Sometimes in the summer I find myself craving the nutty flavors of fall, slightly over-excited for the next season on the docket. But the heat…oh the heat. It makes baking things like warm nutty pies a bit of a challenge, especially when you live in a small 1950’s-era bungalow with little-to-no insulation and the weather outside is hovering around 98 degrees, which means the weather inside your home is hovering around 88 degrees. A challenge indeed! But not one that can’t be overcome with a bit of gelatin, cream, and Frangelico. Yes, it is best to use a fine and silky hazelnut liquor for the hazelnut flavoring in your cool treat. The taste is so much more robust than hazelnut extract, you get hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and cocoa mixed in, too. And when you open the bottle it smells exactly like freshly ground hazelnut butter. (A random smell to reference, but I know how this smells because Whole Foods has stations where you can grind your own nut butters, and I am obsessed with them.)
I made panna cotta for the first time a few months back, and was surprised at how easy it was to make. With a name like “panna cotta” (picture Giada de Laurentis saying it, because that’s how it sounds in my head) I was expecting it to be difficult and tedious, but it ended up being no more difficult than making jello. All you have to do is mix the gelatin with some water and any other flavored liquids, like liquor or juice, and set that aside while you heat the milk and cream until it simmers. Then whisk in the gelatin mixture, refrigerate it, and voila! Panna cotta complete. The last time I made panna cotta I didn’t unmould it, though, and was a bit nervous about doing it this time around. When it was time to unmould, I held the pan in a bowl of hot water for about a minute before flipping it onto a plate. It slid right out, along with a small bit of liquid, which lead me to believe that I could have taken it out after 20 seconds rather than a full minute since I ended up melting it a little. But it came out easily nevertheless, so don’t feel panicked if yours doesn’t, just leave it in the hot water for a tad bit longer.
For this recipe, I poured the mixture into a 3-cup capacity mini-bundt pan, but you could also pour it into (3) 1-cup capacity regular ramekins or whatever shaped container you’d like. You can even get creative and pour it into crazy-shaped jello moulds layered with other panna cotta flavors. But for this recipe I stuck with a simple and delicious hazelnut panna cotta and made a quick glaze using raw honey and raw cocoa powder. I love using raw cocoa powder because the cacao bean has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any edible substance. The only issue is that when cacao is roasted many of the antioxidants are destroyed, so the dark chocolate we eat with roasted cocoa is not nearly as beneficial as it could be. Because of this, I like using raw cocoa powder and raw cocoa beans, both of which I get from Mountain Rose Herbs for super cheap. They’re both bitter and need to be paired with something sweet (I usually stuff the beans into the middle of dates. SO tasty.) So the slightly bitter raw cocoa powder pairs very well with the rich and sweet honey, and it really helps bring out the chocolate notes in the Frangelico. Plus it’s awesomely easy to make, since you just have to whisk them together by hand for like 30 seconds and then a chocolatey glaze appears. Hurray easy-yet-froofy-looking desserts! And for more information about Frangelico & it’s possible recipe inclusions, make sure to check out their facebook page and website.
To make the panna cotta, whisk together the gelatin, water, vanilla extract, and Frangelico in a small bowl and set aside. Bring the cream, milk, and sugar to a boil over medium heat and then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes or until all the sugar has dissolved, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture until completely smooth. The gelatin might have gotten chunky while it was sitting out but it should dissolve completely when exposed to the warm liquid and mix in smoothly. Pour the mixture into (3) 1-cup capacity ramekins or (1) 3-cup capacity miniature bundt pan and refrigerate overnight.
While the panna cotta is setting, you can get to toasting the hazelnuts & making the glaze. Preheat the oven to oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the hazelnuts in a metal baking dish in an even flat layer and sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the nuts have darkened slightly and are aromatic. Remove and allow to cool completely.
To make the glaze, whisk together the honey and cocoa powder until blended and set aside.
Once the panna cotta is set, dip the pan in hot water (do not submerge it, of course, just dip it in up until about 1 inch away from the top) for 10-20 seconds and then flip it over onto the serving surface. If it doesn’t unmould right away, dip the pan in the hot water for a longer period of time. Once it unmoulds, drizzle the honey glaze over the top and sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts. Serve immediately and refrigerate any leftovers.