Inspiration can come from the craziest of places, including a nail salon. My friend and I were having our nails done when a man carrying stacks and stacks of baskets filled with Rambutan (see the pictures of the fruit and my sassy pedicure on instagram), a tropical fruit related to Lychee, walked in to sell them. Apparently he drives in from Florida with a truck full of fruit on a monthly basis and we just happened to hit it right this time. So, we walked out with sassy toes and 10 pounds of Rambutan. What was I to do with 10 pounds of this unusual fruit? I headed straight to Instagram and asked my community there what they would do. Sorbet and panna cotta came up several times, so, here you go, my interpretation of those suggestions, Coconut Panna Cotta with Tropical Sorbet.
I added the caramel spiral to the top when I heard that Aretha Franklin passed away. During my very first job in catering, back in the 1990s, we catered a charity event at the Viking’s Stadium for 3000 people and Aretha Franklin was performing. It was the one and only time I saw her and I will never, ever, ever forget it. I have no idea what the dessert was, likely an opera torte or something equally regal to serve such a legend, but I do remember with painful clarity that we had to make 3000 sugar spirals to balance on top. They are not hard to make (you can watch me do it in the instagram video), but they are a tricky dance of timing and they’re as delicate as paper thin crystal. And, don’t get me started on sugar decor and humidity. It was a level of stress that only the craziest of people thrive on. After we put down the last plate of dessert we ran to watch Aretha in her fur coat sing to the angels and all the stress of that event melted away!
To watch me put this all together head over to my instagram videos.
Coconut Panna Cotta
2 packages (15g) gelatin, bloomed in 3 tablespoons water (see my instagram video to see how)
1 (400g) can coconut milk (not lite or low fat in any way)
1 (400g) can coconut cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut and scraped
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but makes it taste more coconutty)
1 1/2 cups toasted coconut flakes
Rose Simple Syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons dried edible rose petals
3 hibiscus flowers if you want it to be pink
1/2 teaspoon rose water
4 dozen rambutan or lychees peeled, pitted, pureed and strained (or 2 cups juice of your choice), plus a few for garnish
Rose simple syrup until an egg will float. See my instagram video to find out what that’s all about.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon corn syrup or glycerin
To make the panna cotta
Bloom the gelatin in water.
Heat the coconut milk with sugar to simmer, add the bloomed gelatin. Stir over low heat until the gelatin dissolves. Add the coconut cream and toasted coconut, allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. Strain and then pour into 6 cups. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours, or overnight. Can be made 2 days ahead.
To make the simple syrup
Heat the sugar, water, rose petals, hibiscus and rose water until all of the sugar has dissolved, if you rush this, it will recrystallize. Allow to cool. Strain and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Can be made a week ahead.
To make the sorbet
Add enough simple syrup to the fruit juice so that an egg floats and you can see a quarter-sized piece of it about the surface. (see my instagram video). Freeze according to your ice cream maker.
To make the sugar decoration
make caramel, let it cool until it is thick enough to cling to a form and wrap it around a cylinder. I used a Knife Steel.
To assemble the panna cottas
When ready to serve, dip the cups in hot water, run a small blade around the edge and unmold onto the plate. Serve with a drizzle of the remaining simple syrup, a scoop of sorbet and diced fruit.