Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blood Orange Panna Cotta with Ginger Pecan Biscotti

In the dead of winter, nothing is quite as refreshing as a ruby-red, sweet-tart blood orange. I use blood orange juice to make exotic cocktails (i.e. Blood Orange Margaritas or Hurricanes) and the segments in salads with slices of fennel. I even keep some blood orange concentrate on hand in the freezer just in case I can’t find fresh blood oranges. Blood orange juice and zest is an ideal addition to a simple panna cotta (‘cooked cream’ in Italian)—its mild acidity cuts the richness and gives it a refreshing end-note. I like to serve this dessert with home-made Ginger Pecan Biscotti. (The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley Frozen Blood Orange Concentrate--which is fabulous--is available from

Blood Orange Panna Cotta with Ginger Pecan Biscotti

Makes 4 servings

Blood Orange Panna Cotta:
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons blood orange zest
3 tablespoons blood orange juice

Orange powder:
1 tablespoon orange zest

Ginger Biscotti:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon peeled and finely grated fresh gingerroot
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup pecan pieces

Make the panna cotta:
1. Place ¼ cup of the cream in a heatproof glass measure and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let stand to soften for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 ¾ cups cream with the sugar and orange zest, stirring to dissolve the sugar, just until it begins to boil. Turn off the heat and add the softened gelatin, stirring until it is dissolved. Stir in the blood orange juice. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass measure with a pouring spout. Pour into 4 serving glasses. Let the mixture cool until tepid, then refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Make the Orange Powder garnish:
2. Place the zest in a microwave-save container with a flat bottom. Microwave it uncovered at 10-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until it is dry (just over a minute, usually). Process the dried zest in a spice grinder until finely ground. 

Make the biscotti:
3. Position two racks near the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the gingerroot and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture at low speed, mixing just until blended. Add the crystallized ginger and pecans and mix until combined. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and gather it into a disc (the dough will be quite sticky). Divide the dough in two. Sprinkle the surface with more flour and shape each piece into a 12-inch log. Transfer the logs to one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 3 inches apart (the logs will spread).  With the heel of your hand, flatten the logs slightly until they are 2 inches wide. Place the baking sheet on the upper of the two racks in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, until the logs just start to brown lightly. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
6. Slide a pancake turner under each log to loosen it from the parchment paper. Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting surface. Replace the parchment paper on the baking sheet on which the logs were baked. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheets, 1/2 inch apart. Bake an additional 18 to 22 minutes, switching the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking, until the biscotti are dry and barely begin to color around the edges. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

To serve:
7. Sprinkle a little Orange Powder on top of each panna cotta and serve each with 2 biscotti.