Well, I’ve made a rod for my back. This White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Salted Macadamia Crumb and Apricot Puree was declared the absolute best dessert I’ve ever made, by my very discerning foodie family.
Flattering as that is, the problem now is that anything I make from here on in, will clearly fail to impress. Talk about pressure!
Why was this dessert such a success? I can only guess it’s because I made it my mission to ensure all the flavours and textures were balanced. I started off with this white chocolate panna cotta – glorious in its own right, but ultra rich, sweet and creamy. What to do? I reckoned I needed to add components that provided a counter-balance – i.e. a crunchy element to offset the creaminess, saltiness to contrast with the sweetness, and tang to cut through the richness. Adding a salted macadamia crumb immediately came to mind, and then the idea to add an apricot puree alongside. And, as it turns out, matches made in Heaven.
This dessert, with its complex flavours and textures, is a veritable party in your mouth! It’s creamy, sweet, salty, rich, spicy, tangy and crunchy all at once. Boom!
I have to thank Catherine Fulvio from RTE Lifestyle for the hero of the dish – the white chocolate panna cotta. It was unbelievably delicious though, as you can see, not quite the delicate quivering custard we generally associate with a panna cotta. Due to the added white chocolate and yoghurt, this one was much denser in texture and ultra creamy. Not that anyone was complaining!
And, on that note, due to its creaminess, you’ll find that inverting the panna cotta is a bit tricky. You’re not going to get the usual sleek, jelly-like exterior you’d expect, so you might consider not inverting it, but serving it instead in a pretty serving ramekin, tea cup or glass to avoid it looking messy.
I borrowed the salted macadamia crumb component from My Kitchen Rules.co.nz. This nut crumb is so unbelievably moreish that you have to physically restrain yourself from eating it straight from the bowl, or at least restrain family members (you know who you are!) when your back is turned. Macadamia nuts, coconut sugar, maple syrup and sea salt held together with a small amout of butter and roasted in the oven – I mean… there really is nothing more to be said, right?
To finish it off, I made a super simple puree of canned apricots (given fresh apricots aren’t in season as yet), with added honey and vanilla. Simple, refreshing and tangy. The perfect accompaniment to a perfect dessert and one that’s (apparently) impossible to top! Enjoy!
- 200g (7 oz) good quality white chocolate
- 300ml (10.1 fl oz) double (heavy) cream
- 100g (3.5 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 gelatine sheets (I used Equagold Gold Grade)
- 250ml (8.4 fl oz) cold water
- 200g (7 oz) Greek style natural yoghurt
- 100g (3.5 oz) raw macadamia nuts
- 12g (0.4 oz) butter
- 1 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- Sea salt, to taste
- 1 tin apricots (in juice - retain the juice) I used a 410g (14.4 oz) tin
- 2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of sea salt
- Salted Macadamia Crumb (see recipe)
- Apricot Puree (see recipe)
- 25g (0.8 oz) white chocolate, grated (optional)
- Place a small saucepan with an inch of water in it, on to moderate heat until water is gently simmering. Place the white chocolate, cream, sugar and vanilla into a heat proof bowl and place over top of the saucepan (make sure the water isn't touching the bottom of the bowl). Stir regularly until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat when melted.
- Place the gelatine sheets into the cold water and soak for about 2 to 3 minutes until they are softened. Squeeze all the excess water out of the gelatine and place the gelatine into the warm chocolate and cream mixture, stir through immediately until thoroughly combined.
- Pour the warm mixture through a sieve into a jug.
- Fold in the yoghurt and carefully pour into the ramekins or alternative serving dishes. Place on a tray and put into the fridge to set for at least 4 hours or overnight for a firmer set.
- Put the macadamia nuts into a food processor and pulse until it reaches a crumb consistency.
- Melt butter in fry pan. Add maple syrup, coconut sugar and sea salt (I recommend you add just a little salt at a time, tasting as you go, until you achieve the right level of saltiness) to combine. Add the nuts to the mixture to coat, then transfer them to the oven to caramelize and roast for 8-12 minutes or until golden. Let them cool in the tray to crunch up.
- Put the apricots and 75ml (2.5 fl oz) of the apricot juice into a small saucepan. Add the honey, vanilla and salt. Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the apricots are soft and the juice has reduced somewhat.
- Allow to cool, then transfer to a blender (add only a small amount of the liquid to start with so you can control the thickness of the puree, and add more as needed) and blitz until completely smooth. Check for sweetness and adjust by adding more honey if needed. You can transfer the puree to a squeeze bottle if you want to create circular patterns around the panna cotta.
- Take out the panna cotta from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving.
- You can serve the panna cotta in their ramekins, or you can invert it (as I did). If you're inverting, run a sharp knife around the ramekin and dunk the ramekin in some shallow hot water for a few seconds at a time. If it's not coming out, simply continue to dunk in hot water until it eventually plops out.
- Add some macadamia nut crumb alongside (or on top if serving in dishes) and a layer (or swirls) of apricot puree.
- Sprinkle over some extra grated white chocolate if you like.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting