Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Simple, Silky Panna Cotta Is a Recipe to Treasure

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Simple, Silky Panna Cotta Is a Recipe to Treasure

Article excerpt

I ALWAYS KNEW that we bakers were a different breed. After all, it takes a special type of temperament to make one willing - in fact, desirous - to weigh and measure with precision. But among the rewards of the profession is the utter sense of alchemy and magic that comes of starting with flour, sugar, butter and liquid, and ending up with sheer drama that resembles nothing of the original ingredients.sml

It wasn't until my visit to the Lenotre School in Plaisir, France, however, that I discovered that the rest of the culinary world looks at us pastry people as oddities - and not necessarily as kindly as we see ourselves. Apparently, in France, bakers are referred to as "The Military," only a ganache away from the fanatic title "St. Cyr" (equated with West Point) reserved for the chocolatiers.

It is only in the past few years in this country that baking seems to have come into its own. The West Coast has its support group, "Baker's Dozen," and recently an East Coast chapter has been formed.

Traveling often gives me the opportunity to meet colleagues from around the world and taste what they are creating. This past year, however, I had the rare opportunity of meeting two very talented pastry chefs on the same afternoon in my own home town. I was on my way to meet Cheryl Lew, who was visiting New York from her fabulous Montclair Baking in Oakland, Calif., when I stopped for a brief respite from the extreme winter cold at Mad 61 and discovered panna cotta on the menu.

This Italian dessert, similar to custard creme caramel, replaces the egg yolks with gelatin for a lighter, cleaner taste and intriguingly resilient texture. In fact, it is a dessert of such astonishing purity and simplicity that I knew I would want to enjoy it again and again.

Fortunately, pastry chef Stacie Pierce shared her recipe, which is a refined version of an authentic one given to her by an Italian friend's grandmother.tsrtaa This dessert is nothing short of heaven. PANNA COTTA

3 cups whipping cream, preferably not ultra-pasteurized

6 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (if using Tahitian, use half the bean)

1 envelope plus 3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

Stir together cream and sweetened condensed milk in 4-cup heatproof measure. …

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