Friday, August 11, 2006

Frâiche Summer Fruits

I’ve got flan on the brain. Or maybe sabayon. Or possibly Crème Brûlée. No, no, it’s panna cotta I’ve apparently got on the brain.

They are all sort of similar. Creamy, custardy affairs. Rich. And I keep thinking about something like that paired with some of our wonderful summer fruit.

And I had just mentioned yesterday how we made a wonderful goat cheese flan. Savory. Tasty. Perfect match for a roasted tomato soup.

I really liked the savory matched with the almost sweet tomato flavor.

And in my searches yesterday, I noticed several ideas for Crème Frâiche panna cotta. I’ve made a wonderful Crème Frâiche vanilla ice cream before. So I thought this would work just as well as a panna cotta. Sort of that just slightly tangy edge to a very rich dessert.

And in looking around for ideas on the fruit side, I came across an idea for sheets of fruit gelee, cut into shapes, and layered on top of shapes cut from a sheet of panna cotta.

This, in my mind, solves the main problem with all these custards – the eventual need to unmold the things. If you chill them in thin sheets, and cut them into desired shapes, there is no unmolding. There is no gentle tapping, or heating in warm water, or the hideous sight of the custard tearing into pieces instead of plopping out onto a plate intact like a good little dessert. In this idea, once the sheets are chilled – or frozen in the worst case scenario – the sheets can be cut into shapes using a cookie cutter or stencil, and the shapes lifted fairly easily to the serving plates. If you’re a good cutter, almost unlimited creativity is at hand in terms of stacking layers, decorative smaller shapes into of larger layers, etc.

Plus, you get the fruit / custard pairing without the complexity of trying to chill a multi-layered affair in a single dish.

So I started by reducing my watermelon. By about 50%. Till it was pretty thick. And intensely watermelon flavored. I chilled that unsweetened.

The panna cotta turned out better than I could have hoped. A wiggly, shimmering off-white layer that, despite its creamy consistency, held its shape perfectly.

And a wonderful flavor. Very subtle. The barley perceptible tang of the crème frâiche, and the subtle sweetness of the agava nectar. It worked well with the watermelon, as it has a fairly subtle flavor as well.

For the garnish, we just used slices of fruits we had on hand, and some baby basil. I think better pairings are certainly possible – maybe different types of melons such as yellow watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe instead of plums. But it seemed to work well enough.

The result was a really bold presentation effect for some nice summer fruit and a really delicious panna cotta.

And, despite the odd fact that no one here really likes dessert except me, this was universally deemed a success. Even the anti-fat police were mollified by the presence of real fruit. And the absence of sugar.

As a side note – we have eliminated sugar from our cooking. And are only using honey and agava nectar. Both natural fructose sources. But I will blog about that some other day.

Watermelon gelee with Crème Frâiche panna cotta and basil
Serves 6 to 8, depending on size of molds used
Recipe by surfindaave


For the watermelon gelee
¼ of a large seedless watermelon, cut from rind
1 packet flavorless gelatin (1.8 ounces, about 2.5 tsp)
2 tbsp cold water

For the crème frâiche panna cotta:
8 ounces Crème Frâiche
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
3 tbsp agava nectar (or 4 tbsp sugar)
1 packet flavorless gelatin (1.8 ounces, about 2.5 tsp)
2 tbsp cold water

1 plum, pit removed, sliced very thin into rounds
1 nectarine, pit removed, sliced very thin into rounds
1 pluot, pit removed, sliced very thin into rounds
Rolled and frozen basil leaves and basil flowers
Fleur de sel

For the watermelon gelee, puree the watermelon flesh in a food processor until smooth. Place the puree in a heavy pot and reduce over high heat until about 2 ro 2 ½ cups of liquid remain. Soften 1 packet of gelatin in the 2 tbsp of cold water for 5 minutes. Stir the softened gelatin into the watermelon puree until dissolved. Pour the puree through a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on the solids, and let the puree cool completely. Discard the solids. When cooled, pour the puree into a 12”x9” sheet pan lined with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator until completely set, at least three hours. Using a mold or stencil of your choice (square, round, etc.) cut the gelee into shapes using a sharp knife. Carefully transfer the gelee shapes to a plate lines with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to assemble.

For the crème frâiche panna cotta, soften 1 packet of gelatine in the 2 tbsp cold water. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the crème frâiche, cream, milk and nectar just to a boil, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and set aside keeping warm. Transfer the softened gelatin to a medium bowl, place over a hot water bath, and stir until dissolved. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dissolved gelatin and crème frâiche mixture until well combined. Pour the crème frâiche into a plastic wrap-lined 12” x 9”sheet pan and set aside in the refrigerator until set, about one hour. Using a mold or stencil of your choice (square, round, etc.) cut the panna cotta into shapes using a sharp knife. Carefully transfer the panna cotta shapes to a plate lines with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to assemble.

To serve, using an offset spatula, place a crème frâiche panna cotta shape in the center of a plate and top with watermelon gelee shape. Arrange the fruit rounds on top and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Arrange some basil leaves and flowers over the dish. Sprinkle with the fleur de sel, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!

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Anonymous Saxit said...

I just love panna cotta. I made one with baileys and brown muscovado sugar once that was really nice.
I like your blog btw, I check it every day for new recipes.

6:23 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Thanks! I appriciate the comments! Muscovado sugar and Baileys does sound good!

12:10 AM  

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