Well today is GodKnowsWhat day of the Corona era and I think everyone has just stopped counting because it is really getting pointless. But my adventures in the kitchen continue because I have 2 captive human guinea pigs whom I can try my experiments on and they have to consume the end result whether they like it or not. But more often than not, it is a pleasure rather than a pain for them … and I can say that with confidence, especially since you cannot cross check with them 😀
In any case, today’s dessert was not entirely driven towards the ongoing torture of my prisoners but was also created as an entry into the friendly weekly photography contest that Darter Photography conducts on their Whatsapp group, to keep us from losing our minds as well as photography skills during our incarceration. (Darter Photography conducts classes and I had attended one of their sessions in Dec 2019).
So this week the theme was Food and obviously I had to make an effort to create a presentable entry. I actually churned out quite a few items in the process but this one finally looked like something that would appeal and hence was born my Layered Low Fat Panna Cotta (of sorts) with whatever ingredients I had available at home.
I was also more concerned about getting good shots of the end product and hence totally neglected clicking the step by step process. In any case, it is not difficult to understand and if I repeat this dessert another day, I will shoot the procedure too.
The judging is conducted by all the members, using a vote based system and I am happy to say that this entry got second place. So my struggling did not entirely go in vain 😀
This concept of this layered dessert was created by me when I used to conduct baking classes (once upon a time in another life time or so it seems). This was one item that I used to demonstrate to show my students how gelatin was to be used. Vegetarians can use Agar Agar but I am more comfortable with gelatin and hence for now, the recipe will be gelatin based. However, those who are skilled in using Agar, can also try this out since the idea is easy to execute and also it is a very versatile recipe which can be modified to include any number of layers, flavors, colors etc.
What you will see in this recipe, is the way I put this particular set together. I have used skimmed curd, mango puree and beet powder for the red coloring. But any other syrup/crush/jelly/fruit juice will do.
For the garnish I used cubelets of fruits like diced mango and watermelon, Zereshk berries that were lurking in my freezer, some mint and Water apples (jaam) from my apartment compound. These fruits are pink and pretty and sour as hell so they are good only for their visual appeal. The rest of the trash, like flowers and leaves were also foraged from the garden and used as props 😀
I have also used martini glasses because they make for a pretty picture and also in this alcohol-less lockdown, they needed to feel needed 😀 Just kidding, I hardly drink and these glasses were actually bought for my food photography.
The dessert can also be set in any other transparent container like a glass bowl, glasses or cups of any shape and size and also in a single container or individual portions. I would prefer setting in the latter since it is easy serve individually without having to mess up the pattern.
Layered Panna Cotta –
Panna cotta translates to cooked cream and is an Italian dessert that is made by boiling cream, enhancing it with sweeteners and flavors and then setting it with gelatin to a soft, silky, jelly like consistency.
So why do I call my dessert a panna cotta at the risk of the purist mafia coming at me with pickaxes? 😀 Well I might not use cream and I might switch the ingredients to something lower in calories but I do set it similarly with gelatin and hence the courage to use the name. But if it bothers you deeply (despite greater problems like the impending end of the world due to Covid 19), then by all means call it by any other name.
Ok today I seem to be blabbering more than usual so let me stop and get to the recipe before I actually get lynched by you all 😀
Recipe for the Layered Panna Cotta –
As I mentioned, this recipe is highly tweakable and one can choose to create layers as they please. My layers starting from the base are, the white colored skimmed curd, yellow mango puree, beet colored skimmed curd and topped with a final layer of white again.
For the curd/cream layer –
Water – 1/4 cup
Gelatin – 2 tsp
Cream – 1/2 cup
Milk – 1/2 cup
Curds – 1/2 cup
(you can use 1.5 cups cream or various permutations and combinations of curd, milk and cream)
Unrefined Sugar – 1/2 cup
Vanilla powder – 1 pinch or any Essence – 1 tsp
For the mango layer –
Mango pulp – 1 cup
Gelatin – 1 tsp
Unrefined Sugar – as per taste
For the beet layer –
Beet powder – 1 tsp or as per choice
Cubed fruits like mango, watermelon etc. Mint leaves, Zereshk berries and anything else of choice.
Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water. This is called Blooming the gelatin. Let it soften for 5 mins. Heat over a pan of hot water till dissolved (double boiler). Mix the cream/milk/curds, sugar, essence and blend or whisk. The milk/curd/cream should be cold or the milk might curdle. When the gelatin comes to room temp, blend it into the rest.
Pour this into martini glasses or any transparent container. Freeze till well set. You can tilt the container in the freezer to give you a slanting pattern.
Once this layer is set, then proceed similarly with the next round of gelatin and blend it into the mango pulp. Pour this over the earlier set layer and again freeze till set.
Repeat the process for the curd/cream layer and add beet powder to color it red. Freeze this and the finally make another layer of white.
Once all the layers are well set, then remove the dessert from the freezer and place it in the fridge till it is served.
Garnish with the berries, fruits and mint just before serving.
Please Note –
Be careful to make subsequent layers only after the previous layers are well set, or else the gelatin will gel and make it ‘unpourable’.
And also pour the liquids only after the previous layer has firmed up well or you will have a pattern you did not bargain for 😀