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Coconut Honey Panna Cotta with Vanilla Rambutan and Coconut Lace Curl

11 Feb

I’m always trying to think of desserts that are delicious and enticing, without being belly busters. Those s’mores tartlets that I did? Yeah, that’s a belly buster. I’m really trying my best to watch my waistline without necessarily going on any kind of diet, per se. I mean, I can lose all the weight I want if I just eat tuna and raw veggies and supplement my hunger with protein shakes, but that’s just no way to live. And I certainly wouldn’t have any content for a food blog.

As mentioned in my last post, we went to the farmer’s market in Haleiwa last Sunday. We’ll probably go again tomorrow. I like to wander around and look at what the stands have to offer. I like to be inspired by what I see. I picked up a particularly interesting looking bunch of fruit, called a rambutan. I mistakenly called them “ramatan” in yesterday’s post, and my wife pointed it out. I overheard a local say it was similar to a lychee, so I grabbed a bunch and paid for them

Rambutan!

Rambutan!

On the way home from the market, Laura and I were trying to brainstorm what we might do with them. If they truly are similar to a lychee, they will have a fairly delicate flavor, so we would’t want to make a heavy dessert with them. I thought of short breads and puff pastries, custards, and all sorts of other things came to our minds. Laura tossed the idea in the air of doing a panna cotta.

Hmm.

It’s light enough. Pretty easy to make, and kind of under rated. Use the rambutan as some sort of garnish, and add another component that was crispy or crunchy, and you got yourself a dessert!

Sliced open

Sliced open

It sounded pretty good in my head at the time. So we went ahead with the idea.

What is panna cotta? It’s an Italian originated dessert that (I think) translates to “cooked cream”. It can be considered somewhat of a cousin to custard, as it has a similar texture, but it doesn’t contain egg as a thickener. Instead it uses gelatin to set. One might consider it a glorified milk jell-o. But, when prepared properly and served, not by itself, but as one of many components to a dessert, it can be quite delicious.

Now, admittedly, this dessert was not done in a day. It could be, if you really wanted it to be, but the panna cotta can really benefit from taking a whole day to set, especially if you are putting them in molds to be removed later, like what I did. However, it doesn’t need to be done that way, and it can be poured into a ramekin like a custard and served that way. It’s up to you.

In the end, it wasn’t my favorite dessert. Not because it didn’t taste good or because the flavors didn’t go well. I just felt it was lacking a bit, and the presentation didn’t do it for me. If I ordered this in a restaurant, I would have been disappointed.

Since hind sight is 20/20, I’ll make some suggestions in the end that could make this a worthwhile dessert.

A little note on the usage of vanilla beans. Both the panna cotta and the vanilla rambutan recipes require a vanilla bean. However, I only used one vanilla bean for both recipes. Most recipes that call for a vanilla bean will require you to scrape out the seeds from the inside of the bean. However, vanilla beans have a tremendous amount of flavor, and I find that scraping the inside is only necessary if you really, really want a lot of vanilla flavor. If you don’t scrape the bean, it can be reused again. After I strained the panna cotta, I rinsed the vanilla bean, coated it in sugar, and let it dry. Then I put it in a zip lock bag and saved it for the next recipe. From there, you can scrape out the bean for the rambutan if you like. I, however, did not, and instead put it back into the zip lock bag, and poured a cup of sugar in the bag. After two weeks, I will have a cup of vanilla infused sugar.ย  It’s up to you.

Mexican vanilla bean

Mexican vanilla bean

Coconut Honey Panna Cotta with Vanilla Rambutan and Coconut Lace Curl

Makes 4-6, depending on the mold or ramekin

For the Panna Cotta

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of coconut milk (14 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 packet of gelatin
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup of shredded coconut
  • 2 ounces of honey

vanilla used to be one of the most sought after spices in the world

Directions:

  1. Using a paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise, keeping it intact.

    Use a pairing knife to slice down lengthwise

    Use a pairing knife to slice down lengthwise

  2. Place the milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the contents of the gelatin packet over the milk. Stir gently and let sit for 5 minutes.

    Bloom the gelatin in milk

    Bloom the gelatin in milk

  3. Combine the coconut milk, vanilla bean, coconut, and honey in a small sauce pan. Slowly heat this until it boils. Be careful if using raw honey, as the enzymes can have an adverse affect on the gelatin later on. If you’re using raw honey, make sure this boils for about a minute, just to be safe.

    Coconut, vanilla, and honey

    Coconut, vanilla, and honey

  4. Remove the coconut mixture from the heat and let it cool for a minute or two.
  5. Stir in the bloomed gelatin and milk mixture into the coconut mixture. When the gelatin is dissolved, strain the mixture into a pourable container, such as a large pyrex cup measure.

    Strain when ready

    Strain when ready

  6. Pour the panna cotta into 4 – 6 silicon molds or ramekins. Let it set for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.

    Pour into molds and refrigerate to set

    Pour into molds and refrigerate to set

Rambutan is a silly name

For the Vanilla Rambutan Syrup:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of Rambutan. A can of lychees, drained, can be substituted. Check the ethnic foods section.
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2/3 cup of water

lychee is also a silly name

Directions:

  1. Halve the rambutans. Remove from the outer shell and carefully take out the seed in the middle. The seed “skin” will remain on the inside of the fruit, which is fine. It doesn’t taste bitter and gives it a nice texture.

    The shell is nowhere near edible.

    The shell is nowhere near edible.

  2. Combine the vanilla bean, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar, stirring often.

    Sugar, vanilla, and water

    Sugar, vanilla, and water

  3. Add the rambutan to the syrup and remove from the heat. Let cool.

    Add fruit

    Add fruit

  4. Remove the vanilla bean. Scrape it if you like and add the seeds to the syrup, or use my suggestion from above and make vanilla sugar for later use.
  5. When the syrup is cool, refrigerate.

coconut curl sounded better than lace cookie

For the Coconut Curl

This recipe goes quick! I didn’t have time to take pictures, except for at the end, because I wasn’t able to stop.

Makes about 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounces of shredded coconut
  • 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of light corn syrup
  • 1/6 cup of all purpose flour (yeah, that’s about .75 ounces)

coconuttybuttydutty

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Make sure your rack is about 2/3 from the bottom.
  2. Use nonstick cookie sheets, or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. A silpat, if you have one, works great.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the butter, brown sugar, sugar, and corn syrup on low heat until the butter melts. Then increase the heat to medium-high and bring it just to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.
  4. Stir in the flour and coconut.
  5. Drop Tablespoon sized batter onto cookie sheets, keeping them about three inches apart. They will spread!
  6. Make sure you prepare all of your sheets now, even if you can only bake one at a time. This batter will firm up and become difficult to work with if you wait.
  7. Bake the cookies until they are golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Cookies will spread and become thin, like a lace cookie or tuille.
  8. When finished baking, let them cool for a few minutes so they stiffen up a bit. Using a wide spatula, remove them from the pan and drape them over a rolling pin, bottle, or other curved surface. Let them sit for a few minutes and they will harden that shape.

    They're still flexible when warm

    They're still flexible when warm

  9. Store in an airtight container, with a layer of parchment or foil between them, until ready to use.

    They crisp up in their new shape

    They crisp up in their new shape

Now you can assemble your dessert! If you used silicon molds for the panna cotta, they can be very carefully removed. I used a skewer to start the process and plopped them out. They didn’t come out perfectly, but I wasn’t really expecting them to because my “molds” are actually silicon cupcake pans.

Ready to assemble!

Ready to assemble!

So, plating this dessert up, I realized that everything was white, except for the cookie. Against a stark white plate, it just looked washed out. I tried using another plate that had a border on it to create some contrast, but it was only a slight improvement.

On a white plate

On a white plate

I thought the dessert tasted great, though. The vanilla syrup was a little sweet, however, and if too much is added, it could actually overpower the panna cotta. The delicate flavors of the rambutan were very nice with the coconut and honey in the panna cotta, and the coconut curl added a nice texture.

Not on a white plate

Not on a white plate

If I were to change this dessert, I wouldn’t necessarily take anything away. I would use the syrup in moderation, and add more fruit. Adding a nice, bright sauce to the plate, such as a pineapple coulis and some bright fruit to garnish, like sliced mango, would liven up the plate as well as bring a nice acidic component to cut the sweetness of the vanilla syrup and the creaminess of the panna cotta. So, if you’re brave enough to try a dessert that I, myself, don’t think is a success, give these suggestions a try and let me know how it turned out!

Fini!

Fini!

The thing about cooking and baking, is that things sometimes just don’t turn out as we expect. This is no different, even for somebody who supposedly knows what they’re doing or those who are working kitchen professionals. This applies to all aspects of life. Mistakes and accidents happen, but if they happen more than once, they are no longer mistakes or accidents. This is how we learn and grow, and it’s how I become a better me.

Oh, and you’re likely to have leftover vanilla syrup. If you’re a home mixologist and like to create cocktails, I’m sure you’ll find it handy. My wife, however, has been thoroughly enjoying it in her coffee every morning.

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5 Comments

Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Baking, Dessert, Food

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “Coconut Honey Panna Cotta with Vanilla Rambutan and Coconut Lace Curl

  1. edgrace622

    February 28, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I agree with Mrs. D. We are from South East Asia where the source of rambutan is yet we never had any idea to do anything with it. We just eat the fruit by itself and we still have a rambutan tree back in my parent’s house. Well done, Jereme!

     
    • Chef Turned Soldier

      February 28, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      Thank you, I hope this inspires some new ideas for using this fruit!

       
  2. Mrs. D

    February 12, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Hmmm… never thought you could do something like that with rambutan. It is now rambutan “season” in Indonesia. And we just eat them like that ๐Ÿ™‚

     
    • inquebiss

      February 12, 2012 at 7:01 am

      Thank you! I really liked their flavor, so I didn’t want to change it too much, but rather compliment them with other flavors.

       
      • Mrs. D

        February 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

        Yeah, tell me about it. When I was little I liked to sit on rambutan tree and pick them and eat them while I’m on the tree. lol ๐Ÿ˜€

         

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