Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta

It wasn’t until I was about to step into the threshold of high school that I understood the meaning of clarity. Literal clarity.
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I didn’t have any epiphany that defined and changed the course of my life. What I did have was extremely poor vision. Looking back, I had no idea how I survived grade school with eyes that didn’t work properly. The earliest memory that I had where I began to experience problems was in first grade. Meaning, I went through my whole school-aged life with inconvenience. I was ashamed to tell anybody that there was something wrong because I thought it was inconceivable that a kid has to wear glasses. Glasses are for old people, I told myself.

But after years of struggle, when my parents, among other people, noticed my “squinting” (what I did to see clearer), I finally sought medical attention. It was there in the doctor’s clinic that my mom and I finally knew the real state of my vision. I was 12 years old, and my eyes had a grade of 600 – 700. My mom was in shock.
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Flash forward nine years later, and here I am, (a patron of contact lenses) fresh from my optometrist appointment. Apparently my eyesight isn’t getting any better, seeing as it’s now 850. But I learned to live with it. I actually enjoy watching people’s reactions when I tell them the grade of my shoddy eyesight. That I’ve found a way around my problem, found humor in it and moved on is something of an accomplishment.
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There’s also always a way to serve up a really simple and delicious dessert. After making panna cotta for a while now, I’ve realized that because of its simplicity, it has become my go-to dish to serve after a filling meal. Even more impressive is its simple presentation – I used little glass tea cups as the mold. Pretty darn fancy.

The name sounds fancy, but it’s just a mixture of egg and cream, held together by unflavored gelatin. There’s nothing complicated about that at all.
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Sure, it takes a while for the cream to set, but the end result is really worth it. Spoonful after spoonful of smooth, rich velvety custard hits the spot.

The aftermath of Valentines day left me with one last cup of panna cotta, which only differs from the first recipe I posted in that this one has chocolate in it. I really like the taste of dark chocolate, so this dish left me wanting more. But I know better, so a cup of moderate happiness works for me.
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Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta (serves 3 – 4)

  • 1 cup all-purpose cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons dark chocolate powder (I used Hershey’s)
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons hot milk (I just zapped mine in the microwave for a minute and ten seconds)
  1. In a saucepan, combine all-purpose cream, milk, chocolate and white sugar. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved and there are little to no more clumps of chocolate.
  2. Increase heat slightly and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Whisk gelatin powder in hot milk until dissolved. (Some recipes say to let the gelatin ‘bloom’ in the liquid by leaving it for a few minutes. I didn’t do this but I might as well next time)
  4. Stir in gelatin mixture to cream mixture; blend well. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer/sieve and into a bowl to remove the large of clumps of chocolate and gelatin.
  5. Divide mixture into 3 ramekins/4 little tea cups. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  6. To serve, either invert molds onto serving plates or serve as is. Serve cold. Enjoy!
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Orange Panna Cotta

When I published my year-end review for 2011, a few of my readers encouraged me to post more recipes for dessert because well, it is kinda part of a well-balanced meal. One of them actually told me I should make how-to youtube videos. That’s a bit farfetched, but thanks anyway for the suggestion. 

When I was thinking of my first dessert post for the year I only had one word in mind: easy.
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I’ve tried slaving over a few desserts last year, most of them not fit for “publication”. So what I really wanted for 2012 is most definitely a change of pace, in more ways than one.

Nothing screams ‘easy’ like a good serving of panna cotta. It’s really a revelation. Sure, it has a fancy name, but it’s simply milk, cream, sugar + the magic ingredient: gelatin.
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I could go on and on and on about how this dessert didn’t stress me at all, how really good this was, but if I’m really going for ‘a change of pace’, then this time I’m not going to be verbose about it. You have to make this panna cotta. It’s really easy and you can (and should) tweak it to your preference. Tapioca pearls perhaps?

Is it healthy? I’m not sure about that (It has, uhm, oranges?). But it is really really really good. I managed to wolf down a few spoonfuls before I had enough. It’s not too sweet, not extremely fruity, but it’s still a dense, filling and refreshing way to cap off a heavy meal (Which I had; *cough*porkbelly*cough).
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And strangely enough on the first few days of 2012, I find myself limiting my rice intake (cue collective gasp from Peru to Zimbabwe). Less rice (on most occasions! I’m still a rice with ‘ulam’ purist) means more room to enjoy viands, so I’m enjoying this change of pace indeed.
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Orange Panna Cotta (serves 4 – 5; adapted from yummy.ph)

  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup all-purpose cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons hot milk (I just zapped mine in the microwave for a minute and ten seconds)
  • orange wedges to garnish
  1. In a saucepan, combine orange zest with all-purpose cream, milk, and white sugar. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Increase heat slightly and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Whisk gelatin powder in hot milk until dissolved. (Some recipes say to let the gelatin ‘bloom’ in the liquid by leaving it for a few minutes. I didn’t do this but I might as well next time)
  4. Stir in gelatin mixture to cream mixture; blend well.
  5. Pour mixture into 3 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  6. To serve, either invert molds onto serving plates or serve as is. Top with orange wedges. Serve immediately.

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9 mornings: Milk Tea

(I spent the entire morning figuring out our internet connection problems and I’m exhausted moving mountains just so I can type this. Things aren’t OK just yet, but here I am blogging about it, so the universe must love me somehow)

It’s become a religious custom here in the Philippines to attend Misa De Gallo/Simbang Gabi/Novena Mass (that lasts for 9 days, hence a novena) to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. It’s a religious obligation/family tradition/great way to observe the Christmas season in the country that supposedly celebrates Christmas the longest – as soon as the -Ber months roll in.
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Because I’d like to assume a more “active” role as a food blogger (hehe), I’m putting my own spin on my holiday posts! Inspired by the Misa de Gallo, starting today until the 24th, it’ll be a (hopefully) steady stream of holiday/Misa de Gallo inspired dishes. I know, it’s a tall order. Much like how I don’t know if this will be my year – as in the year I finally complete the novena for once, I also don’t know if I can complete this project. But with fingers crossed, I believe there’s hope for me. Tiny miracles can happen.
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Is milk tea a traditional holiday drink? No, of course not. But since I’m a fan and I told you that I was on the search to find the right tea:milk proportion, I guess now is the perfect time to share my own version of milk tea. It’s punched with spice from a little star anise and cardamom. Spices are tricky because add too much of it in a drink and you basically have cough syrup. So my advice is go easy on the spices. But what makes this perfect for the holiday is the fact that it’s spiced. The aroma brings back memories of fruit bars laden with candied fruits and spices. Is it indulgent? No, it’s really light and easy and that’s what I love about milk tea.
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It’s not traditional, yes. Heck i’m not even sure if this is the orthodox preparation for milk tea! But consider this your opportunity to start your own holiday traditions, unorthodox or otherwise.
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Basic Milk Tea

  • 3 bags of black tea (I used Lipton)
  • 3 cups water
  • 5 tablespoons evaporated creamer/milk (I used Angel evaporada)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • Spices: cardamom, star anise, cloves, ginger, etc. (I used 1 cardamom pod and 1 star anise)
  1. In a small pot, bring water to a rolling boil.
  2. Add the tea bags and the spices and immediately reduce the heat to let the liquid simmer for 2 – 5 minutes, depending on how strong you want the tea to be. Remember you are adding milk so a stronger tea flavor is best.
  3. When tea flavor is achieved, remove from heat.
  4. Strain the liquid into a blender. Discard
  5. Add the evaporated and condensed milk. Blend for a few seconds. Adjust taste according to preference.

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