Panna Cotta with Orange Sauce, and Biscotti

Ever since I got back from Polar Bear Dipping in Northern Michigan, I’ve let my mind wander. Lured away from a winter wonderland to the spellbinding embrace of a warm, tropical breeze.
And you know, sometimes, dreaming is all I have, to keep from freezing my assets off.

As compensation, I treated myself to an ethereally light dessert, Panna Cotta.

You might argue there's no such thing as “light” Panna Cotta, so it is possible I made that up. There's also a slight possibility that the heavy cream in this dessert made my heart stop, but only for about 30 seconds.
Fortunately, the joy derived from this silky-textured Italian indulgence, defibrillated my heart back to a normal rhythm.

So, fie on the near-death experience!
However, if/when I keel over, I pray Heaven features Panna Cotta on their dessert menu.

It is my hope that Panna Cotta will also set your heart aflutter.

I often top this custard with seasonal fresh fruits or fruit sauces. Here, I've paired it with an orange sauce. But I will admit, my preference is still this Raspberry Sauce.

Btw, the orange sauce was given a boost of flavor with a tiny pinch of Orange Powder (recipe below). The powder was also used to decorate the plain white plate.

The supporting role to this simple dessert is played by a cookie, known as Biscotti (Italian for twice-cooked). It is buttery, crunchy, and it's a perfect contrast to the creamy Panna Cotta.

I added candied orange peel to the biscotti. And I thought the fennel seeds complemented the (slightly) bitter edge of the candied peel.
But if candied citrus peel makes you wince, leave it out. Try dried cherries, or dried apricots, and omit the fennel seeds.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

1½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
2 tablespoons cold water
1½ cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1½ teaspoons vanilla paste, or pure vanilla extract

Lightly grease six 4-ounce ramekins with a neutral oil.
In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water, and allow to soften 8 to 10 minutes.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavy cream and sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in softened gelatin, until dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla paste until combined. Pour mixture into prepared ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours, or overnight. Panna Cotta will keep 3 to 4 days, in the refrigerator.

Orange Sauce

2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed

Whisk the eggs and one-third of the sugar to a ribbon consistency. In a saucepan, boil the orange juice with the remaining sugar, until sugar dissolves. Pour the orange juice mixture onto the eggs, whisking continuously. Strain sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl. Let sauce cool, whisking occasionally. Once the sauce has cooled, transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate. Finest Desserts by Michel Roux.

Orange and Fennel Biscotti

½ pound (2 sticks unsalted butter)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste, or vanilla extract
1/3 cup candied orange peel, cut into ¼" dice
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups finely ground almonds
½ cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar, until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla paste. Mix until combined. Beat in the candied orange peel.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, ground almonds, and fennel seeds together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, in three batches, and mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and stir in the sliced almonds.

Scrape the dough onto a floured surface. Divide dough in half, and roll each into 12-inch cylinders. Cover dough loosely, and chill, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place logs, about 3-inches apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Lower oven temperature to 325°F.
Once the cookie logs are cool enough to handle, cut them into ¾-inch diagonal slices, with a serrated knife.
Arrange biscotti, close together, on the prepared pan, and bake again, 15 to 20 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Makes about 3 dozen.

Some of you might know of my love affair with all citrus fruits. I even use the peel of some to make powders, which I add to both, sweet and savory dishes. And best of all, this flavor-packing powder is free.

Orange Powder

Pare the peel from 10 oranges—preferably thin-skinned oranges—if not, scrape any attached pith with the edge of a spoon. Blanch peel for 1 minute in boiling water. Refresh in cold water, drain, and pat dry.

Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and a little confectioner's sugar. Dry in the oven, on its lowest possible setting for 2 to 3 hours, or until very crisp.

Grind peel to a powder in a spice grinder, or food processor. Strain through a sieve, and store in an airtight container until needed. Adapted from Your Place or Mine? by Jean-Christophe Novelli.

P.S. If you're not planning on using the Orange Powder within a couple of weeks, store it in the freezer to keep it from lumping up.

Well, next time you come by, I'll be in Italy, the land of love, for Valentine's Day.
Of course, I'm kidding. I don't plan on traveling to Italy, until they, at least, fix the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I mean, seriously.
In any case, I will be sharing a woomantic V-day idea with you.

Guys, I was just wondering (and please, let's keep this just between us), if Italy truly is the land of love, then why is the Leaning Tower of Pisa...leaning?