. How fantastic is that?!

This gelatin isn’t the first time I experimented with gore (see Halloween Part One and Part Two). But, this is the first time I’m breaking one of my gelatin tenants: No food coloring.  While I thought long and hard about this, I figured a red velvet panna cotta warranted breaking my arbitrary rule.

This red velvet panna cotta consists of whipping cream, buttermilk, cocoa, red food dye, and bourbon – so yummingly southern! My Okie and Texan roots are proud. Oh yeah, it tastes pretty fantastic too. Just like a creamy and boozy red velvet should.

Recipe for 10 cups

Red Velvet top layer

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup whole milk for blooming gelatin
  • 2 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • Red food dye

Sprinkle the gelatin on top of 1 cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up cream, buttermilk, and sugar. Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. Once sugar and cocoa dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves.  Strain mixture to remove powdered cocoa clumps – and there will be clumps! Next, stir in red food dye until desired color is achieved – I added a lot. Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate until almost set. It should stick to your fingers when slightly touched.

Bourbon and Cream bottom layer

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup whole milk for blooming
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla (or to taste)

Sprinkle gelatin on top of 1 cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up cream and sugar. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in vanilla and bourbon. Refrigerate until not set, but cool. Spoon into mold(s) as the second layer. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Instead of Valentine’s Day, this year I celebrated Galentine’s with my single girlfriends. We considered it a celebration of the love we have in our lives – the love of our friends. This chocolate and cardamom panna cotta with a strawberry layer on top was the end to a decadent and labor-intensive meal consisting of super fancy cheese and homemade raviolis.

Chocolate and cardamom – where do I begin? As my friend Laura said, “The chocolate and cardamom are having babies in my mouth!” The mellow cardamom complimented the rich chocolate – it made the dark chocolate seem almost darker. But in a good way. The addition of the thin strawberry layer on top brightened the intense dark chocolate creaminess.

Here are a few yummy variations for this recipe:

  • If you are not a fan of intense dark chocolate, reduce the baking cocoa to ¼ cup.
  • Add two tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to liven things up. An orange or raspberry liqueur would compliment the cardamom and chocolate.
  • Replace strawberries with raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Orange or tangerine juice would work as well.
  • Instead of adding a fruit layer, make a raspberry or strawberry coulis.

Recipe for Cardamom Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-Tbsp. whole cardamom pods

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add cardamom pods. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning, strain the syrup and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

We added cardamom simple syrup and strawberries to our glasses of Cava – it was fantastic!

Chocolate and Cardamom Panna Cotta with Strawberry layer

Strawberry top layer (Recipe for 1 ¾ cups)
  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries, seeds strained (NOTE: it is very important to strain the seeds! Otherwise, they will sink to the bottom of the mold, and show up on the surface. Not pretty!)

Put ¼ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 1 packet of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed strawberries. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until almost set. It should stick to your fingers when slightly touched.

Chocolate and Cardamom Panna Cotta (Recipe for 2.5 cups)
  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cardamom simple syrup
  • ½ baking cocoa powder

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¼ cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up cream, sugar, cardamom simple syrup. Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Refrigerate until not set, but cool. Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Oh the holidays! I realize I’m posting these recipes post-holiday feeding frenzy, but darn I’ve been busy…

Since November I’ve been experimenting with pumpkin panna cottas – while most tasted alright, they never turned out the way I wanted. Even the mold seen here turned out strange – notice how some cream separated from the pumpkin? Oh well – it still tasted good.

I finally decided to let go of my nagging pumpkin panna cotta perfectionism and post my favorite – Cardamom Pumpkin with Cognac. To create this mold, I adapted this Mark Bittman recipe published in the New York Times by adding a cardamom simple syrup and cognac. By the way, have I mentioned how much I adore cardamom? It’s a shame many American’s have yet to discover what South Asians have known for centuries – cardamom is a distinctly lovely spice that takes deserts to an entirely different level of, well, spicy fantasticness. The combination of cardamom, pumpkin, cream, and cognac tasted like a unique boozy pumpkin pie without the crust.

Recipe for Cardamom Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-Tbsp. whole cardamom pods

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add cardamom pods. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning strain the syrup and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Recipe for 4-cups

  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • ½ cup cardamom simple syrup (see above)
  • ¼ cup Cognac (a nice brandy will also work here)

In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¾ cup milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. Using a blender, blend the cardamom simple syrup, cream, pumpkin, and cognac. After blending, put mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat (Do not boil). Once steam starts to come off of pumpkin mixture, pour the mixture into the bowl with gelatin and milk. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Pour into mold(s), and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Like many pop-culture junkies of my generation, I never get tired of watching “The Big Lebowski.” The 1998 Ethan and Joel Coen film has spawned multiple books, an annual festival, academic works, and even a religion called “dudeism.” The main character in the movie (“The Dude”) drinks White Russians, so when I made this White Russian gelatin mold for our friend Lynn’s birthday, the name seemed obvious.

White Russians consist of coffee-flavored liqueur, vodka, and cream. To create this gelatin mold, I used my basic panna cotta recipe (minus vanilla bean) and added vodka and Kahlúa. I also created a version with sweetened condensed milk (see below). Personally, I preferred the less sweet panna cotta version, but several of my friends liked the sweetened condensed milk more. Both versions tasted like a White Russian ordered at a bar.

The molds seen here are especially fantastic. I purchased the star mold at my favorite Austin vintage store (Room Service Vintage), and my friend Christie purchased the flower mold at a Tulsa estate sale.

Recipe (panna cotta version) approx 3 cups

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup Kahlúa
  • ½ cup vodka

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¼ cup milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan heat up cream and sugar (do not boil). Once sugar dissolves, pour cream over the bloomed gelatin and milk. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in Kahlúa and vodka, and spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Recipe (sweetened condensed milk version) 5.25 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ cup water (for heating)
  • 1 cup vodka
  • ½ cup Kahlúa
  • 2 cups sweetened condensed milk

Sprinkle the gelatin on top of 1 cup of water. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan heat up ¾ cup of water and vodka (do not boil). Once heated, pour water and vodka over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and Kahlúa, and spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Saffron, one of the world’s most precious spices, provides a fragrant elegance to panna cottas. Combined with lemon zest (and no booze), this yellow-hued creamy fantasticness reminded me of the many Indian desserts I’ve enjoyed over the years. Here I paired the panna cotta with a blackberry syrup I adapted from my personal cooking bible, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. As much as my friends and I enjoyed the saffron panna cotta, we relished in the blackberry syrup. I served it on my morning bowl of oatmeal for a week.

Recipe for 2.5 cups

Adpated from this recipe by Gina DePalma

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • Zest of ½ lemon

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¼ cup milk. Set aside. In a small saucepan heat up cream, sugar, saffron, and lemon zest. Once sugar dissolves, set aside pan and let the saffron and lemon zest steep for 10-minutes. Strain the cream mixture to remove saffron and zest, and reheat until warm. Once warm, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Blackberry Syrup (adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

Combine blackberries, cornstarch, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until syrup thickens. Strain, if desired. Spoon over set panna cotta.

Panna cottas, like all gelatin desserts, offer a blank slate for flavor experimentations. Here I combined two of my favorite things in the world – chocolate and almonds. The chocolate creaminess and boozy almond sweetness tasted divine. This was my first attempt at a chocolate gelatin mold, and am thrilled by limitless chocolate possibilities. Oh the fun I’m going to have!

To make the chocolate amaretto panna cotta, I adapted this recipe from William-Sonoma (I substituted milk for the mascarpone and added  amaretto). While most panna cotta recipes call for straight heavy cream, I prefer substituting some of the cream with milk. I find it creates a lighter, silky texture.

Panna cotta, Italian for cooked cream, is an ancient dessert similar to the blancmange. Modern day panna cottas typically contain cream, milk, sugar, gelatin, and a vanilla bean with fruit syrup or sauce drizzled on top. This deceptively simple combination of ingredients can result in rich and creamy delightfulness.

The panna cotta seen here consists of heavy cream, whole milk, one vanilla bean, bloomed gelatin, and Lemoncello. The raspberry sauce has fresh raspberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice. The cream and vanilla bean merged into an ivory yumminess I’ve only experienced in fine ice creams, while the lemoncello and raspberry sauce tempered the creamy richness.

Recipe for 2.5 cups

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons lemoncello (or other fruit liqueur)
  • Raspberry Sauce:
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries, puréed, seeds strained
  • Powered sugar, to taste
  • Lemon juice, to taste

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ½ cup milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan heat up cream, sugar, and vanilla seeds (do not boil). Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in lemoncello, and spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

For raspberry sauce, combine pureed raspberries with seeds strained with sugar and lemon juice. Spoon over the set panna cotta.

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