Monday, March 17, 2008

Black Sesame Panna Cotta (검은깨파나코타)

An Italian dessert with an Asian twist

Black Sesame Panna Cotta

Lighter and healthier than crème brûlée, yet more decadent and creamy than typical Asian desserts featuring black sesame, black sesame panna cotta is a happy marriage between the Northern Italian specialty and Asia's favorite seed. Indispensable in Asian cooking, black sesame is mixed in both sweet and savory dishes. Koreans use black sesame in cold salads, such as oi muchim, or to season soups, meats, and noodles.

Black sesame is also used as a garnish in desserts or as the main ingredient, bound by corn syrup and served with other nut and seed candies. In addition, black sesame frequently assumes the starring role in Korean misutgaru, mixed-grain gruels, which I will feature in another post. Mitsugaru is composed of some combination of ground nuts, seeds, and/or grains stirred with enough water to make a gruel. Similarly, the Cantonese have a dessert, which features nothing but liquefied black sesame sweetened with sugar. But, in my opinion, those gruels are more like breakfast foods than desserts. Black sesame panna cotta, on the other hand, is like a fancy cookies and cream with Asian fusion flair.

Black Sesame Panna Cotta Recipe

~ Serves 3-4 people

Black Sesame Panna Cotta
I used Yung's Food 100% black sesame powder, but you can grind your own sesame seeds. If the sesame seeds are not roasted, soak them in water for about an hour and then lightly roast them in a pan until you hear them start to pop.

1 cup whipping cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp agar agar
2 tbs black sesame powder
1/4 cup honey

To combine
Make sure you do not bring the milk and cream to a boil. Keep the heat low.
1. Bring milk and cream to a simmer.
2. Add sugar and stir a few minutes till sugar dissolves.
3. Sprinkle agar agar into milk mixture and stir until dissolved.
4. Add black sesame powder and continue stirring for two-three minutes.
5. Remove from heat and let stand five minutes.
To set
If you are using the silicone mold, steps 1 and 2 are unnecessary.
1. Rinse glass ramekins in cold water and do not dry. Or, you can use silicone molds to produce either standard-sized panna cottas or tiny bite-sized panna cottas.
2. Pour the black sesame cream mixture into the ramekins or molds.
3. Chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight.
To serve
You can garnish the black sesame panna cotta with a simple green herb in addition to the melted honey, or you can choose to dress it with fresh fruits or even liquor-soaked fruits.
1. Place the bottom of the ramekins in hot water.
2. Run a knife along the edge of the panna cotta to loosen it.
3. Flip the panna cotta out on a plate. If you are using the silicone mold, you can just pop the panna cottas out.
4. Melt the honey and drizzle over the panna cottas.

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