This recipe is inspired by Laurelhurst Market's Portland Dining Month menu. March in Portland is Dining Month. About a hundred area restaurants offer $29 prix-fixe 3-course meals. The menus are published online at http://www.travelportland.com/dining-month/ . I read through the menus, and was really drawn to the dish "Honey Panna Cotta with Candied Fennel and Fennel Seed Brittle." I thought it sounded divine, so I went to work making a Honey Panna Cotta and a Sesame Fennel Brittle. Turns out, I prefer my panna cotta softer and smoother and not interrupted by crunchy brittle. So I changed tactics and served my panna cotta with lightly caramelized honey and orange supremes. I did pulverize some of the brittle as a garnish, and if you want to go this route I recommend using the sesame honey candies you can get at Asian markets. —hardlikearmour
Test Kitchen Notes
The panna cotta is definitely a subtle orange; I would prefer a bit more orange flavor. Perhaps because I had to reheat the batch and bring it to a boil to fully dissolve the agar agar flakes (I accidentally used flakes instead of powder), it tasted more of cooked milk than of orange. The caramelized honey was fun and easy to make. Caramelizing is such a magical process! All in all, it’s a lovely, delicate dessert, and the caramelized honey adds an elegant touch to it.
- Serves 8
heavy cream, divided
long strips orange zest (taken pole to pole with a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith)
2 1/8 teaspoons
agar agar powder (NOT agar agar flakes)
orange blossom honey, divided
cream of tartar (or 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoons
orange blossom water (optional)
oranges, cut into supremes
Several pulverized honey sesame candies (optional)
- Combine milk, 2 cups heavy cream, and orange zest in a medium saucepan. Heat on low for 20 minutes to infuse the orange flavor into the liquid. Stir occasionally.
- Meanwhile combine remaining cup of heavy cream and agar agar powder in a glass measure. Let mixture rest to soften the agar.
- Add agar agar mixture, 1/4 cup honey, and salt to the milk mixture. Increase the heat to medium-high and heat to 170° F, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and when temperature has reduced to 120° F pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a 4-cup glass measure or small pitcher. Whisk in orange blossom water if desired, starting with 1/8 teaspoon. The goal is to enhance the lovely perfume from the orange blossom honey, not make the panna cotta overtly flowery in flavor. Pour the panna cotta into individual ramekins. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.
- While the panna cotta is cooling, combine cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon water, and remaining honey (3/4 cup) in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan. Cover and heat on medium until the mixture starts to boil, swirling the pan occasionally. Remove the cover and raise heat to medium-high. Swirl pan frequently. The honey will foam up while swirling, and the foam starts out a pale color. As the honey caramelizes the foam will become an amber color. Once the honey is a deep amber and the foam is a homogenous amber the honey is done. (It should register about 250° F on a candy thermometer.) Remove from heat, then stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Transfer to a glass jar or small glass measure until ready to serve the panna cotta.
- Remove the panna cotta from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before you're ready to serve. Its flavor is delicate and will benefit from being a bit warmer than the fridge. Supreme the oranges about the same time, then cover and refrigerate them until ready to serve. Here's a tutorial if needed: https://food52.com/blog/12126-how-to-segment-citrus-like-a-pro
- To serve: Make a pool of 1/2 tablespoon to 2 teaspoons caramelized honey on a plate, allow to spread naturally or help it along using the convex surface of a spoon in circular movements. You want the pool to be wider than the panna cotta. Dip the ramekin in hot water, and run a thin blade around the edge of it (once around only, otherwise you'll get little flakes of panna cotta). Use the blade to gently separate the panna cotta from the side of the ramekin in several places. Turn the ramekin over the plate and shake (somewhate gently) like you're trying to get the last ketchup out of a bottle. The panna cotta should plop onto the plate. Top with 2 orange supremes. Garnish with sesame candies if desired, otherwise a tiny drizzle more of the caramelized honey. Serve.
- (PS. If you don't feel like going through the rigamarole of unmolding the panna cotta, feel free to serve it in the ramekin, topped with a teaspoon or so of caramelized honey and supremes instead.)
- (PPS. You'll likely have leftover caramelized honey. It's great stirred into your morning coffee or drizzled on some Greek yogurt.)