Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Panna Cotta with Grand Marnier Caramel Sauce & Bruleed Figs

It has been almost two weeks ago, since I created this dessert.  I must make this again...and again!  My inspiration to make this dessert started when I spotted the late first arrival of figs at Whole Foods.

 I've made Fig Jam, Grilled Figs and other savory fig dishes before.  But I really hadn't made something sweet.  But what?  So I scoured the internet for inspiration, and landed on Martha Stewart's Panna Cotta recipe with figs.   Then, I stumbled across a recipe for Fig Brulee with Balsamic Vinegar on Herbivoracious. That was it!  I would make all three components. Martha makes a bourbon caramel sauce. I'm not a bourbon fan. But, I do like Grand Marnier.   I rolled up my sleeves and started making the panna cotta. I have made Panna Cotta several times.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this Italian dessert, think "cooked cream".  I think of this dessert as an eggless custard, which has endless possibilities.  I've made this with 1% milk, 2% milk, Half & Half, buttermilk and a mixture of all three.  This is the first time I've abandoned any attempt at trimming calories and fat-- I made this with heavy cream.  I've also skipped the ice bath step, but this time I decided to follow Martha Stewart's instructions.   I've prepped my ingredients and I'm ready to go!

 I began with 3 cups of heavy cream and 1/2 cup white sugar.  Next, I "bloomed" unflavored gelatin with water....
The gelatin is added to the simmering cream.  The gelatin dissolved in a couple of minutes. While the creme was heating, I prepared an ice bath. Next, I poured the hot cream into a measuring cup and then into placed  the ice bath.

I whisked the  cream mixture until cool, 6 to 7 minutes. Add real vanilla extract (you could use vanilla bean, but I didn't have one on hand) and 2 Tbsp of Grand Marnier.

Chill for a minimum of 2 hours, or covered for up to 3 days.

Making caramel sauce made me a little nervous. It has been a long time since I've tried, but I decided to go for it.  The first batch turned out way too dark.  That's my fault... I got distracted and the sugar burned. A word from someone who is wiser-- organize the sugar, water and heavy pan and just don't walk away.  Now that I did it twice, I've conquered my fear of caramel. 

As you can see, the top left sauce is a bit dark. Burned sugar is bitter. The bottom right is the successful version. It's a pretty amber color.

This sauce is not made with sugar, heavy cream and butter. Instead, this sauce is thinner and clearer-- much like a caramel flan sauce.  I tried to photograph the steps, but it's too hard.  You have to work fast, so you can click here for a great photo tutorial (Simply Recipes). 

Now, for the figs...

If you have a brulee or kitchen torch, you are in for a treat! 
I have to tell you, these are a beautiful presentation...and they taste amazing (you can even add balsamic vinegar for a ta-da).

To unmold panna cotta, dip ramekins in warm water. Run a paring knife around edges of panna cotta to break seal, and invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate. Dessert will slowly slide out. 

 Add the caramel sauce and garnish with figs...

VERDICT:  Wow!  First, the panna cotta is very silky.  Heavy cream is the way to go. This is my tastiest version yet. I didn't detect much Grand Marnier in the panna cotta, so either kick it up more or leave it out altogether. The caramel sauce! Oh, that was pure bliss for me. I love caramel in every way. The sauce is light, and the Grand Marnier was just right-- subtle and not overpowering. The figs.... the texture of the caramelized sugar added a great crunch, followed by the creaminess of the panna cotta.   This dessert makes a statement, and I want it again!

I actually hid one ramekin of panna cotta, but my son found it.  He feels no shame, either. Well, good for him!

As for the caramel sauce-- I did refrigerate it for two days and it did turn thick.  I made another dessert with this, which I will share next.  I am wicked, huh?  Forgive me.

All three recipes are at the bottom of this page.  This is the panna cotta recipe that will become my "go to".  The caramel sauce is perfect for this dessert. Don't be afraid. You can make it, too!


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Joanne said...

A weekday post?!?!? How lucky can we get!

I love figs. I love everything and anything that invovles them. But these really take that love to another level. CARAMEL sauce. BRULEE'd figs. Seriously amazing.

bellini valli said...

To make panna cotta is on my bucket list, but with bruleed figs and grand marnier sauce I am there.

Cathy said...

It's early in the morning and I'm ready for dessert! What a beautiful presentation, Debby. I love the bruleed figs and they must be perfect with that luscious panna cotta. As always, your step by step photos are so helpful.

Stacey Snacks said...

I am putting in my request now for when I come visit you in California.
I would like this dessert please.
Request submitted.

TKW said...

Caramel sauce and I don't get along...I always mess it up somehow. Yours looks divine.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Grand Marnier and doesn't get any better than that. And you bruleed the figs. Wow.
Enjoy your weekend.

bella (roz) said...

Lord have mercy on my soul, Debby. This is one of the best recipes I've come across in months! Goodness, I don't know where to begin commenting! I was just watching David Rocco's La Dolce Vita on the new Cooking channel and he also made Panna Cotta (but not with those incredible figs, and caramel). This is over the top and a MUST for me! Thanks so much, Roz

Ingrid said...

HI!!!!! I know I stiknk not visiting in so long and look at what I've been missing! Not for long though. :)

Btw, the caramel at the top does not look over cooked. Were there chunks of sugar stuck to the bottom of the pan? Properly done "burnt" caramel is heavenly especially atop something sweet and creamy. Just sayin'. :)

Monica H said...

This looks so fancy!I love a good panna cotta- it's so creamy and silky and smooth. Never had it topped with bruleed figs before but I lveo torching things so it could be fun.

That last picture of the caramel sauce is indredible!

Kristen said...

you've impressed me - wow!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Oh you are wicked. I must have this asap. Tomorrow I'm off to get some figs.

Jen_from_NJ said...

What a gorgeous and decadent dessert! Thank you for the idea!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Oh how I love panna cotta. It's one of those things I never get right either.

I think I have to try making bruleed figs. I'm such a fig nut and these look like the perfect dessert topper.

bella (roz) said...

Debby, I bought some figs at Whole Foods an hour ago before I teach my night class (in the big city) and I'll post something made with them soon.....who knows I may even try this recipe!