Panna Cotta alla Piemontese (Cooked Cream Piedmont Style with Pecan Cookies)
Jamie Adams has taken a traditional Italian dessert and added his mother’s pecan brittle and cookies, a New Orleans touch. Chilled pots of vanilla cream are topped with caramelized sugar, then sprinkled with caramel dust and served with pecan cookies and fruit.
- Panna Cotta
- Unflavored gelatin - 1 packet
- Cold Water - 1/4 cup
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 4 cups
- Milk - 1 cup
- Vanilla bean - 1
- Sugar - 3-1/2 ounces
- White Rum - 1 ounce
- Caramelized Pecans
- Sugar - 8 ounces, for caramelizing
- Pecans - 1/4 cup, chopped
- Pecan Cookies
- Unsalted Butter - 6 ounces, softened
- Sugar - 4 ounces
- Flour - 5-1/2 ounces
- Pinch of salt
- Ground pecans
- Confectioner’s sugar - for dusting
- Fresh Raspberries - 1 cup
- Mint sprigs - 6
To make the panna cotta: Soften the gelatin in the water. Put the cream and milk into a heavy saucepan on medium-high heat. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the cream mixture, then drop in the pods. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir in the sugar gently with a whisk, stirring until it is completely dissolved. Remove from heat, remove the vanilla pods, and stir in the gelatin. Add the rum.
To caramelize the pecans: Oil a cookie sheet. Place the sugar in a heavy saucepan or skillet and heat over medium heat until the sugar turns to caramel, 250 - 265 F on a candy thermometer (hard-ball stage; dark-blonde caramel). Pour one teaspoon of caramel into each 4-inch diameter by 2-inch deep ramekin and allow to harden. Add the pecan pieces to the remaining caramel and mix together quickly, then pour out onto the prepared cookie sheet. Allow to harden.
Fill the ramekins with the cream mixture and refrigerate for 3 hours, until set. When the candy is hardened, break it into 1-inch-by- 1-1/2-inch pieces. Crush enough of the caramel candy to make 1/4 cup of caramel dust.
To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and butter the paper. Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer or food processor until light and fluffy. Mix the salt with the flour and stir the flour into the butter mixture. Whip until smooth. Stir in the pecans and spread the cookie dough over the surface of the baking sheet as thinly as possible; the cookie should be at least 6 inches by 8 inches, 1/4-inch thick. Bake 7 minutes. Remove from oven and, while the cookie is still hot, cut out 6-inch circles with a cookie cutter. Press a 2-1/2-inch diameter cookie cutter in the center of these circles, but do not remove these centers until the cookies are completely cool.
To serve: Run a sharp knife around the outside edge of the ramekins to loosen the panna cotta. Heat the bottom of the ramekins by holding the bottom in hot water for a few seconds to warm and loosen the caramel. Turn out the panna cotta molds and place one in the center of each serving plate. Sprinkle the caramel dust around the plates and lean a cookie ring against the panna cotta. Place a piece of pecan brittle on top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Garnish with fresh berries and a mint leaf.