This past week, I’ve been feeling extra nostalgic about the trip I took to LA during the spring of my senior year (thanks a lot, Facebook “On This Day” feature). It was probably one of the coolest experiences of my life – sightseeing along Hollywood Boulevard, exploring Universal Studios by night, talking about a lot of really cool science, and meeting so many new friends from all around the world.
Basically it was totally awesome.
And as I was scrolling through my extensive collection of photos from two years past, I ran across a slightly lopsided picture of my friends and me in front of the fashion district, cheerily holding up a glorious concoction of mango wedges, lime juice, and copious amounts of cayenne powder, all packed into a giant plastic cup with a bright yellow tamarind candy straw.
So naturally, struck by a sudden urge to recreate some of my wonderful senior year memories, I concocted a creamy, dreamy, delicious dessert inspired by that particularly delightful treat. Tangy lime panna cotta and bright and fruity mango gelee served in a cayenne powder rimmed glass and topped with tamarind candy, mango cubes, and a cute little lime wedge – yum!
The trick to achieving the whimsically angled layers of mango gelee and lime panna cotta is actually to prepare the mango gelee cold. Yes, I know, this goes against your every instinct from childhood memories of preparing mildly-terrifying-in-retrospect neon jello. But, the benefit of this approach is that you can set up as ridiculous and convoluted of a contraption as you would like to keep your serving glasses at the proper angle outside on your kitchen table or counter without having to worry about wrestling the entire apparatus into your fridge.
When you’re ready to fill the glasses, keep the mixture cold and either fill your glasses quickly (this approach is fine if you plan to make 2 servings, but the gelee may set too early if you plan to fill 4 glasses), or reserve about 1/5 of the gelee to warm slightly and then pour on top. This way, the top layer is fluid enough to create a smooth top surface, but thin enough that the residual cold from the bottom 4/5 of the glass is enough to set the top. Afterward, just pop the entire glass into your freezer in its normal upright position and chill for about 5-10 minutes to set completely before adding the panna cotta. Easy peasy!
So if you’re like me and suddenly feeling horrible wanderlust for somewhere warm and beachy, whip up a quick batch of this cool and creamy treat, prop up your feet, and dream of the tropical paradise that you deserve. Hope you enjoy!
Mango con Chile Panna Cotta
Panna cotta recipe from Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 2 servings
2 mangos (I used Ataulfo mangoes but any kind should work!)
1/4 cup sugar (or less to taste, depending on the ripeness of the mangoes)
1/3 cup water
1/2 packet (1/2 tbs) gelatin powder
Lime Panna Cotta:
3 tbs sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk, any kind
1/2 packet (1/2 tbs) gelatin powder
Cayenne (red pepper) powder
Tamarind candy (I used this kind from my local Asian grocery store!)
- Zest one of the limes from the panna cotta, then reserve one round slice of the other lime for garnish. Juice both limes (except for the reserved slice), then transfer about 1/16″ of juice into a plate that is larger than the brim of your serving glass.
- Prepare another plate with a generous layer of cayenne powder about 1/16″ to 1/8″ deep.
Tip: Don’t worry about pouring more cayenne than you will use – you will only be dipping scantly lime juice rimmed glasses into the powder, so any excess should be clean and dry enough to pour back into your container when you’re done.
- Dip the glasses into the lime juice, then into the cayenne powder, swirling to coat the rim of the glass.
Tip: Dip straight up and down into the lime juice (no swirling!) and allow excess to drip off. Then, dip slowly into the cayenne, swirl, lift, and tap the bottom of the glass to shake off the excess.
- Set aside to dry on any sort of setup that holds the glasses securely at a slight angle.
Tip: Get creative! I used mango containers and tooth floss boxes to hold the glasses in place, plus carefully laid down blue tape to keep everything at the same angle, but anything that can hold the glasses at your desired angle will work! Options include mugs (rest the bowl of the glass against the little wedge between the top of the handle and the side of the mug) and upside-down muffin tins (wedge stemless glasses between the bottoms of the tins), or anything else you can get your hands on.
- Peel and roughly chop 1 1/2 of the mangoes, reserving the remaining 1/2 for garnish.
- In a blender, puree the mangoes with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth with no chunks of unblended mango.
- Transfer the mango puree into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Tip: Feel free to skip this step if your mangoes were already refrigerated and are already chilled!
- In a microwave-safe bowl, add the gelatin powder to the water. Stir the mixture to break up clumps, then heat the mixture in 15 second intervals, stirring in between intervals until the gelatin is fully dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.
- Pour the gelatin mixture into the chilled mango puree, stirring vigorously until well combined.
- Transfer the mixture into a sandwich bag, snip off one corner, and quickly pipe into the angled serving glasses, smoothing the top surface and popping any bubbles by wiggling through a toothpick or chopstick as needed.
Tip: If you plan to make more than 2 servings at a time, the gelee may cool too quickly to use this technique. Instead, before filling the sandwich bag, reserve 1/5 to 1/4 of the mango gelee and divide the remaining 3/4 to 4/5 among the various glasses. Then, heat the reserved gelee until it is warm and fluid and spoon on top of the chilled mango gelee in the glasses to create a smooth surface.
- Allow the gelee to set slightly so that when you slowly tip the glass back into the normal vertical position, the surface of the gelee does not slide from its angled position. Pop the glasses into the freezer as you prepare the lime panna cotta!
Lime Panna Cotta:
- In a large microwave-safe bowl, add the gelatin powder and sugar to the milk. Stir the mixture to break up clumps, then heat the mixture in 15 second intervals, stirring in between intervals until the gelatin and sugar are fully dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.
- Add in the heavy cream, lime juice (from rimming the glasses), and lime zest, whisking briskly to prevent clumps from forming.
- Remove the serving glasses from the freezer, then spoon the unset lime panna cotta into each glass, filling them nearly to the brim.
- Chill the glasses in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or until the panna cotta layer sets!
- Cube the remaining 1/2 mango and cut the reserved lime slice into wedges, then garnish the tops of each glass with mango cubes, tamarind candy, and a lime wedge. Serve immediately and enjoy!