May 13, 2012

Apple Mint Panna Cotta

Apple Mint Panna Cotta

Both my parents and my in-laws have really pretty, food-producing gardens.  My parents' garden is full of apples, potatoes, rhubarb, and beans, and my in-laws have zucchini, watermelon, and garlic chives.  I really enjoy both gardens, and I especially love baking and cooking with the fruits and vegetables that start popping out of them in the spring.

We celebrated Mother's Day for my mom a day early this year.  I decided to make Mom some mint panna cotta using the apple mint that seems to have taken over a large portion of her garden.

Apple blossoms and apple mint in my parents' garden.

Since I was using apple mint, I thought it might be appropriate to garnish the panna cotta with some crystallized blossoms from the flowering apple tree.  I'd been itching to try this ever since I read Brave Tart's post on crystallizing cherry blossoms.  I used meringue powder mixed with water instead of egg whites because I know Mom doesn't like raw eggs.  It was somewhat time-consuming to paint the entire blossom with powder and water, but they turned out very pretty.  Make sure you store them on parchment paper!  I failed to do this, and a couple of my flowers stuck and crumbled when I tried to lift them.

Apple Mint Panna Cotta

I was surprised to learn that my mom had never had panna cotta before.  It's surprisingly easy to make, but it seems like the only times I've had it have been in fancy restaurants - not homemade.  My mom, my husband, and I really liked the strong minty flavor in this panna cotta.  My dad and sister, however, could not stand it, and wouldn't take more than one exploratory bite.  I didn't know that my dad does not like mint and my sister doesn't like apple mint.  So, make sure you like mint before attempting this recipe!

Apple Mint Panna Cotta

Apple Mint Panna Cotta
Adapted from The New Best Recipe cookbook and  Brave Tart's Mint Julep Panna Cotta recipe.

3 cups heavy cream
1 ounce apple mint leaves, washed and chopped
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup whole milk
2 ¾ teaspoons unflavored gelatin (I used  2 ⅝ teaspoons because I prepared these the night before)
6 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt

  1. In a saucepan, combine the cream, mint, and vanilla.  Bring the mixture to a simmer. Shut off the heat and allow the mixture to steep for an hour.  Strain into a medium bowl.
  2. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.
  3. Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk in a saucepan and let stand 10 minutes.
  4. Heat the milk/gelatin over high heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved (a thermometer should register135).  Off the heat, add the sugar and salt.  Stir until dissolved, about 1 minute.
  5. Stirring constantly, slowly pour the cream into the saucepan of milk.  Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and set the bowl over the ice-water bath.  Stir frequently until the mixture thickens.
  6. Strain the mixture again into a large measuring cup or pitcher, then divide it evenly among the ramekins.  Chill them until firm (approximately four hours).
  7. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate.
Apple Mint Syrup
From Brave Tart's Mint Julep Panna Cotta recipe.

5 ounces sugar
3 ounces water
1 ounce apple mint leaves, washed and chopped
green food coloring (optional)

  1. Combine all of the ingredients together in a small pan. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. 
  2. Shut off the heat and steep for an hour or until the syrup has a strong mint flavor. Tint with a touch of green food coloring if desired. 
  3. Strain out the mint leaves and refrigerate until cold.
  1. Spoon a little syrup over each panna cotta.
  2. Garnish with mint leaves or crystallized apple blossoms.

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