Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Vanilla Bean & Blood Orange Panna Cotta with Orange Allspice Caramel Sauce and Orange Cardamom Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Florentines (gluten free)

by Irvin on February 27, 2011 · 90 comments

Panna Cotta

It’s always a dash to the finish line for me when it comes to the Daring Baker’s Challenge. And though I always ALWAYS vow to myself that I’ll make it WAY ahead of time… I never do. This month was no different, except for the fact that I checked into the challenge to see what I needed to make and it was a panna cotta. Which meant it needed to chill for eight hours in the fridge, which meant I couldn’t just make it last minute. Or could I? That’s what ice water baths are for! So I present to you my latest Daring Baker’s Challenge, a vanilla bean and blood orange panna cotta with orange caramel sauce and orange cardamom hazelnut dark chocolate Florentines made at the last minute. 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.

Panna Cotta

Of course, as always, I wanted to do more with the challenge; more layers, more contrasting flavors, more funky shapes for the cookies. *sigh* But this is what I came up with last minute. Groping around in the kitchen, I saw that AJ had picked up some blood oranges (we affectionately call them bloody oranges because our friend Ben once called them that) at the local grocery store. I love bloody oranges. I wonder how they would taste in a panna cotta? Only one way to find out!

Panna Cotta

AJ was suitably impressed. He personally loves milk, cream and all things dairy, so the idea of a dessert that is pretty much just milk is sugar and flavoring was fabulous (this explains his eternal love for ice cream). For me, I had never made panna cotta before, much less tasted one before (What? How is that possible? But nope, never had one) but now I know what I’ve been missing. Creamy, smooth and sweet in my mouth, I wanted to swoon with my first bite. I could go on, but it would just get more obscene so I shall stop.

Panna Cotta

To accompany the layered vanilla bean and blood orange panna cotta, I made an orange caramel sauce with a touch of allspice and orange hazelnut dark chocolate Florentines. The caramel added a sharp bite of sweetness slightly tempered by the orange juice and a contrast to the other two cream layers. The cookies were a nice touch; dark and crunchy to balance the light and creamy. At one point AJ turned to me and said “OK. I have to stop now. I’ve eaten too many cookies.” Best compliment ever.

Panna cotta, by the way, is super easy to make. Way easy. I love how versatile it is and how you can just add any old flavor you want to it. Even more fun was photographing them. AJ and I had a blast trying to figure out the best way to photograph the layered dairy creation. In the end, AJ took a photo directly above with all the props that I added (whoo! I get to be food stylist!). It’s our ode to Saveur Magazine. Normally I would call it “the money shot” but I’m going to refer to it as “the Penny shot” – after Penny de los Santos.

Thanks Daring Bakers for the challenge! Can’t wait until next time!

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{ 90 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa February 27, 2011 at 11:53 am

I love your take on the challenge (aromas & cookies shape)! As usual, your creation is just amazing and has the must delightful flavors. Divine. Well done again!

Cheers,

Rosa

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:17 am

Thank you Rosa. I had a great time making them and coming up with the flavors!

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Lou February 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm

You were one of the ones inspiring me this month to be more creative with flavours. I need to up my game. I also love your finger cookie sandwiches – a wee tweak that just makes your dish really stand out and look a cut above!!!!

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:20 am

I’m flattered that I inspired you! And I initially wanted to roll the florentines, but they weren’t cooperating, so cutting them is how I solved that problem!

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Ashlae February 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm

WOW! This looks amazing. I love the colored layers and your props ;) You did such a great job!

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:25 am

Thank you! I had a great time playing with the props. Food styling is fun!

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Lil @ sweetsbysillianah February 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

these are gorgeous! i love panna cotta but have yet to make it myself. way to take it up a notch with the pretty layers… I’ve yet to try a blood-y orange – me thinks it’s time to seek them out!

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:37 am

Oh you MUST run out and get some bloody oranges! The color is amazingly red. They have a tart flavor, not as sweet as regular oranges. More like a cross between oranges and grapefruit (though AJ would disagree because he loves bloody oranges, but hates grapefruit).

And panna cotta is way easy to make!

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Mafalda February 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Fantastic! Your work is amazing!
Loved the combination of flavors, must try it. Adored the florentines cut!
Cheers, Mafalda

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:42 am

Thank you so much! I’m glad the cut florentines worked with the panna cotta.

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Simon @ the heart of food February 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Nice work with the composition of the dish. Loving how it looks. The matchstick florentines were a nice touch :)

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:43 am

Thank you! I had great fun composing the dish and working with my partner AJ in the photographing of it!

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Tina (Tangerine Tea) February 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

The panna cotta looks like heaven!!

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:44 am

Thank you so much!

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Katya February 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Holy Moly! Your panna cotta came out perfect! The color of the blood orange layer really kills me. Such a pretty color. And I love how you made your florentine cookies!

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:51 am

Thank you! I actually wanted the blood orange layer to be more of a deep red, but the pink worked out. I probably could have used more blood orange juice, but I was afraid the acidity might disrupt the gelatin. Oh well. Perhaps next time!

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Shelley C February 27, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Wow – that all looks amazing. The layers, the pictures, the florentines – very, very well done. And tell your food stylist he did awesome :)

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 1:55 am

Thanks! I’ll be sure that my food stylist receives the compliment. ;)

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Jan February 27, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Love the 2-layers of panna cotta! I’m a little sad that your fan letter never got answered….

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 2:04 am

You know. So am I! But in Sherry Yard’s defense, I think she was traveling in Asia when I messaged her on Facebook. Oh well. She’s a busy woman. I can’t imagine she has time to write back to every fan letter she gets. *shrug*

But Sherry, if you are reading this, just know I’m still a huge fan. Even if you didn’t write me back!

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Heather February 27, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Beautifully done! And wow- that last picture is so, so nice.

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 2:13 am

Thank you! I love that last shot. I just wish there was a way to show the layers of the panna cotta in the overhead shot. Penny de los Santos would probably have figured out a way. Oh well.

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Laura February 27, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Love the ode to Saveur shot. The caramel and blood orange flavors probably were a nice counterpoint to the creamy lushness. Neat idea to cut up the cookies into long bars.

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Irvin March 1, 2011 at 2:20 am

Thank you! I’m a big fan of Saveur magazine. And yes, the caramel and blood orange flavors were a great foil to the cream.

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Faith February 27, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Oooh delish!!! Im glad to see you were as inspired by the panna cotta and florentines as I was! I cant wait to make some of your orange caramel sauce, it sounds divine!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 1:50 am

The orange caramel sauce is wonderful! I still have some in the fridge. I need to figure out what to use it for. Maybe on the snickerdoodle ice cream I have in the freezer…

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tia @ buttercreambarbie February 27, 2011 at 6:52 pm

wow all your pics look so fantastic!!! clean and elegant. great job! I did a cheese-cake type panna cotta :) the flavors are amking my mouth water.
ButtercreamBarbie

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 1:52 am

I loved your cheesecake type panna cotta! And thank you for the compliment on the pictures. My partner AJ is an amazing photographer. I totally art directed, but it was really all him.

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Audax Artifex February 27, 2011 at 11:36 pm

What amazing photography both dishes sound so delicious the profile is astounding bloody oranges are so tasty I think. I love the shape you made the Florentine cookies so cute well done. I’m stunned with the flavour of the cookies cardamom is my fav.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 1:54 am

Thanks Audax! I love cardamom too, and it worked so well with the orange oat hazelnut florentines. My partner is a great photographer isn’t he?

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Renata February 28, 2011 at 12:11 am

Gorgeous, in every way! Congratulations on the fabulous dessert!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 1:57 am

Thank you!

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Sheena February 28, 2011 at 1:46 am

I can see how blood oranges would go so well with the panna cotta, and I love shape of the florentine cookies. Beautiful photos too!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Thank you so much! The blood orange went really well with the creamy panna cotta. And my partner is an awesome photographer. I’m very lucky.

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Jessica February 28, 2011 at 2:24 am

Those florentines sound amazing – I love anything with cardamom, especially sweets, so this is fantastic!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Thank you! I’m a fan of cardamon too. It’s totally the cool vaguely foreign-born cousin to the all-American cinnamon. I’m a fan.

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Balise February 28, 2011 at 4:28 am

Gorgeous pictures, and I like your take on the challenge with blood oranges, very nice! Love it :)
(BTW, I also love your blog design, especially the font :) )

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Thank you for the compliment on the photos and the challenge. It was super fun to make.

And yes, I only recently redesigned my blog, about a month or so ago. Even though the paint is still drying, it already feels like home.

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Sarah February 28, 2011 at 5:39 am

I’m glad someone else always ends up waiting until the last minute to complete challenges and I am very impressed that you found a way to shorten the chill time for the panna cotta. I also love that you incorporated caramel into your panna cotta. as it is one of my favorite things!

Your results and blog are so professional I’m envious. :)

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Caramel is one of my favorite flavors too. And the orange caramel tasted great. I really need to not do my challenges so late in the game. Maybe for the month of March I’ll be more on top of things.

Probably not. Ha! But thank you for your compliments!

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Maggie February 28, 2011 at 8:16 am

Beautiful photos! I love your flavors and the cookie strips!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Thank you so much! Have I mentioned how much I love my partner, who happens to be a kick ass photographer too? Well I do. Very much so. ;)

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Shawn February 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

Stunningly Beautiful…

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm

You’re so sweet! Thank you!

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Brian @ A Thought For Food February 28, 2011 at 11:59 am

I’m loving the layers in your panna cotta! I imagine that this is a very complex dessert, with all of these brilliant flavors.

Great entry for DB!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm

It’s actually pretty simple, though it looks complex. A few components and then it looks like I spent a whole lot of time to make it, but really I didn’t. It’s just smoke and mirrors if you know what I mean.

Though people have definitely told me that I make way more complicated things than I have to. I never think they are complicated, but then I guess my sense of judgement is totally askew.

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Cathy/ShowFoodChef February 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I love “bloody” oranges as well and I can almost taste the combo of creamy and sweet orange -fantastic idea. The “Penny” shot is worthy of the name. I had a great time with this one also, tried wine with mine. Great job!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm

LOL. Thank you. I’m pleased that you understood the reference to the amazing photographer Penny de los Santos. And yes, the creamy orange dessert was great. Though wine sounds like a wonderful creation!

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Ms.Z. February 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Thanks so much for the lovely comment on my blog. And thank you for the tips on substitutes for dark corn syrup. You assumed right – I have no cream of tartar, so thanks for thinking of an alternative for me. You are the greatest!

As for your panna cotta – it looks amazing! The whole layout with the oranges and all is absolutely breathtaking. I wish I could taste it. I must make it soon.

xoxo, Ms.Z.

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm

You’re most welcome. I know it’s hard to sometimes find the appropriate substitutions when you are limited to where you are or where you can shop. It can be tough, and I’m pretty lucky to live in San Francisco where I can get nearly anything I need. I hope the conversion for the corn syrup works for you!

And thank you for the compliment on my panna cotta!

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pavithra February 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Wow looks fabulous.. absolutely love it.. beautiful pictures.

Pavithra
http://www.dishesfrommykitchen.com

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Thank you! You’re photos were beautiful too!

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chef_d February 28, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Love your penny cotta :)
The blood orange layer and gelee is a beautiful contrast to the bottom layer. And your Orange Cardamom Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Florentines look delicious. Excellent job on this challenge…I love how you presented it!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Thank you! The presentation was super fun to do. I kept on playing with the layout. I think we would have tons more photos, but it was getting late and the photographer had to go to sleep…

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Jennifer (Delicieux) February 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm

I don’t know what to comment on first…how delicious the panna cotta looks (I LOVE blood oranges) or how beautiful the photos are. Both are amazing!!!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Thank you so much! I had a great time making it and it really was delicious eating it. Now I know what I’ve been missing all these years!

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Jenny February 28, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Look at you! Your panna cotta is beautiful – you certainly didn’t go the lazy route (I did!). Next time, I’ll try the layers – because yours is a stunner!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm

I can’t believe you called your gorgeous nest of pistachios the “lazy route”. It looked stunning! And yes, the layers were great. If you do the ice water bath, you can totally make the layers much faster. Otherwise you have to wait for each layer to solidify before you add the next one.

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MandyM March 1, 2011 at 2:15 am

I had also never had panna cotta until now, shocking isn’t it! Now that I know how friggin good it is, this is going to be a dangerous love affair ;)

Gorgeous panna cotta, love the flavours you used and it’s presented beautifully!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I know! And I’m lactose intolerant, so this can’t be good. Though I imagine it will be easy to make with goat milk or some other lactose friendly milk. I should investigate, but I’m fearful of my waistline…

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Sirius73 March 1, 2011 at 4:59 am

Great pictures! I like the flavour combination. Thought about doing something with oranges as well, but settled for the classical raspberry gelée with the addition of a little orange juice.

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Your raspberry gelee looks great, I think that would have been an excellent flavor combination as well. The great thing about the panna cotta is that it’s so versatile!

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steph March 1, 2011 at 7:19 am

these are beautiful and i happen to have those very same glasses and a bag of blood oranges in my fridge. obviously i have to make these!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Yes! You must! And come back and tell me what you think of them! I love them.

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AK March 1, 2011 at 8:29 am

Agh, I hate it when people write “I was suppose to…”

It’s “I was supposeD to…”

Rant over. These sound delicious!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I suppose I should have spent a little more time looking at my post to make sure I had no typos in it. In fact, I was supposed to proofread it but sadly it was getting late and I needed to go to bed.

No worries. I’ve gone ahead and changed that typo. Cheers.

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Oggi March 1, 2011 at 9:15 am

WOW! I’m impressed with your creativity and the wonderful flavor combinations. I specially love the finger Florentine cookies.

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Thank you! The Florentine cookies turned out better than I thought. The trick was cutting them when they were still warm and using a sharp chef knife.

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Jimena March 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

Stunning pics! Beautiful job on this challenge =)

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Oh thank you. I had a great time making it!

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Dagmarette @ The Finishing School March 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I love blood oranges and in this dessert! They not only add beautiful color but yummy flavor too! Thanks for sharing!

http://www.thefinishing-school.com

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm

And thanks for stopping by! The blood oranges totally added a great color and flavor to the finished product!

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Lea March 2, 2011 at 5:30 am

Hey :)
I love how creative your were with the florentines!
I like the shape und the great ideas you had with the flavour :)
Beautiful photographs, too!

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Irvin March 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Thank you Lea! I shall pass the compliment on to my partner the photographer!

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Aparna March 2, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I’m floored by your intepretation of this challenge! I cannot choose between the flavour combinations, the way your florentines look, your presentation or the stunning photograph!!

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Irvin March 3, 2011 at 12:03 am

Why thank you Aparna! I had a super fun time coming up with the flavors and styling the photo.

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sandie March 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Love the “penny shot”. It feels like forever since I have had a blood orange. Yum… great flavor combination
Best,Sandie

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Irvin March 3, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Thank you! The “penny shot” was super fun to do, and the blood oranges were great addition to the panna cotta. Thanks for stopping by!

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Sandy March 4, 2011 at 12:05 am

Wow! B-E-A-U-tiful! Love the flavors. And those photos!

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Irvin March 4, 2011 at 12:18 am

Thank you Sandy! We had a great time photographing them!

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Sabiilaa Saleem March 4, 2011 at 6:54 am

WOW! This looks amazing. I love the colored layers! Adored the way you made your florentines!! amazing photos!!..haha yah imagin and i found the glass in his room! thanks for dropping by and for the comments!. =)

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Irvin March 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm

And thank you for dropping by! I definitely had fun making this…

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Mark March 5, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Looks great. I see you have Bodum glasses too. I love them.

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Irvin March 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Aren’t the bodum glasses great? The only drawback is we have to be extra careful with them when we wash them. We can get a little clumsy and we’ve broken a few sets…

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Anita Menon March 5, 2011 at 10:41 pm

So beautiful. The food , the pictures, everything. It is very different from the other daring bakers challenge entries.

Gorgeous!

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Sara March 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I think this is the best flavor combination I’ve seen around for this DB challenge. If this is the creativity you get in doing it at the last moment, I hope you always find yourself in that situation! And btw, I always check the challenge on the first of the month and end up doing it the very last day sigh

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Anu April 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I love the orange caramel you made! it looks beautiful!

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Kimberly December 31, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Hey there. I am making this RIGHT NOW, to serve tonight. When do you add the caramel to the panna cottas? Right before you serve them, or does it set in the refrigerator as well? How cool does the caramel need to be before adding it as the third layer?

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Irvin December 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Hi Kimberly! You have to let the panna cotta set first and you have to make sure that the caramel is AT LEAST room temperature before you pour it onto the panna cotta or it will melt the panna cotta.

That said, you can do it either way. If you pour the room temperature caramel over the panna cotta and then refrigerate it, it will be thicker (like thick honey or molasses) and cling a bit more to each spoonful. If you pour it over the panna cotta when it’s at room temperature, right before you serve it, it will be more like a syrup (like maple syrup). Either way works, it just depends on which one you like most.

Do keep in mind, it’s pretty sweet so I don’t recommend too much of the caramel. Just enough to create a pretty layer and add an extra dimension of flavor. Let me know how it turns out for you!

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Kimberly January 1, 2012 at 11:11 am

Thanks! Was beautiful and delicious. I loved the spice in the syrup, but you were right, it needs no more than a tablespoon for each serving. Also, my orange layer was not as visually distinctive as your photo. Next time I may add a bit of zest and just a drop or two of food coloring. Happy New Year!

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