The more I bake the more complex and beautiful my baked goods are expected to become – apparently having a baking blog means I’m somehow automatically trained in the art of decorating cakes. And I get it to an extent; I get a lot more practice at baking than others, but not enough to call myself a professional and definitely not enough to compete with some of the insanely beautiful blogs out there.
So when a friend showed me her new favourite blog (other than mine, of course), which sported a world cake and said ‘can you make something like this?’ I balked, and then spluttered, and mumbled something along the lines of having other things in life than baking. I received a raised eyebrow in return.
I returned dejected to my desk and took another look at the website. Yep, definitely wouldn’t be able to make something like that but!… there was a recipe that looked beautiful and more on my level of skills. A Panna Cotta and Raspberry Jelly dessert. You could literally see the hope returning; maybe, just maybe, I could pull this one off!
Determined to prove my decorating skills, I decided to duplicate the dessert using Lorraine Pascal’s Panna Cotta recipe in Baking Made Easy. I was making dinner for the family that day and had set aside plenty of time to prepare dessert.
I started off by covering muffin-tray with a kitchen towel and balancing the dessert glasses in each hole. I’m actually ashamed to say that I got our mini spirit-level out – I was that determined to make everything look perfect.
I made up the raspberry jelly according to the instructions (mix with hot water, then with cool) and began pouring it into each glass. Then came the arduous (and somewhat terrifying) task of opening the fridge door wide enough whilst balancing jelly in tilted glasses that are themselves balanced precariously on a muffin tin; making enough space (because I’m not forward-thinking enough to do this first); and placing the tray in the fridge without any accidents. I somehow managed this feat without breaking any glasses or spilling any jelly; clearly the years of competing in the egg-and-spoon race at school have paid off.
A few hours later (and by few I mean 5, I was pulling my hair out waiting for the ruddy jelly to set!) I deemed the jelly ready and began preparing the Panna Cotta. I was pretty surprised at the amount of ‘rich’ ingredients going in (mascarpone cheese, white chocolate and double cream) but, as I’ve never made or eaten this dessert, I followed the recipe to the letter, putting all my faith in Lorraine Pascal’s abilities. Panna Cotta is actually really easy to make; all it took was gently heating the mascarpone cheese and double cream; adding the white chocolate and stirring till it melts; and finally adding in the gelatine and running it through a sieve to get rid of any lumpy bits.
I was worried the Panna Cotta was too hot to pour straight over the jelly so left it in the fridge for around 10 minutes before attempting it. I poured the panna cotta over a spoon so that there wouldn’t be any ‘dents’ in the jelly before placing the glasses back in the fridge to set.
Just before serving I added a few raspberries and grated the left over white chocolate on top for an extra bit of extravagance. The result: a beautiful dessert that no one was willing to touch. I had to be the first one to ‘tuck in’ before anyone else was willing to go for it.
There were two problems with eating this dessert. Firstly, we are not big cheese eaters and secondly, we had just worked our way through a very large, very cheesy (yet awesomely delicious) lasagne. So when it came round to eating another, very cheesy and very rich dessert, I think it got a bit too much for everyone (except my father, who ate it all!).
Don’t get me wrong, the Panna Cotta itself was lovely and the vanilla and white chocolate went really well with the raspberry jelly; but it was extremely rich and quite heavy; a bit too much for my taste.
I refuse to give up on this dessert, however. Although Lorraine Pascale’s recipe didn’t really do it for me, I will try as many other recipes as it takes to get the perfect mix of decadence and lightness. I will even attempt other ways of making it pretty, as I have clearly now set a new standard for decoration. Oh dear!