While working for Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans, I become quite interested in ways to use bay leaves in sweets. Emeril has laurel trees in his backyard, so we were lucky to have fresh leaves picked by Chef himself, and used them in just about all of his savory dishes. I found the flavor of fresh bay leaves similar to mint when lightly steeped in cream—perfect for a panna cotta. In the winter, when blood oranges are at their peak, the two flavors are a wonderful complement and make for a elegant and colorful dessert.
Below is my recipe for Bay Leaf Panna Cotta with Fresh Blood Oranges. You can find this recipe and others like it in my recently published cookbook, Desserts For Every Season. If you are interested in learning more creative ways to incorporate blood oranges in desserts, I will be teaching a “Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange Desserts” class on January 24th, 2014. Hope to see you there!
Bay Leaf Panna Cotta with Fresh Blood Orange
Makes 8 to 10 servings
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
- 3½ cups whole milk
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- 2 blood oranges
- Place 8 to 10 small glasses or ramekins on a baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, stir the sugar, salt, and gelatin together and set aside.
- Prepare a large bowl full of ice water and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, cream, bay leaves, and vanilla to a boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Return to a boil. Remove from the heat and, whisking constantly, slowly pour the gelatin mixture into the hot cream. Stir until fully dissolved.
- Pour the mixture into a large heatproof bowl, set it over the prepared bowl of ice water, and stir the panna cotta base until it is cooled to room temperature.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a spouted measuring cup or pitcher, discard the bay leaves, and divide the panna cotta base evenly among the small glasses.
- Loosely cover the glasses with a sheet of plastic wrap and carefully transfer to the refrigerator to set overnight.
- Just before serving, peel and segment the blood oranges, taking care to remove all the pith, and reserve the juice. Garnish each panna cotta with a few slices of blood orange and a drizzle of the reserved juice.