An Exquisite Lemongrass Panna Cotta

Looking for a new exotic and delicious dessert to serve at your next meal? Seek no further than this aromatic Lemongrass Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert with an Indonesian twist.

How is your summer going? OK technically summer the season just started but I bet your social calendar is already in full swing! I know mine is as I seem to not have a weekend in town until end of July and on that weekend I am hosting an out of town guest. So I had no choice but to go look in my old recipe archives. You know those recipes we made but never got around to posting (because of the pics, sorry not the best)? Well you are in luck because I have been holding out on a goodie with this Lemongrass Panna Cotta. It’s a perfect sunny light dessert with an exotic twist!

Lemongrass Panna Cotta

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Daring Bakers: Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

Ah two of my favorite desserts! I only recently made panna cotta when I did a gorgeous layer verrine treat but I have never made florentine cookies before.I am however familiar with them as it was my favorite treat to purchase when we would go through St-Sauveur, a popular ski resort area 45min outside of Montreal. There is this amazing bakery there and they have the best florentine cookies.

Now you would assume this challenge is all 100% pure Italian, but you would be wrong. Yes the panna cotta is of Italian origin, specifically from Piedmonte in the north. But the Florentine, as much as it inspires an Italian origin, it is actually French…or of Austrian bakers. Yep there are 2 dueling stories to the origin. One story claims the cookies where invented by Austrian bakers in the city of Florence, the other story claims that the cookie was created in Versailles under Louis XIV for the Medici family of Florence.

Well we have a great cookie in the end anyways! And just to complicate things and make it that much more international my panna cotta will be of Asian inspiration with matcha and lychees! Mandatory in this challenge was to make a panna cotta and a florentine cookie….not necessarily the specified recipes. So I chose a different Florentine cookie recipe, a more traditional one, that I found on the Food Network. This time I again had a wonderful assistant with me in the kitchen, Stef’s 13 year old daughter, some pictures are to her credit.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies. You can download the complete printable .pdf of the challenge HERE!

Preparation time:
• 20-25 minutes to prepare the Panna Cotta – at least 6 hours to chill
• 20-25 minutes to prepare the cookies 10 minutes to bake

Giada’s Vanilla Matcha Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons(10 ml) (10 gm)  matcha powder
pinch of salt


  1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
  2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
  3. Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn’t boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
  5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve. Makes 8 servings

Note: when you sprinkle your gelatin over your milk, be sure that it’s a thin even layer of gelatin, no clumps. When you heat it up after it’s soaked a bit, you’ll be less likely to get any lumps of gelatin in the finished product.


Lychee Gelée

1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) lychee
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin


  1. Sprinkle gelatin over water.
  2. Purée lychees
  3. Place fruit and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Now mix the gelatin into the strawberry mixture and stir until gelatin has dissolved.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool (close to room temp, again, if you’re planning on layering on pouring on top of your Panna Cotta, a hot mixture will also heat up your chilled Panna Cotta).

Florentine Cookies


1 cup sliced, blanched almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange (about 1 tablespoon)
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
150 g (5 oz) dark chocolate


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, zest and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, 30 minutes.
  4. Scoop rounded teaspoons of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 inches between each cookie since they spread.
  5. Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.
  6. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie.

This recipe will make about 16 cookies.



Colorful Panna Cotta Verrine

I love verrines. They are just the cutest thing to have with a meal. I love how you can pack a visually stunning show in a small glass container. It is cooking and it is art all in one. This post was actually my second possible entry had I move on to the 4th round of the PFB contest on Foodbuzz. I already blogged about my first possible contender: the sugar sponge.

I actually chose 3 different glasses and created a different pattern per glass. I also chose 4 different recipes to make up my various flavors: a chocolate ganache, 2 panna cottas and the avocado. For the fruit purée I just processed whole fruits in a blender. You can make any kind of layer you want, be creative. Let’s take a look at the ones I chose.

But before…

– Plan your layers: decide which layer you want to go on the bottom and work your way up. If you make your top layer before your bottom layer is made a set…you top player will now be solid and unusable. So only prepare your recipes when you are ready to layer it.

– Plan on setting each layer for about 20 min in the fridge before adding the next layer.

– Get your tilt on. Set out what you will need to keep your glass tilted at an angle and be able to move it in and out of the fridge without disturbing your liquid. I propped up my glasses on a box of coucous inside a square cake pan.

Chocolate Ganache layer

50g dark chocolate
25g heavy cream

Heat heavy cream to a boil.
Immediately remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted.

Avocado layer

1 avocado
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp heavy cream

Mash avocado as finely as possible and mix with other ingredients.

Raspberry layer

70g raspberry purée
45g heavy cream
10g sugar
3/4 tsp agar-agar

Mix purée, cream and sugar.
Bring to a boil on the stove or the microwave.
Stir in agar-agar.


my purées, no agar agar yet

Cape Gooseberry layer

70g Cape Gooseberry purée
45g heavy cream
10g sugar
1/2 tsp agar-agar

Mix purée, cream and sugar.
Bring to a boil on the stove or the microwave.
Stir in agar-agar.

It will be messy a bit. I used a wet Q-tip to clean up little smudges inside the glass. Used a small spoon to pour small quantities of your liquid at a time. Art takes a bit of care and time. The Ohs and Ahs and Wows of your guest will be totally worth it though in sight and taste.


Montreal Diner en Blanc 2012

A few weeks ago I attended a truly unique foodie event called Diner en Blanc (Diner in White): an outdoor meal set in a mystery location while everyone sports white clothes, white shoes and white accessories, carrying their tables with white table cloth and white chairs . This event takes place in about 12 different countries at different dates. It started about15 years ago in Paris.

©Jean-Marc de Grandpre

This year was the 4th edition of the Montreal Diner en Blanc but it was my first year participating. Why did I wait so long? Well the first year I missed the scoop and then the following years the rules changed: you have to bring your own table, chairs, real dishes, real utensils and real wine glasses. Too much of a hassle! Also you must be accompanied by someone of the opposite sex (rules have relaxed this year for same sex couples).

©Jean-Marc de Grandpre

Finally I caved in this year and decided to attend this unique experience. My beau was not free that night so I asked a colleague to be my date…thankfully he took charge of the ‘furniture’. You can ask to be seated with friends too online so we were actually a group of 5 couples. We gathered our dinner kit but we opted for the catered picnic basket. Great decision! We just had to get our wine too.

©Jean-Marc de Grandpre

The location is only revealed 30 minutes before event. How? When you reserve online you are asked to choose one of the many meeting spots around the city. Once there, everyone piles into one of the tour buses which drive us all to the mystery outdoor location. The bus leader announces where we are going as we drive there. Our secret location this year? The terrace of Place des Arts, Montreal’s major performing arts center, right in the heart of downtown.

Everything is choreographed: you are assigned a seating area and everyone sets up their tables. As we get ready to sit down and eat, the sun is starting to set. All you see is a stunning sea of white. This year no less than 4,200 people participated.

©Jean-Marc de Grandpre

We eat, we drink, we talk…everyone is merry. Our catered picnic includes a gaspacho soup, a fancy chicken wrap, 2 salads, a cheese and fruit platter, bread, and a Jack Daniels Panna Cotta.

The party really begins when everyone lights a sparkler. I am not sure if it was planed but the white balloons given earlier to each lady were released as well. Two thousands helium white balloons dancing together as they flew up to meet the stars in the sky. This was one of the most magical and spectacular moments of my life.

The DJ got his groove on as the dance floor opened. The tiny dance floor was flooded in an instant so people just shook their booty wherever they stood. A large crowd kicked our shoes of their shoes and got into the huge basin fountain. I joined of course and it was a totally cool moment. We laughed at the locals and tourist who laughed and snapped pictures of us.


©Jean-Marc de Grandpre

Around 11pm we started to pack up, leaving absolutely nothing behind: no imprint on the environment is emphasized (except for the balloons apparently). Thousands of happy and tired people made their way back to the buses which brought us back to the pick up location.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! It is a lot of work and preparation to get there but it truly is a magnificent and special experience. Some say it is old fashioned and presumptuous. I kinda of thought that before too but not anymore. It’s lighthearted old world charm and glamor.