Panna Cotta Perfected

| Recipe

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have wanted to master a panna cotta, and I think I have settled on the right recipe for me. Ultimately, every recipe is some variation on the ratio of heavy cream to milk (or any other combination of dairy fats), with sugar, gelatin and flavoring.

For this particular version, I first made a raspberry fruit pureegelée(fruit puree slightly diluted with water and apricot nappage, to taste, with gelatin) and let it set in the mini cups on a slant. Then I made my panna cotta, using the recipe below, and poured it into the cups upright. Finally, I topped with some almond granola and a fresh raspberry. I originally intended to make a white chocolate basket for the raspberry but ran out of time. The result was still quite tasty and pretty!

Panna Cotta
Makes about 28 fl. oz.

  • 2 cups (473 mL) heavy cream
  • 1½ cups (355 mL) milk
  • 5 Tbsp (~63 g) granulated sugar
  • 4 sheets gelatin, bloomed (about one packet or one tablespoon of powdered gelatin)
  • 1 vanilla bean (split and scraped)

  1. Heat heavy cream, milk, sugar and scraped vanilla beans until the sugar dissolves. Add the bloomed gelatin.
  2. Cool in ice bath until lukewarm or just cool. This step helps prevent the fats from separating out into a two-layered panna cotta.
  3. Pour into molds and chill for about 4 hours or overnight (although the longer you chill, the harder the panna cotta will be).
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Wedding | Congrats Tiffany & Jon!

| Featured, Recipe, Weddings

A very belated post, but . . . This past July, Milo’s Bonbons had the honor of appearing on my cousin’s wedding menu! It was a whirlwind of a preparation for the wedding, but such a pleasure to cater desserts for Tiffany’s and Jon’s celebration.

My cousin asked for salted caramel chocolate cupcakes and lemon bars. Believe it or not, it was my first time making lemon bars! I probably should have experimented with that a little more, as I wasn’t perfectly happy with my crust to filling ratio, but it’s hard to go wrong with the flavor. I made both lemon and and lemon-cherry swirl bars as a nod to the wedding colors.

To give the desserts a little something extra, I decided to present the cupcakes and lemon bars on a display stand. I didn’t have enough chocolate on hand to make a chocolate stand and thought nougatine would be a better vehicle for my cousins’s wedding themes of red + gold and succulents. However, in retrospect, nougatine wasn’t the best choice for an outdoor wedding. The display held up, but it sure got shiny and sticky! Next time I’m sticking with using isomalt instead of sugar, or just using something material.

Here is the making of the nougatine, from toasting the nuts, to cooking the sugar and rolling out / cutting the pieces:

Makes about a half sheet pan

  • 600g granulated sugar
  • 250g sliced almonds, lightly toasted and warm


  1. Make a dry caramel (or wet, if you don’t want too dark a nougatine) with the sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Stir in the warm, sliced almonds.
  3. Immediately pour mixture onto a nonstick silicone mat and spread as thinly as possible.
  4. Place a second map on top of the caramel and roll out as thin and even as possible. Begin this step as soon as your can handle the heat.
  5. Remove the top map, carefully life the nougatine sheet and place on cutting board or oiled parchment paper. If mat sticks, then caramel is still too hot.
  6. Using a knife or cutting mold, cut desired shape, working quickly. If nougatine is too cold to cut or shape, place back on silicone mat and into a 350 degree oven for just long enough to soften.

I was quite limited by the size of my oven at that time, which couldn’t fit a full sheet pan, and thus limited the size of my cylinders and ovals. But, I’d like to think there was something “organic” or “artistic” about the pieces I built with 🙂 I added succulent trimmings to my nougatine leaves/petals to tie everything together:

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Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

| For Friends & Family, Recipe

If you ever buy blueberries at Costco, and realize you have more than you can finish before the blueberries go bad, here’s one for you:

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

Makes 1 (12-cup) Bundt cake, or 32 cupcakes

Crumb Topping:

  • ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, chilled


  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (or raspberries)
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (more for dusting)
  • 4 teaspoons baking power
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for pan)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk


  1. Make the crumb topping: mix the dry ingredients, and then cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients, rubbing the dry mix and butter between your fingers until it takes on a crumbly texture.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Rinse the berries, air dry, and then toss with 2 teaspoons flour.
  4. Generously butter and flour the Bundt pan.
  5. Make the cake: In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients, except for the sugar. Separately, whip the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer (paddle attachment) until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 15 seconds after each. Scrape the bowl, add the vanilla, and whip for another 1-2 minutes. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture, alternating between the two. Fold in the berries with a spatula, being careful not to break any.
  6. Scrape the batter into the pan, level the batter, and sprinkle generously with the crumb topping.
  7. Bake for 45-55 minutes, and then let sit for 10 minutes before un-molding the cake. Flip the cake back one more time so that the crumb topping is on top.

This recipe is from Fine Cooking Annual, which, by the way, is filled with amazing recipes. I don’t think we’ve ever hit upon a bad one in there.

For cupcakes, bake for approximately 25 minutes at the same temperature.

I have had some trouble with the crumb topping sinking in the Bundt cake (including the one pictured above). First I thought the crumb topping was too warm; then I thought it was too cold; then I thought perhaps I got the the crumb ingredients or consistency wrong, but no tweak was fixing the problem. My next idea was to watch what was going on while the cake was in the oven. As I watched, I saw that the batter along the outer and inner Bundt pan surfaces was rising faster and folding over the center. Consequently (because I’m a ChemE major . . .) I thought that this must be some fluid/thermodynamics issue, and surely I could fix it. Perhaps my batter was too cold, or there was otherwise some other reason for too high of a temperature gradient. But nothing I tried seemed to fix the problem.

This past weekend, I finally realized the issue. I recalled the first couple times I made this, when I had no problem at all, and was certainly less careful and meticulous about my preparation process. Back then, in law school, my kitchen was pretty sparse and I didn’t bother getting creative with recipes. I hand-buttered and floured the pan because the recipe said to, and I didn’t have one of those baking sprays with flour. My crumb wouldn’t sink then, but my cake would sometimes break as I tried to un-mold it. At that time, I thought the cake broke because I didn’t grease the pan properly and the cake was getting stuck. So I switched to those baking sprays with flour, thinking I’d get a more even coat. The problem is, that’s not why my cake was breaking. I was simply underbaking it in my crappy law school apartment oven. And what I now realize is that, while the flour baking spray does evenly and consistently grease a pan surface, it provides less insulation versus buttering and dusting flour on the pan. As a result, with less barrier layer insulation, the outer batter cooks much more quickly than if I had stuck with a hand-dusted flour layer. So . . . it is a fluid/thermodynamics issue after all. Did you really just read all of that?

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