Thursday, February 5, 2009

Things I made a while ago: Butterscotch bars and panna cotta

I made both of these awhile ago, I'm a slacker and am just getting around to posting these guys.

The first one is honey-yogurt panna cotta. Panna cotta is a very delicate molded custard, it is basically the closest you can come to eating heavy whipping cream without feeling like you're eating heaving whipping cream. But shh, don't tell my thighs.

I'd made panna cotta once before, last year when I was stranded in Joe's apartment and lived in the common area in a bathrobe while making Joe's roommate's vaguely uncomfortable for two days. It's a long story. But Joe wouldn't be back for another day and since all of my belongings were locked in his room until he returned, the only thing I could think of doing was to commander their kitchen and bake all day. I think I made various custards and cookies and only stopped when I had used all their sugar and eggs.

I was interested in a particular recipe from The Sweet Life because it lightened panna cotta with strained plain yogurt and sweetened it with honey. The idea was that it was supposed to taste like a Greek version of panna cotta. Sign me up!

This was the week that I failed coddling eggs so I wasted a ton of eggs trying to make the "egg white custard" which I think may be an invention of the author because it would just NOT. WORK. On my third try I used a hand blender which either worked or hid the curdled egg whites, I couldn't tell. But it was good enough for me!

I was a bit disappointed in how they turned out, I didn't think they tasted yogurt-y enough. I ended up adding a lot more honey as well, since I didn't think it tasted strongly enough of honey. However, I made the grapefruit curd shortly after this and the panna cotta were greatly improved when smothered in grapefruit curd. Then again, just about anything is good smoothered in creamy grapefruity goodness.

I'm too lazy to steal the recipe from The Sweet Life but here's a recipe from Martha Stewart that is very similar to what I used, except it doesn't use egg whites. Which is brilliant, since you can't curdle the stupid eggs.

Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta, from Martha Stewart



Serves 8

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup honey, plus more for serving
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. Place cream and sugar in a medium saucepan. With a paring knife, split vanilla bean lengthwise; scrape out seeds, and add to cream along with empty pod (if using vanilla extract, add to yogurt mixture in step 4).
  2. Bring cream to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cover pan, remove from heat, and set aside to steep, at least 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place 1/2 cup cold water in a small bowl, and sprinkle gelatin over water; set aside to soften, at least 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk yogurt, honey, and salt until combined; set aside.
  4. Return cream to a boil. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in softened gelatin until dissolved. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into yogurt-honey mixture; mix until combined.
  5. Divide mixture among eight 4- to 6-ounce ramekins. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. To serve, unmold each panna cotta from its ramekin: Run a paring knife around the top inner edge of ramekin, then dip bottom of ramekin in a bowl of boiling water for 10 seconds. Invert ramekin onto serving plate. Holding ramekin tightly to plate, shake firmly to release panna cotta. Drizzle with honey before serving.

I also got a e-mail recently calling for volunteers for a bake sale and I jumped on the opportunity. I decided on Nutty Butterscotch and Chocolate Bars from my cookie book. And I just found the recipe online, so I don't even need to steal it from my magazine! Excellent.

Nutty Butterscotch and Chocolate Bars from Fine Cooking magazine


11-1/4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 lb. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the pan
1-3/4 cup very firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
7-1/2 oz. (1-1/4 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) sweetened coconut flakes
4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) medium-finely chopped pecans or walnuts


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt to blend. In a large bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar. With a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium until very well blended and fluffy, about 2 min. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat on medium until well blended, about another 1 min. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just blended, about 1 minute. Pour in the chocolate chips and coconut; mix on low until combined.

Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Scatter the nuts evenly over the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 40 min. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely. Cut into bars, squares, or triangles. Cover with plastic and store at room temperature for up to two days or freeze for up to one month.


Mine were actually chocolate-less since I discovered last minute that BJ had used all the chocolate chips by stirring them into his coffee. I had about three white chocolate chips that I scrounged up and added in. But honestly, I don't think the bars needed them. They were plenty sweet and I think the chocolate would be overwhelming. I DO think the walnuts are needed and I'm not usually a nut person. They added some depth to the bars, which are pretty sweet and one dimensional otherwise.

Anyways, I kept a few for us and packaged the rest for the bake sale. The secretary of the organization it was for, who is the sweetest girl ever, thanked me profusely for bringing stuff. I thought, "Pfft, are you kidding? Can you have a bake sale like three times a week so I can bake stuff and give it away every 48 hours?" but I like to hide my crazy so instead I said, "No problem!"

Still one more to play catch up: Chocolate chewies from the Super Bowl

No comments: