I love baking gingerbread cookies. The smell of all the infused spices mixing together as the cookies bake is just irresistible! When the buzzer goes off, you know you’re really in for a treat! Unfortunately, as the heat of summer gradually creeps in, I can’t say I’m keen to crank up the oven too often.
I think most spiced cookies (Dutch speculaa, pfeffernusse, gingerbread) are traditionally enjoyed at Christmas time in Europe and North America, whereas we perhaps adopted more British Christmas fare such as plum puddings, and in turn converted those things to suit our hot climate. That in mind, I thought about making a cool dessert featuring the gorgeous spice blend of gingerbread and my other summer Christmas favourite: cherries!
I liked the idea of making a panna cotta flavoured with gingerbread spices so I took the basic recipe and added to it some dark Muscovado sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and crystallised ginger. Once made, I poured the strained mixture into a couple of conical wine glasses (I was keen to try making a verrine dessert too while I was at it).
Beforehand, I had diced up some cherries and soaked them in a little Limoncello as I wanted to add some sourness to offset the sweet panna cotta. Once my panna cotta was set, I rested a generous spoonful of whipped cream on top. The next layer was a good portion (maybe 2 tbsp) of the Limoncello cherries, then another dollop of cream on top. As I had some shop-bought Swedish ginger snaps on hand (speculaa or gingerbread would also be fine to use), I processed a few biscuits into fine crumbs. I topped the last cream layer with a spoonful of crumbs and a cherry.
My husband isn’t a huge cherry fan but he rather enjoyed my effort. He may well be right in that the panna cotta could be served simply with cream and crumbs, but what’s Christmas without cherries?
Gingerbread Panna Cotta
200ml of pouring or light cream
100ml of milk (I used low fat but whole will make a creamier panna cotta)
40g dark Muscovado sugar or regular brown sugar (if you want a nice brown colour to the panna cotta, don’t use white sugar)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4-5 generous pieces of crystallised ginger
5g powdered gelatin (or equivalent in leaf) and 2 tbsp of water to dissolve
To prepare: Process the crystallised ginger with all spices then add to a small saucepan with cream, milk and sugar. Simmer on a low heat then bring briefly to a low boil. Take saucepan off heat and allow to cool slightly. Meantime, prepare the gelatin by pouring the powder onto the water in a small bowl. Add gelatin mix to panna cotta mixture and stir a little to get the gelatin to dissolve. Once panna cotta mixture has cooled a little, pass it through a sieve to remove as much of the fibrous ginger and spice bits as possible. Transfer to your preferred vessel, or set mixture in a mould.
Serve with cream or as above with cherries and gingerbread crumbs.