Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fennel Panna Cotta with Spiced Pears

Oh my gosh, you guys. This might be the most delicious thing I've ever made in all my years of cooking. Fennel Panna Cotta with Spiced Pears! Guys, it's so good. 

I spend so much time with my nose in a cookbook that I've been familiar with both Panna Cotta and Fennel for years, but I realize that may not be the case for everyone. So here's the lowdown!

Panna Cotta is a dreamy, creamy dessert. The flavor and texture are very similar to a custard, but it's SO much easier to put together. Practically foolproof even! Now that I've got you interested, I'm going to put it plain: Panna Cotta is basically an Italian cream Jell-o. Truth. It's cream that's been lightly sweetened, and has just a touch of gelatin in it to hold it together in this dreamy, custardy texture. Trust me, it's amazing.

Now fennel, on the other hand is a beautiful flowering plant. They grow quite tall, have lovely yellow flowers, and smell AMAZING. You'll find them all over during the spring and summer months. You can use fennel seeds, fennel pollen, and fennel bulb in cooking. In this case, I'm mostly using fennel bulb, which has a lovely, incredibly mild licorice flavor. When added to the Panna Cotta, it imparts a subtle, sweet, almost herbal flavor that really makes it something special. Yea, technically it's a vegetable. But trust me.

The Fennel Panna Cotta is delicious on its own, but is made even better with the addition of spiced pears! There are lots of lovely, subtle flavors to this dessert that, not to brag, make it totally stunning. I'm in kind of in love.

Ok, tooting my own horn aside, here's how to make it!

Fennel Panna Cotta with Spiced Pears: Serves 4
Ingredients:

For the Fennel Panna Cotta:
- 2 cups half and half (or 1 cup whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream)
- 1/2 of a bulb of fennel, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (not pictured)
- 1 1/2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin

For the Spiced Pears:
- 1 tbs butter
- 2 pears, diced (about 2 cups)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- Pinch of salt
1. To make the Fennel Panna Cotta, begin by combining all Panna Cotta ingredients, except the gelatin, in a medium sauce pan.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, being sure to stir occasionally so the cream doesn't scorch.

3. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat, cover, and let sit 20 minutes. This will infuse the cream with the flavor of the fennel and the fennel seed!
4. After steeping for 20 minutes, make sure the mixture is still warm to the touch, and then strain the mixture using a fine mesh sieve. Be sure to reserve the cream and discard the strained fennel and fennel seeds, not the other way around (we've all been there!). I like to strain directly into a measuring cup to make pouring the cream neat and easy!

5. Add the gelatin to the cream, being sure to stir constantly as you add it. Mix with a fork or whisk until the gelatin is thoroughly mixed into the cream.
6. Pour the cream mixture into 4 cups or ramekins, being sure to divide it evenly between the 4 vessels. (Really, Becca? Vessels? Sigh.)
7. Put the cups into the refrigerator and let set for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Now we're on to the Spiced Pears! You can prepare these ahead of time and refrigerate them until you're ready to serve, or you can make them about half an hour before serving!
8. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

9. Once the butter is melted and the pan is hot, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.

10. Cook the pears over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the pears are soft, and they've gotten a bit saucy. They should also start to be looking like a pretty golden brown!

11. Once they're ready, remove from the stove and let cool at least 15 minutes before serving with the Panna Cotta.
12. When your Panna Cotta is nicely set, remove it from the refrigerator and remove it from its cup and onto a plate! This is easy to do by gently sliding a knife around the edges, or by just wiggling it a bit with your fingers. Once it's loose, invert the cup over a plate, and there you have it!

13. Spoon some of the Spiced Pears next to the Fennel Panna Cotta, and then for good measure, put some on top, too!

Now you are ready to serve up this delicious dessert and impress the heck out of your guests (or yourself)!

If you don't want to get quite so fancy, it is also totally cool to leave your Fennel Panna Cotta in the cup and spoon the Spiced Pears over it. It will taste just as good that way.
So there you have it! Fennel Panna Cotta with Spiced Pears. It's amazingly delicious and so, so easy to put together. I hope you guys get a chance to try it out soon. It'll definitely impress the pants off of whoever you serve it to!

Til next time!

-Becca
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36 comments:

  1. I've never heard of using fennel in desserts - but this does sound and look pretty pretty pretty amazing!

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    1. Aw, thank you! Not going to lie, it is amazing!

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  2. I love spiced pears or apples and panna cotta, I've never thought of fennel as a very desserty flavour but I guess its sort of aniseedy isn't it. I'd love to try this out, I'd use agar instead of gelatine though!

    http://ahandfulofhope.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. I hope you do! It's really lovely. Let me know how it turns out with the agar!

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  3. oh my gawd i was literally drooling while reading this. i'm so pinning this to try it out!

    xo marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

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  4. This looks so delicious and I am intrigues by the flavor combination. And your plate is gorgeous, I love those high sides!
    cheers.

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    1. Thank you! It's actually from Ikea. The set was a super good find.

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  5. OMG - just saw some panna cotta being cooked on Master Chef and have been craving it since - and this looks amazing!! You made it into such a beautiful Fall dessert with the pears (and I love pears!!) - I must give this a try!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Jessica! I love Panna Cotta so much. I think it's going to become more of a staple dessert for me. It's so easy to make!

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  6. This looks great. I tried making panna cotta once using whole milk and heavy cream but it split! Like the fat separated and there were two layers. :/ I am not sure why that happened and I was so disappointed that I never tried again. But your post inspires me. I will try your recipe.

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    1. Oh dear! I hope it works out better this time around!

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  7. Where do you find Fennel seeds? I can't recall ever having come across them! This looks lovely though, if I can manage to track down the ingredients I'll have to try it! Doesn't seem too complicated.

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    1. Oh, I hope you can find the ingredients! My fennel seeds just came from the spice aisle at the grocery store. You might also be able to get them from the bulk section if your store has them, or check out a spice shop!

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    2. Okay, so they're not necessarily a "fresh" produce item, rather dried? I'll take a peek next time I pick up some groceries. :)

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    3. Exactly! I hope you can find them!

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  8. this looks DELICIOUS! i wanna try to make this!

    thelolajames.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you! I hope you give it a try!

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  9. Holy cow, this sounds so delicious! I LOVE panna cotta, creme brulee, flan, any creamy custard dessert like this but have never had the guts to make it. I would've never though of fennel in dessert either, but you're onto something here!

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    1. Meeeee too. Custard may be the way to my heart! You should definitely try making panna cotta. It's the easiest of the bunch by a long shot! In fact, it's just plain easy!

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  10. These are beautiful! I love fennel, but never thought of using it in panna cotta!

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    1. Thank you! You should definitely give it a try!

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  11. This seems like a very interesting recipe. Never thought of using fennel in panna cotta and then serve it with pears. I think it is a perfect combination! Looks great too!

    Sofie x
    http://littlegreensofie.blogspot.be/

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    1. Thanks Sofie! It's definitely a tasty combo!

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  12. This sounds amazing! And it is so very pretty.
    You've inspired me :) now I want to try it out!

    - Isa @ Head Red + Blondi

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad I could give you some inspiration!!

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  13. I saw when you posted this on Instagram and my mouth watered! It looks so good, the holiday season is gonna be hard for me, what with all these goodies around!!! Do you think this could work as well if I use substitutes??

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    1. Oooh, that will be tough. It's always hard for me, too, with all the delicious, gluten-filled treats that are around. While I haven't tried it (and thus can't totally vouch for it), I bet you could try to recreate this with coconut milk and agar agar! Let me know if you give it a try. I'd love to hear how it comes out!

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  14. My mouth is watering just reading this recipe. How are you SO talented?!

    Xo, Hannah

    sweetsweetnoir.net

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    1. Aw, shucks! You're the best, Hannah!

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  15. This sounds delicious but I really need to find a recipe without gelatin. I miss panacotta

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    1. Thank you! You could always try agar agar instead of gelatin!

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  16. Oh man, this sounds AMAZING. Pears are my absolute favourite and beurre bosc are so cheap at the moment. and for anyone wanting a non-gelatine setting agent, agar is vegetarian and available at most health food sort of shops or fancy supermarkets.

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    1. Thank you! I was thinking the same thing!

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Thank you so much for your comment! I love hearing what you have to say!