Thursday, June 25, 2015

Coconut & Matcha Panna Cotta

These light and creamy panna cottas, with their fluffy texture and delicate matcha-coconut flavor are the perfect dessert to beat the summer heat. They only require about five minutes on the stove too, so you won't heat up your kitchen too much whipping these up on a hot day! 

S loves matcha. He loves my matcha sandwich cookies, and matcha date bars,  he loves matcha boba slushes, matcha lattes, matcha sponge cakes, matcha just about anything. We even have a 1 kilo bag of top-notcha matcha powder he bought a few months ago to his own matcha lattes. Meanwhile, I'm not a huge fan. I like green tea, and I like matcha lattes, but it's taken a while for matcha flavored treats to grow on me.

But oh, these panna cottas break the mold for me. I love these! The matcha is all in the whipped topping so it's light and creamy, and tastes quite a bit like a matcha latte made into a lovely fluff piled up top of a dainty, airy coconut panna cotta. The green tea doesn't overwhelm in this recipe, it plays really well with the creamy coconut and light vanilla notes, all three flavors shine through the creaminess of this delicious little dessert.

Sinking your spoon into one of these pretty little cups after a long day at work is a wonderful reward- the wiggly, sweet, coconut-vanilla panna cotta, and the fluffy, creamy, light-as-air matcha whipped cream come together to make a dessert worthy of a dinner party, but easy enough to make on any-old-tuesday. Enjoy! 

Coconut Panna Cotta

1 Can (13.5 oz) Coconut Milk
3 tbsp Cane Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean
1 1/2 tsp Gelatin (or 1 1/2 tsp Agar powder)
1 tbsp water

Matcha Whipped Coconut Cream

2 Cans of chilled Coconut Milk*
1/4 C Powdered Sugar
1 Scant tablespoon Matcha Powder

*A note about the coconut milk- It is really important that you do not shake or even turn upside down the coconut milk while or after it chills. Ideally, chill it overnight without disturbing the contents. Also you cannot use light coconut milk for the whipped cream part of this recipe, it's gotta be full fat.

For the panna cotta, open the can of coconut milk, pour into a small pot, and add the sugar. Slice open the vanilla bean, scoop out the flesh with a knife, and add to the pot of coconut milk. Then add the whole bean. 

Heat over medium-low heat, gently whisking, for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, reduce heat to low, and in a small bowl combine 1 tbsp of water with 1 1/4 tsp gelatin or agar powder, mix well. Allow the gelatin to sit about 1 and a half minutes, while returning to slowly whisking the coconut milk. After 90 seconds, add the gelatin water mixture to the coconut milk, and while whisking, turn heat up to medium and whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes. 

Remove from heat and pour immediately into ramekins, custard cups, or another small container. Chill for about 4 hours, or until as firm as a nice wiggly flan. 

While the panna cotta chills, make the whipped cream. Take the very cold coconut milk cans that you've not been touching or shaking at all out of the fridge, and open them. If you've chilled them long enough and not shaken or inverted them at all, they will have a thick layer of firm, white coconut cream on top. Skim this cream off both cans and put it in a bowl, or a stand mixer's bowl,  (The liquid beneath the cream you can save to use in other recipes or put in smoothies).

Add to the bowl the powdered sugar and matcha, then using a hand mixer, or your stand mixer, mix on high for about 3 minutes, or until soft peaks form. it won't get as stiff as heavy cream, but chill in the fridge until ready to use, and it will get a bit thicker, like cool whip. 

You can de-mold the panna cotta by dipping the containers 3/4 way into warm water for 5 seconds then inverting on a plate, or you can eat them straight from the ramekins like little puddings. Either way, top with a generous dollop of matcha whipped cream and enjoy! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Growing up, some of my very favorite books were Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House novels. I was fascinated by the rugged way the Ingalls family lived- how they frequently lived a whole day away from the nearest town, how they could go weeks in winter without seeing even their own neighbors. And I was amazed by the ingenuity- the door PA built without any nails, the inflated pigs bladder the girls used as a ball, the way Ma could make one girls ripped dress into a baby dress, then when that tore, she made it into curtain trimmings. 

One of my all-time favorite scenes happens in the The First Four Years- shortly after Almanzo and Laura are married some threshers come to work on the farm, and Laura serves them all lunch every day. On the very first day, the first time she's ever entertained guests as Manly's wife- she forgets to put any sugar in her pie, and doesn't realize until it's far too late.

When the first thresher takes a bite of his pie, he grimaces, then opens it up and spoons sugar all over it, while politely telling Laura he appreciates it when a cook lets a fellow sweeten his own pie. She is, of course, mortified. The pie is super sour, because this was not an unsweetened apple or berry pie, no, it was a "pie-plant" pie. Laura mentions pie-plant a few times in the course of the books, but it wasn't until she described the unsweetened pie-plant pie as horribly sour, that I realized I knew of only one super-astringent-sour plant that is used mainly in pies: rhubarb.

Rhubarb, unsweetened, is more than just tart, or sour, it's outright astringent. It doesn't take a ton of sugar to take the edge off that sourness, but you definitely have to add sugar. I can't even imagine the unpleasant surprise that thresher must've gotten when he pit into his pie!

I've never had an all-rhubarb pie like Laura makes (sweetened or otherwise), my mother always made strawberry rhubarb pies when I was a kid. My mother is an excellent pie baker. She can make a buttery, flaky, sweet crust like, well, like only someone who was born before pre-made pie crusts were available can. Her strawberry rhubarb pies are the stuff of my childhood food nostalgia. However, on nights when dessert needed to happen quickly, when there wasn't time to make, and chill, and roll out pie dough, my mother made crisps. 

Her most common crisp was apple, but we also made berry crisps, and peach cobblers from time to time. Crisps, cobblers, and brown-betties all come together so quickly and easily, the deliciousness greatly outweighs the effort required to make them, which is why they've become a serious staple of my own dessert making.

I whipped up this crisp one weekend when we some friends were dropping by, and it was gobbled up practically before I could taste it myself. It is delicious, the strawberries are sweet and soft, mellowing out the rhubarb, but allowing it to keep a slight, lovely, tartness. The crisp is lovely served on it's own, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Fruit Filling
1 lb strawberries
1 lb rhubarb
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp cornstarch
2/3 C sugar

Crisp Topping
2/3 C oats
1/2 C flour
6 tbsp butter- room temperature, and cut into cubes
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 C sugar

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a large pie pan or a 9x9" square pan.
Chop the rhubarb into half-inch segments and place in a large bowl, remove the tops of the strawberries and quarter them, then add to the bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 C sugar over the rhubarb and strawberries, and gently mix. Set aside.

Combine the juice of 1/2 a lemon and the cornstarch and mix until smooth, pour over the berries and rhubarb, and mix gently until all fruit is coated in cornstarch mixture. Pour into the prepared pan, and spread out evenly. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, cardamom, pinch of salt, and 2/3 C sugar, and stir until well mixed. Add the butter, and using a pastry cutter, large fork, or your hands, work the ingredients together until they are well combined and the mixture forms many little clumps. 

Sprinkle the oat topping over the pan of strawberries and rhubarb, until well covered, then bake for 40-45 minutes, until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbly. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes, and serve warm. Enjoy!