For the last few weeks, I have been on the Whole30 diet and intermittently fasting twice a week. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been on an official diet and stuck with it (except for that February where Erlend dared me to quit refined-sugar for the month and I foolishly accepted), and there’s no sugar-coating it: it 100% sucks. But unfortunately, it was necessary — after spending the year testing and developing recipes for #weeknightbakingbook, I packed on a whopping 15lbs, which is a pretty significant amount for my 5″3 frame. Luckily most of it is melting away pretty quickly, but not without cutting out literally all the things that make life good and going to expensive HIIT classes at least 5 days a week.
Anyway, here I am, sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free, and fun-free for another 8 days until Feast Portland, the food festival that marks the official end of my diet. I’m still baking, but admittedly much of the magic is lost when I can’t enjoy the treats myself. Interestingly enough, a subtle but noticeable shift has started to occur in my blog planning — instead of picking recipes that I would instantly devour (um, these brown butter and toffee chocolate chip cookies), I find myself more drawn to technically challenging ones like butthole spoke pies and incredibly aromatic flavors like this coconut lemon saffron panna cotta.
This saffron panna cotta recipe is originally from Skye McAlpine and her newish book, A Table in Venice, which showcases Venetian home cooking and is filled with beautiful photos that will make you want to book the next plane ticket to Italy. I’ve made a couple of modifications of my own, swapping in cream with coconut milk and adding lemon zest as an homage to the coconut lemon saffron ice cream from Fifty Licks, my favorite ice cream shop in town. Only 8 more days until I can get a spoonful of the stuff, and I can’t wait!
- Saffron is admittedly one of the most expensive spice you can buy due to its labor-intensive harvesting process; for saffron on a budget, I recommend checking out both Trader Joe’s and Costco, both of which sell bottles for around $6 and $10. You’ll get a bottle of what seems like a paltry amount, but a little goes a long way, I promise.
- To bloom gelatin, sprinkle the gelatin evenly onto the surface of cold water in a bowl. Make sure you sprinkle the gelatin evenly — pouring it into a pile on top of the water will not allow the gelatin to bloom properly since the granules in the center of the pile will remain hard. Allow the granules to soften entirely in the cold water for 3 to 5 minutes; the gelatin has bloomed when it’s soft. If it still has hard bits, it needs to bloom longer. If the gelatin is too soft and falling apart, it’s overbloomed; discard the gelatin and start over.
Coconut Lemon Saffron Panna Cotta
- Special Equipment: a mortar and pestle
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) water
- 1 1/4 ounce package unflavored gelatin powder
- 3/4 teaspoon saffron threads (see baker's notes for sources)
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
- fresh zest from 1 medium lemon
- 2 cups (16 ounces) coconut milk, well shaken/stirred
- Pour 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 package unflavored gelatin powder over the surface of the water, making sure that most of the gelatin granules touch the water to moisten. Set aside, uncovered, for 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.
- Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle to grind 3/4 teaspoon saffron threads and a pinch of kosher salt until the threads start to turn into a fine powder — you don't need to make sure all the threads are completely pulverized, but the finer the powder, the smoother your panna cotta will be. Set aside.
- In small bowl, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and fresh zest from 1 medium lemon. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar to infuse the sugar with flavor and encourage the zest to release its oils.
- Transfer the lemon sugar to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and pour 2 cups coconut milk over the sugar. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring regularly with a whisk, until the sugar dissolves completely and the cream is just about to boil — you should see a little steam coming off the pan and the tiniest of bubbles floating to the top of the cream at the edges of the pan.
- Remove pan from heat and add the soften gelatin, whisking to combine until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Add the saffron powder and continue whisking until well combined and the mixture is a beautiful, speckled yellow. Pour into a 9-inch pan and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours until set. Serve cold with your favorite berries and whipped cream.