Panna cotta single

It was a day of thrills, fun and excitement…and dessert inspiration.

This weekend, Mr Mélanger and I journeyed with my nieces to the Gold Coast.  To Dreamworld.  One of the most popular theme parks in Queensland – and the highly anticipated Christmas present destination for my two nieces (ages 9 & 6).

The day was an adventure enthusiast’s delight.  Jam packed of rides (counting a few heart stoppers that Mr Mélanger enjoyed solo!), up close animal capers (including some overwhelmingly large 180kg/400lb White Tigers), and acres of wave pools and slides, eliciting a steady stream of laughter and screaming from us all.
 
At the end of the day, I am not sure who was most exhausted.  I think it was me!  We shuffled out of the park with sustenance in hand.  A cold, strawberry sno kone.  It was the perfect respite to the long, muggy, hot day (35C/95F).
 
As we drive back to Brisbane, with the two young thrill seekers happily chatting in the back seat, my mind wanders to the sno kone.  My mouth still cold from the mounds of crushed ice.  I pondered a tropical frosty creation of my own.  A pineapple granita.
 
Later, in my kitchen, with heat exhaustion setting in — and feeling somewhat slow in movement — I paired a fresh pineapple and champagne granita with, conceivably, the easiest dessert in the world.  The panna cotta. 
 
The creamy texture of the panna cotta is a perfect complement to the cold, icy granita.  And extraordinarily simple.  Perfect for those slow, hot days.

Panna cotta set

{  Vanilla panna cotta }
 
* Ingredients *
1 ½ cups of cream
½ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean, or vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoons of gelatine
 
* Directions *
Prepare 4 pudding moulds about ½ cup capacity with a light brush of oil.  Gently warm the cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan.  When the sugar dissolves, and bubbles start to appear around the edges, stir in the vanilla.  Separately, sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water and stir until dissolved.  Then mix into the cream.  Pour the mixture into the prepared moulds and refrigerate at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.  To un-mould, fill a bowl with hot water.  Dip the moulds immediately in and then out of the bowl, being careful not to allow water to reach inside.  Turn the mould onto a plate, slowly jiggle to loosen.

{ Pineapple champagne granita }
The champagne in the granita flatters the vanilla overtones in the panna cotta.  But feel free to substitute sparkling water for your liquid if you choose.
 
* Ingredients *
1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 cup Champagne / sparkling wine
¾ cup sugar
Salt, optional
 
* Directions *
Puree the pineapple in a food processor until smooth but still with some texture.  In a saucepan, heat the Champagne and sugar.  When the sugar dissolves, and bubbles start to appear around the edges remove from the heat.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Mix the champagne into the prepared pineapple.  Add salt to taste.   Pour the mixture into a shallow container and place in the freezer.  After 30-40 minutes, remove from the freezer, and break up the mixture with a fork.  Repeat until the entire container is frozen.