21 July 2011

Chocolate panna cotta with vanilla rice pudding

Scientists move around. A lot. You do your graduate training in one city. Your post-doc in another. And finally you look for work, in a third city. Or fourth. Or fifth. And with super-specialized skills, at any one time there might be half a dozen jobs in the world that you're qualified for. Now, marry a scientist, and you've got a problem squared. You both have to find jobs, in super-specialized fields.

Many scientists spend their early careers living in different cities from their spouse. We didn't do that. We picked the three cities where we thought we both had a reasonable chance of getting jobs. San Diego. San Francisco. And Boston.

Naturally, many of our friends and colleagues have done the same. So when we arrived in Boston, despite the fact we've never lived here, we had friends here. And friends of friends here. So we've had more than a few invitations for dinner. Including an invite to a friend of a friend who had a pool (yay!). And celiac disease (doh!). We offered to bring dessert. Gluten-free dessert. Courtesy of Tartelette. We had a lovely time having dinner with our new friends, and look forward to having more good times with them.


We brought chocolate panna cotta with vanilla rice pudding. Slightly modified:
For the rice pudding:
1 cup rice (really the kind you like best)
1 ½ cups (315ml) whole milk (I used raw)
½ vanilla bean, split open
½ cup (60ml) heavy cream
¼ cup (50gr) sugar
Pinch of salt
Rinse the rice under cold water for a minute or two to remove the excess starch. Mix the milk, cream and rice in a heavy pot, and heat over medium until it starts to simmer.

Rice pudding

Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the rice softens. If required, add water to the mix. You don't want this to turn into a cement mixture, you want a nice, soft consistency.

In the last minutes, chop the vanilla bean lengthwise.


Scrape the seeds into the rice pudding. Add salt, and remove from heat.

Rice pudding

Pour the rice puddings into the bottoms of a few ramekins. Or if you're staying in a furnished sublet in Somerville, MA, add them to the bottoms of 6-8 coffee cups.

Rice pudding

Now make the panna cotta.
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (2 sheets gelatin)
¼ cup water
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
13 cup honey
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
½ cup goat yogurt

Cocoa nibs, dusting of cocoa powder and fresh whipped cream (optional garnish)
Soak the gelatin sheets in ice water, or rehydrate the powdered gelatin in the ¼ cup water. I really prefer sheet gelatin. Even though it's slightly harder to get, it's really more reproducible and easier to use. You'll never screw up sheet gelatin. You might screw up with powdered. It's a crutch I approve of.

Okay. So while they're soaking, mix the milk, cream and honey.


Heat over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Squeeze the sheet gelatin to get out the excess water, then add to the milk mixture. (Alternatively, if you're using gelatin powder, pour in the hydrated mess). Stir until the gelatin dissolves.

Chop the chocolate. Or use chocolate bits. I like the bits, but I also chop. Another crutch.


Add the chocolate to the warm milk, a bit and a time. Stir until melted and mixed. Stir in the yogurt until blended.

Chocolate panna cotta

Pour on top of the rice pudding. Let cool a bit on the counter, then wrap and place in the fridge, a good four hours is required to solidify these guys. (If it's not fully solid, tell your guests it's chocolate pudding on rice pudding - they'll never know).

Whip up some whipping cream as a topping.

Whipping cream

Top with whipping cream, sprinkle on some cocoa. Serve. The kids hated it. But the adults ate the kids' leftovers.

Chocolate panna cotta

A hit. A palpable hit.


19 July 2011

Raspberry-streusel bars

We made it! Indirect Heat has crossed the country! I've started work (a month ago now) and the family has arrived (going on 7 days now) and we are on the hunt for animal parts. We are now getting our bearings in sunny Somerville, Massachusetts. And it is HOT. We're staying in a cute little sublet, and the main renters have left us a completely tricked out kitchen, complete with 1950s-era cooking technology. I think we're going to have some fun here this summer, while we find a real home, a school for Bbq Jr, a job for Mrs. Dude, and generally get settled in. No problem.


In the meantime, to calm us down (yes, I was hyperventilating there briefly) we return to comfort food. Food from our past that we associate with happy memories. Raspberry bars. This is a recipe that comes to us from a great friend from our days in Baltimore (hi, Cara!). I confess, I sometimes begged for these bars in a manner that was quite undignified. And in a time of stress, nothing is as calming as familiarity.
2½ C unbleached all-purpose flour
⅔ C granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
16 tbsp (2 sticks) plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces and softened to room temperature
¼ C packed brown sugar
½ C old-fashioned rolled oats
½ C pecans, chopped fine
¾ C raspberry preserves
¾ C fresh raspberries
1 tbsp juice from 1 lemon

Line a 9" x 16" pan with foil, and grease up the foil with butter. Preheat your oven to 375°F. If it's 95°F outside, wait until the last minute to preheat the oven. Really.

Chop the warmed butter into 1 tbsp chunks.

Retro kitchen

One tablespoon at a time, mix 2 sticks of butter with the flour, sugar and salt. I used the old school egg beater, and while it was a teeny bit messy, it was pretty fun to work with.

Retro kitchen

Mix the buttered up flour goop until it is moist all over. Save 1¼ cups of the moist goop. With the remaining goop, press it into the greased pan until it makes a nice even layer of goop.

Bake this in the oven 15 to 18 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown. While it's baking, go on to the next step.

Mix the raspberry preserves, the raspberries and the lemon juice.


Mix just enough to mash the raspberries a tiny bit, but not so much so it's a homegenous goo. You want some chunk to this.

Rasberry goo

Meanwhile, mix the 1¼ cups of crust with the rolled oats, brown sugar and finely chopped pecans.


Add the remaining 2 tbsp butter, and combine into a lovely streusel.


When the crust is cooked, remove from the oven and immediately smear on the raspberry goop in an even(ish) layer. It can't be totally even, as you left big raspberry chunks in it. Be gentle, the crust can be torn. When done, sprinkle on a layer of the oat streusel you created.

Raspberry bars

Bake in the oven 20-25 minutes, or until the raspberry goop is bubbling up through the streusel, and the streusel has taken on a nice golden brown consistency. To speed things along, I fired up the broiler for the last 3 minutes to add colour to the streusel.

Raspberry bars

Remove from the oven. Let cool 2 hours. Remove the foil from the pan, and slice into individual servings.

Serve, by itself or with ice cream. AAAAaaaaaa...

Raspberry bars