Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dessert failure: panna cotta with lemon balm

We had a couple of nice bunches of lemon balm from the biokiste and not much idea what to do with them. My first idea was to make a panna cotta infused with the lemon balm instead of vanilla. I think this probably would have worked, but then I decided that Bittman's buttermilk panna cotta recipe sounded really good too; so I tried buttermilk panna cotta with lemon balm.

If I had thought the whole thing through after reading the ingredients list on the buttermilk container, I would have known what was going to happen when I took the acidulated milk product and heated it almost to the boil. I didn't think things all the way through though, so I had a "doh!" moment when the milk proteins started coagulating as I made my panna cotta. I didn't want to start completely over (which would have been a waste and required a trip to the store for more gelatin), so I decided to try and salvage things. During the infusion stage I stirred frequently to prevent the curds from getting too big, then after picking out the herb stalks (good thing I didn't chop the lemon balm before adding it!) I pureed the whole thing for a while with the stick blender before pouring it into the dishes. These went into the fridge to set. The results were, as expected, not what one hopes for: each form had three layers - fine curds on the bottom, a layer of whey, then fine curds on the top. To be fair, it was edible, but I certainly wouldn't have served it to guests.

The recipe is probably still doable with the acidulated buttermilk that we get by heating just the milk with the sugar and stuff to be infused, letting that cool some, then straining it into the cold buttermilk. That's for next time.

Another idea: ricotta cheese infused with lemon balm... doesn't sound half bad. ;-)

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