Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pumpkin Cherry Compote and Pumpkin-Caramel Sauce

This is probably one of the most involved desserts I have ever made. It’s not often I make something I’ve never made before plus a compote I’ve never made before PLUS a caramel sauce I’ve never made before. But it was all worth it just because it was that amazing.

I love panna cotta, but gelatin freaks me out. I think it’s just a creepy product in general. I had some at Ciao Vito the other day for happy hour and it was so tasty I thought that maybe I should do that for Thanksgiving instead of pie. For whatever reason, I decided to go pie free this year. I think it worked out. Anyway, on my search for a panna cotta recipe, I was getting a little frustrated with all the gelatin in it when I found this one, which uses agar flakes instead. Agar agar is derived from seaweed and is completely vegetarian and not creepy. It’s also better than gelatin as far as being able to reset it by reboiling the liquid. Yeah, rad. So while that recipe did use agar flakes, I didn’t want to use whole milk and buy vanilla beans, so I searched some more and found this recipe. Combining the new one, with tips from the first one, and advice from this website, I got a solid panna cotta recipe. Good deal.

But you can’t just have panna cotta! You need some sort of fruit thing and a sauce. So I searched from pumpkin recipes on epicurious.com, as there would be no pumpkin pie, and found this compote and this sauce and as a result, made a dessert. I made all three the day before Thanksgiving and I think it worked out really well. It’s also really easy to veganize. Just replace the heavy cream with soy cream for the panna cotta and the sauce and oil based margarine for the butter in the compote and sauce.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pumpkin Cherry Compote and Pumpkin-Caramel Sauce from my brain and David Lebovitz as well as Gourmet and Bon Appétit via epicurious.com:

Serves 6 and makes a ton of extra compote and sauce

For the panna cotta:
4 c. heavy cream
½ c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4½ Tb. agar flakes
6 Tb. cold water

For the compote:
½ c. dried tart cherries
2 Tb. unsalted butter
½ c. packed brown sugar
¼ c. granulated sugar
2 Tb. lemon juice
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
2 c. fresh pumpkin (preferably sugar or cheese pumpkin), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

For the sauce:
¼ c. unsalted butter
½ c. sugar
1 c. heavy whipping cream
½ c. canned pure pumpkin

Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan. Once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the vanilla extract. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, lightly oil six cups with a neutral-tasting oil. Sprinkle the agar over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 10 minutes.

Whisk in agar and simmer, whisking, until completely dissolved, about 15 minutes. Cool panna cotta slightly. Pour into glasses and chill until set, at least 2 hours.

To make the compote, deal with your pain of a pumpkin first. Seriously, peeling, seeding, and dicing a pumpkin is ridiculously involved. It took me forever and probably would have taken longer if I hadn’t remembered my mini-prep food processor part way in. After that is all set, soak cherries in hot water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes, then drain.

Melt butter in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add sugars, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt, then cook, stirring until smooth. Add pumpkin and drained cherries and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until pumpkin is tender, 8 to 12 minutes.

The sauce is really easy, but kind of weird. I’ve never made caramels or caramel sauce, so this was all new to me. Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cook until mixture is deep amber, stirring constantly, about 8 minutes. The mixture will be grainy. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add cream. It was at this point that my caramel mixture became solid and freaked me out. It says in the original recipe that the mixture will bubble, but that took a little while. Stir until caramel bits dissolve, about 2 minutes. Add pumpkin and stir until heated. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

To assemble, run a sharp knife around the edge of each panna cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate. Drizzle with sauce (I took mine out a little before serving) and scoop on compote.

I thought that this was ridiculously delicious. The panna cotta was a little more solid that I would have liked, but for my first time making it and messing with a couple of different recipes, I thought it came out rather well. The compote was sweet, but not too sweet and the sauce was just dang delicious. I may never make the compote again just because of how difficult it was to deal with that pumpkin, but I might modify it with apple or something like that. This is such a pretty dessert and I’d love to show it off again.


Renai said...

OH MY GOD. My mouth just died from jealousy. You are AMAZING.

MissyJ said...

I have been cooking with tart cherries for the past six months. They are a great addition to any of the recipes I have used them. They add a good zing to the taste. I recently discovered a free tart cherry book (with tart cherry recipes). It is a good book and best of all it is free. It is called Tart Cherry Health Report. You can get it from Traverse Bay Farms. It has a number of cherry juice , fresh cherry recipes and more. Best all it is free.

Becca said...

Thanks Renai!

MissyJ, that sounds fantastic. Thanks for the heads up!

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