When it comes to romancing your beloved on Valentine's Day, some people swear by a dozen red roses and their patented Best of Barry White playlist, while others prefer to woo their sweetheart over an expensive candlelit dinner at a fancy-shmancy restaurant.
Personally, I don't get all that excited by roses or by Barry White, and I can't stand being herded into a jam-packed restaurant to eat an overpriced meal while trying not to bump elbows with the next table over.
No, my idea of romance is a simple meal and a bottle of wine served in the comfort (and privacy!) of my own home, with a decadent dessert at the end to satisfy that darn sweet tooth of mine.
One of my favourite fancy-pants special occasion desserts is a simple homemade panna cotta. Its elegant and luxurious, but it's also dead easy to make, especially since you easily prepare it a day or two ahead and then stash it in the fridge until the big event.
It's also really easy to create variations on the basic theme by infusing the cream with different flavours. This particular version uses a generous two tablespoons of Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried ginger to infuse the cream with a subtle (but not too subtle) gingery tingle. Ginger is reputed to have aphrodisiac properties, after all, which makes it a perfect choice to cap off your romantic evening at home.
Once it's thoroughly infused, the cream is sweetened with a whisper of maple syrup and blended with just enough gelatin to set it to a soft custardy wobble (because there's nothing sexy about rubbery panna cotta). To top things off, there's a spiced apricot compote to add a pop of bright orange colour and a tangy contrast to the creaminess of the panna cotta.
With this killer combination of good looks and great taste, you might just tempt your date into skipping dinner and going straight to dessert... and that, my friends, is way more romantic than any Barry White song.
Disclosure: This post is part of a series sponsored by Gourmet Garden. All opinions, as always, are entirely my own.
- 3 cups table (18%) cream, divided
- 2 tbsp Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried ginger
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tbsp unflavoured powdered gelatin
- 1 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup brandy
- 6 cardamom pods, crushed with the flat of a knife
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ cup honey
- To make panna cotta, heat 2 ½ cups cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it reaches a bare simmer. Remove from heat, and stir in the Lightly Dried ginger. Let stand for 20 minutes to allow the flavour to infuse.
- Meanwhile, bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a simmer in a second small saucepan. Reduce heat to low, and sprinkle with gelatin. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin is dissolved. Set aside.
- Strain the infused cream through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Return to a simmer, then remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup and the dissolved gelatin. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- Divide the cooled custard between six lightly buttered ½-cup ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to set up completely, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days in advance.
- In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, stir together the water and brandy. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and add the apricots, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the apricots are soft and plump. Stir in the maple syrup and continue simmering for 5 minutes longer, or until the liquid is thick and syrupy.
- Remove and discard the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Set aside to cool off completely.
- Remove the lids from the mason jars. Divide the compote between the mason jars, and serve immediately.