Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Osmanthus Panna Cotta with Kumquats in Vanilla Bean Syrup



The first time that I discovered kumquats was around the third grade, I think (come to think of it more, that was probably around the same time I went through my zucchini phase, but that's a whole 'nother story).  I remember very clearly learning that these small, little orange-like things were actually sweet on the outside and sour inside and being absolutely fascinated by this opposite order of things--'cause it's universal Truth to a smart third grader who knows not to eat glue that you don't eat orange peels either, right?!  Upon finding this out, I was truly a kid obsessed, scarfing down every single kumquat that I could come across.  They weren't very common back then, even in the California-based Chinese communities around where I grew up, so it wasn't soon after they went out of season (post-Chinese New Year's) that I quickly forgot about them and moved on to the next great third-grade obsession.  (Which was probably that zucchini phase.)

dried osmanthus flowers
Fast-forward until now and all of a sudden, I'm seeing these tiny, little, magical oranges of my third grade days pop up everywhere, even when it's not Chinese New Year's!  Like on food blogs! and in Trader Joe's!  (You know you've made it when you're sold at TJ's.)  and so, when I saw the kumquats at the store, sitting there in miniature relief between the lemons and real, normal-sized oranges, I couldn't resist grabbing a box of them and taking them home to re-live the fascination of my youth.  I am nothing if not hugely food-nostalgic.


Thinking about food-induced nostalgia also got me thinking about osmanthus flowers, which are these incredibly sweet and amazing-smelling flowers (second photo above).  My grandma used to have an osmanthus tree outside her home in Taiwan, and she'd make this amazing rice wine and tang yuan dessert soup flavored with osmanthus flowers.  I've always loved the sweet, summery smell and subtle taste of the flowers, but ones in edible form have eluded me for years here in the States.  (As for osmanthus in their non-edible form, I'm often willing to take the long bike path home from school just to ride down a street lined with osmanthus trees.)  Until, one day, as if by more food magic, my friend Amy (who was one of my food tour-guides in NYC) shows up with dried osmanthus flowers!  Magic!  --or not: apparently you can find the dried buds in Asian grocery stores or tea shops, and I just hadn't been looking in the right aisles. :-)


Anyways, here they are: two flavors that heavily remind me of my childhood, united in one sweet and simple dessert: osmanthus-scented panna cotta with candied kumquats in vanilla bean syrup.  I have to say that the osmanthus flavor is incredibly faint, but since it was my first time working with it, I didn't want to end up with a dessert that was way too flowery.  Other than that, the combination of sweet, candied, ever-so-slightly-toothy kumquats and vanilla bean-kumquat syrup over a delicate, jiggly, creamy, and lightly-flavored panna cotta is just wonderful.  It's the perfect grown-up dessert encapsulation of the nostalgic flavors of my yesteryear memories.  :-)


Back in the present, here's what's been going on during the recent blog-silence and slowed twitter-stream: finishing up my dissertation proposal and having my dissertation proposal defense meeting with my entire committee in one room for the first time (< they call it a "meeting" instead of a "defense" so that we don't freak out too much, but, given that I'm always overly dramatic, the euphemism didn't really discourage me from doing so).  It went better than I could have ever hoped, and while I have a few more final touches to go from the meeting comments, now starts the actual dissertation work.  Woot(?)!  So, thank you for all y'all's virtual and IRL support and encouragement over the past few weeks!  There might also be some exciting food-bloggery news coming over the next few weeks if plans currently set in motion continue the way they should, so stay tuned!



Read on for recipe...





Osmanthus-scented panna cotta with kumquats in vanilla bean syrup
panna cotta recipe adapted from David Lebovitz and Judy Witts
makes ~8 servings

for panna cotta:
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbspn dried osmanthus flowers
1 vanilla bean
6 Tbspn cold water
4 1/2 tspn powdered gelatin
1/2 cup sugar

1. In a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the cream, milk, and dried osthmanthus. Split the vanilla bean length-wise, scrape the seeds into the cream, and add the bean itself. Bring to a simmer, cover, and remove from heat. Let steep for at least ten minutes.
2. In a bowl, sprinkle the powdered gelatin evenly over the cold water. Let bloom for five minutes.
3. Add the sugar to the cream and milk mixture and return to medium heat. Cook until the sugar has completely dissolved.
4. Pour the warm cream mixture through a fine mesh sieve onto the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
5. If you would like to unmold your panna cotta, lightly grease the inside of your molds with a neutral-flavored oil. Pour the cream into the prepared molds.
6. Refrigerate the panna cotta for two to four hours. To unmold, dip the bottoms of the panna cotta molds into a bowl of hot water and turn out the panna cottas.




for candied kumquats:
12 oz. (340 gr) kumquats
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water

1. Slice the kumquats and place in a saucepan.
2. Split the vanilla bean length-wise and scrape the seeds into the kumquats. Add the bean as well.
3. Add the sugar and water to the kumquats and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the kumquats are translucent.
4. Drain the kumquats and return the syrup to heat. Return to a boil, cooking until the liquid reduces by about half. Remove from heat and let cool briefly.
5. Serve candied kumquats and syrup over the panna cotta.



Enjoy!

22 comments:

  1. This is soooo beautiful! I enjoy every single photo especially theese with sweet orange fruits ;)The Easter is comming and I thing it's gonna to be perfect dessert after celebration dinner :)
    Greetings!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had my very first kumquat just a few weeks ago. I can totally understand why your third grade self was obsessed! They're awesome!

    This recipe sounds amazing, as usual, and I love the moodiness of the accompanying photos. Congrats on the meeting/defense and good luck with your work!

    Can't wait to hear the news...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't care if it comes across as corny or a cliche but I love, love this post and all of the photos! The black and orange color contrast is beautiful and the smooth, silky texture of the panna cotta captured perfectly.

    Regarding the osmanthus flowers, currently my travel in HK introduced me to dried osmanthus flower jelly served at dim sum outlets. They're mighty sweet but comes in longish stems which I find weird chewing. I'm going to see if I can get your dried version and lug some back to Singapore.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Such lovely pics, as always. Good luck on your dissertation proposal! Sounds like things are rolling along quite nicely.

    ReplyDelete
  5. We do love panna cotta. There are so many flavors you can pair with it...even if it's an herbal panna cotta. I saw some kumquats in the market the other day. I'd really like to try this.
    Lovely photos!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mmmm. I have a special fondness for kumquats, specifically stealing them from a neighbor's bush in Pisa, Italy, every morning for a weekend. Sigh. What does a girl need to do to get a taste of these delicacies, Steph?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks, everyone!

    @Lauren: I didn't know kumquats grow in Italy, too! To me, they're still such an East Asian thing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Beautiful photos and a fantastic dessert! I made panna cotta with kumquats a few weeks ago and fell in love with this combination. http://kucharnia.blogspot.com/2011/02/z-kim-na-randke-panna-z-kumkwatem.html
    Have a nice day and greetings from Poland:)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautiful photos! This all reminded me of the kumquat tree my Grandmother had in her back yard in Davis. But back then I only ate things like bacon and cheese, not cool little fruits! Alas, the tree had to be chopped down several years ago before I was able to partake in it's goodness.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Steph!
    Your story about kumquats is the same as mine! (except for the zucchini phase which I didn't go through) and I've thought about your recipe for days: candied kumquats, man, I have to try that one! And today (and I see that as a sign of food gods), I've inherited a lot of kumquats... so here we are ! ;D
    Thanks for the recipe, beautiful pictures, great text... and I look forward to read your exciting "food-bloggery news!"

    ReplyDelete
  11. It looks soo tasty and really not all that fuss to make. Love your shots! dropped in from foodgawker. Glad to follow :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oooh, this almost made my heart skip a beat. That is one of the most beautiful desserts I have ever seen.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The vanilla bean is popping out on my screen!!! This looks fabulous.. I love how you colored your prop board too!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have to ask, what neutral-flavored oils would you use to grease the panna cotta molds?

    ReplyDelete
  15. @With Love and Squalor: I use grapeseed oil because that's what I have lying about, but I imagine plain veggie oil would work, too? Just avoid things like fruity olive oils.

    ReplyDelete
  16. hello! I chanced upon your beautiful blog by chance and I love your work. :)

    桂花酒酿汤圆也是我的最爱哦!

    ReplyDelete
  17. @travellingfoodies: that's my favorite, too! i need to learn how to make it at home.

    ReplyDelete
  18. @travellingfoodies: that's my favorite, too! i need to learn how to make it at home.

    ReplyDelete
  19. @With Love and Squalor: I use grapeseed oil because that's what I have lying about, but I imagine plain veggie oil would work, too? Just avoid things like fruity olive oils.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Oooh, this almost made my heart skip a beat. That is one of the most beautiful desserts I have ever seen.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Steph!
    Your story about kumquats is the same as mine! (except for the zucchini phase which I didn't go through) and I've thought about your recipe for days: candied kumquats, man, I have to try that one! And today (and I see that as a sign of food gods), I've inherited a lot of kumquats... so here we are ! ;D
    Thanks for the recipe, beautiful pictures, great text... and I look forward to read your exciting "food-bloggery news!"

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing from you and reading your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Happy feasting!

Related Posts with Thumbnails