This season, Robert has been using pomegranates in a Pomegranate Panna Cotta on a Gingerbread Cake. Read below for the recipe.
Pomegranate Panna Cotta on a Gingerbread Cake
(By Robert Wemischner)
A creamy dream of a dessert, in and of itself, panna cotta takes only a few ingredients and very little hands-on preparation time. From the Italian for “cooked cream,” this gelatin-set dessert can be the basis for many variations. Here, I add some bottled store-bought pomegranate juice to the mixture and then reduce additional juice to create a glaze. Set upon a round of spicy gingerbread and garnished with the arils of the pomegranate, those ruby colored jewel like seeds that are juice-packed and crunchy at the same time, this version is a seasonal dessert that would serve as a fitting end to the Thanksgiving or Christmas feast coming up. The gingerbread base can either be made using the recipe below or purchased from a local bakery.
Yield: 4 servings
3 t. unflavored gelatin powder (or 2-2/3 sheets of sheet gelatin)
1-1/3 c. (11 ozs.) heavy cream
2.5 T. (1.1 ozs.) granulated sugar
1/2 c. (4 ozs.) pomegranate juice
Prepare molds. Use 4 round metal rings each measuring 3 inches in diameter by about 1 inch tall. Line with acetate strips. Wrap the bottom of each mold tightly with plastic wrap to prevent the mixture from seeping out while it sets. Place the prepared molds onto a level sheet pan and then place the pan into the freezer for about 30 minutes before using. This chills the pan and the molds to ensure quick setting around the edges and bottom of each mold.
Now make the panna cotta mixture as follows:
If using powdered gelatin, sprinkle it over 5 T. cold water placed in a microwave safe container. Stir mixture and then place into the microwave. Heat to melt gelatin at high heat for about 30 seconds. Stir and return to the microwave, if needed, heating the mixture in 5 second increments, until it is completely clear. No granules of undissolved gelatin should appear. Set aside.
If using sheet gelatin, soak the sheets in enough ice water to cover them until softened. This process is called blooming the gelatin. When soft, remove the gelatin from the water, squeezing out excess water. Set aside.
Bring the cream to the boil. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the melted (or bloomed) gelatin to the hot cream and sugar mixure and stir to be sure it is well dispersed and dissolved. The gelatin should melt immediately. Add the pomegranate juice and stir to blend. Transfer the mixture to a vessel such as a measuring cup or other container with a spout and carefully pour into the prepared molds. Place into the refrigerator without spilling and allow to set at least 2 hours (cover if you wish to hold the panna cottas overnight before serving).
To make the pomegranate sauce, reduce the remaining pomegranate juice by placing in a heavy saucepan. Cook over high heat to reduce. Watch carefully. The juice should thicken to the consistency of maple syrup. When it does, remove from the heat immediately and then cool it by transferring it to a bowl set over a bowl of ice water. Once cool, transfer the syrup to a container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve the dessert.
Make the Gingerbread cake, if desired, as follows:
Yield: 1 8 x8 inch square of cake, finished height about 1 inch
Generous 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
Generous 1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground allspice
Generous pinch of table salt
1/4 c. (approximately 3 ozs.) light molasses
1/4 c. (approximately 1-3/4 ozs.) granulated sugar
1 T. sour cream
1 whole egg
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. (2 ozs.) boiling water
2 T. flavorless oil
2 T. melted unsalted butter
Spray an 8 inch x 8 inch square pan with pan release spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray the paper and set the prepared pan aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift first seven ingredients together. In a bowl, using a whisk, mix the remaining ingredients until blended. Add the sifted dry ingredients to this mixture, stirring just until evenly moistened. There should be no undissolved flour but do not overwork this mixture which would result in a tough cake. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing the top of the batter as much as possible.
Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes. When done, the top of the cake should spring back. To confirm that the cake is done, insert a skewer or the point of a small thin knife into the center of it. The skewer or knife should come out clean. When the cake tests done, remove the cake from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
To assemble the dessert:
Carefully remove the acetate strips from the inside of each panna cotta mold. Gently remove the plastic wrap from the bottom and sides of the molds. Using one of the now empty and cleaned molds, cut the Gingerbread Cake into 4 rounds, one for the base of each dessert. Set the cake rounds aside. (Use the leftover cake for the basis of another dessert. Here’s just one idea: Layer a relatively thin lemon curd with the cake. Top with softly whipped cream and serve.)
Place the cake rounds on each of four plates. Brush each cake round with a bit of the reduced pomegranate juice. Place one unmolded panna cotta on each cake round. Scatter some pomegranate arils over each dessert as pictured. Spoon or drizzle the remaining pomegranate syrup over each dessert, surrounding the cake and panna cottas, or as desired.