Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ginger Panna Cotta Hearts with Blood Orange Campari Sauce

Chocolate, which says indulgence and luxury, is the clear flavor of choice for Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day celebrates romance, and this sentiment is usually exhibited by the exchange of small luxuries between couples, a tradition that has been around since the 

eighteenth century. Since this “exchange” usually means men giving women presents (and rightly so!), and since women are known for their love of chocolate, chocolate sales virtually explode in the early weeks of February, and pastry chefs and chocolatiers 

are at their busiest. I generally succumb to the chocolate-centric pre-Valentine hysteria myself and make some kind of rich chocolate cake or confection. But this year I opted for a lighter, more refreshing Valentine’s dessert: a heart-shaped Ginger Panna 

Cotta paired with a perfectly balanced Blood Orange Campari Sauce. The sauce is bright red, the color of passion, and the panna cotta is sweet and spicy, just like love should be. In theory, at least. If you don't want to deal with unmolding the panna cotta, you can opt to serve it in a martini or wine glass and pour some sauce on top. Here’s hoping your Valentine’s Day is the sweetest and spiciest ever. 

Ginger Panna Cotta Hearts with Blood Orange Campari Sauce

Makes 6 servings

Ginger Panna Cotta:
¼ cup (60 ml) water
2 teaspoons (6.2 grams) powdered gelatin
2 cups (464 grams) heavy cream
1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) grated gingerroot
½ teaspoon (2 grams) vanilla paste or extract

Blood Orange Campari Sauce:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) fresh blood orange juice
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Campari
1 blood orange, peel and pith cut off with a paring knife and segments cut out

Make the panna cotta:
1. Place the water in a small cup and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let stand to soften for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the cream with the sugar and ginger, 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. If necessary, return the mixture to low heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass measure with a pouring spout. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into six 4- or 5-ounce heart-shaped silicone molds. Let the mixture cool until tepid, then refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Make the sauce:
2. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, stir together the blood orange juice and the sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is about reduced by about half. Let cool and stir in Campari. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

To serve:
Chopped crystallized ginger
1 blood orange, peel and white pith removed with a paring knife and segments cut out

3. Carefully dip the mold into a larger pan of hot water for several seconds. Invert the mold onto a baking sheet and remove the mold, making sure that all the panna cottas are releasing. (If not, press down lightly on the top of the mold until it releases.) Using a spatula, carefully transfer a panna cotta to a serving plate. Sprinkle the top with a few pieces of crystallized ginger, and spoon some of the Blood Orange Campari Sauce around the heart. Garnish with one or two orange segments. Repeat with remaining desserts.