"Spin Span Spun"
What could I do to lift a panna cotta up from its present state of being old school and overdone, I wondered?
I've always wanted to make a sugar nest (spun sugar) but sugar and chocolate craft are very alien to me. Besides, I don't have a candy thermometer and the weather here is extremely humid.
When I was in London last year, Tina, who reads my blog, contacted me and when we met, we got on like old friends and I even scored a stay with her and her hubby in their beautiful home near Heathrow Airport. Tina used to own a Peranakan restaurant in Singapore and she is such an excellent and super efficient cook that I felt embarrassed for myself.
Last Saturday, Tina called me from London to confirm our date in December. She was excited for me about the Jelliriffic! challenge and when I told her how much I wanted to make a spun sugar nest but can't find a candy thermometer here, she offered to send me one but I couldn't wait so she insisted that I can make spun sugar without a candy thermometer, "just check for the soft ball stage". Thanks to her encouragement, I made spun sugar today and although the results are not as fine as I wanted, I'm very thrilled that I finally did it. There's more refinement to do but for now, I am happy that my first attempt was not a failure. It's people like Tina and many others (you know who you are!) who have kept me going with this crazy blogging hobby.
After the photos were taken of the panna cotta walled by the sugar nest, I re-heated the sugar to shape another nest on the Jelliriffic! mould. It didn't work. The sugar pulled in drippy strands and worse, it stuck to the greased mould. I re-heated the sugar, wrapped the mould with foil, greased it, hoping to pull the foil off once the sugar hardened, but the sugar stuck again to the foil. I re-heated the sugar a couple more times and it was getting more and more burnt. In the end, I gave up but I'm sure that one day I will spin a sugar nest over the mould. It can be done.
If you've never made panna cotta, make it! It's the yummiest easy dessert to make. Just boil cream with gelatine, set it, make a sugar syrup or if you are adventurous, make spun sugar and you will turn a plain-looking dessert into a stunning showpiece. Try it and thank me.
I think that if my spun sugar strands were hair-thin, it'd be easier to mould them into a nest.
Coconut Panna Cotta In Sugar Nest
The Panna Cotta:
100 ml fresh thick coconut milk
100 ml dairy cream
1 1/2 piece gelatine sheets*
1. Soften the gelatine leaves in room temperature for a couple of seconds. Drain.
2. Put the cream, coconut milk and gelatine into a small pot and heat, stirring all the time, until the gelatine is melted. Do not let it boil. Remove, let cool for a few minutes and pour into a rinsed Jelliriffic! mould. Cover with wrap and chill until set.
*This makes a firm jelly for photography in hot weather but for eating, use 1 1/3 gelatine sheets
70 gm sugar (or better still, gula melaka)
25 ml water
Put water and sugar into a small pot and heat (do not stir!) until it becomes golden brown (not too brown or it'll be bitter) and bubbly-thick. Very carefull, using a long ladle and gloved hand (because hot syrup will splutter), add about 50 ml of cold water dripping onto the inside of the pot. This is to prevent the syrup from hardening. Let it cool. If using gula melaka, pass the syrup through a fine sieve.
The Sugar Nest:
1/4 cup coarse sugar
1/8 cup light corn syrup
1/8 cup water
1. Put a handful of ice cubes and a cup of water into a big bowl or basin. Place 2 or 3 pots or frying pans with long handles sticking out over the counter. Place newspapers on the floor to catch sugar drips. Wear an apron.
2. Put sugar, corn syrup and water into a small pot and let simmer (medium fire) without stirring. After about 15 minutes, the sugar will turn light golden and syrupy. If you have a candy thermometer, it should reach 310 F. Remove and plunge the pot into the prepared bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. The sugar will thicken further upon cooking.
3. Dip a fork into the sugar syrup, draw the fork over the handles of the pans to and fro. At first the strands will be very thin and wispy. After a while, the sugar strands will build up. You can re-heat the sugar if it gets too thick to spin. When done, lift the spun sugar off the handles and wrap it around the panna cotta. Spun sugar hardens quickly so it will break easily.
4. Serve the panna cotta with tartish fruits such as starfruit,oranges and strawberries and the caramel sauce (the spun sugar is too hard). Voila! A show stopper!
Super silky coconut panna cotta. I had re-heated the spun sugar for the second nest so there was no spun sugar to eat with the panna cotta (it would be too hard anyway) but luckily, I found gula melaka syrup in the fridge.