Tag Archives: Stephen Durfee


I’ve been watching more of my DVDs from The Great Courses and the Culinary Institute of America. I have particularly enjoyed “The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts.” The presenter is Chef Stephen L. Durfee who is an instructor at the Greystone campus of the CIA. He certainly has earned his chops – he is a James Beard Foundation winner and has been the pastry chef at The French Laundry, among many other accomplishments and awards. His lessons have been very instructive, and his style has been friendly and conversational.

The lessons have come in handy. Susan has had a minor procedure needing a soft diet for a few days. That seemed like a perfect time for me to try out Chef Durfee’s recipe for panna cotta. What could be easier than panna cotta?  On top of that it’s very tasty. Another nice thing about the recipe is that it invites variations. Buttermilk gives an interesting flavor, but the usual fruit toppings were out. What could be easier than chocolate ganache?


Buttermilk Panna Cotta


  • 2¼ cups buttermilk
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Place 1 cup of the buttermilk in a wide-rimmed bowl, reserving the rest
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the buttermilk and let rest for 5 minutes to bloom the gelatin.  The surface should wrinkle up as the gelatin blooms. You can ensure an even process by exposing more of the buttermilk by breaking the surface with a whisk.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, dissolve the sugar in the cream and bring to the boil.
  4. Pour the boiling cream into the bloomed gelatin mixture and stir to completely dissolve the gelatin.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and reserved buttermilk to cool the mixture.
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. This step is very important to remove any clumps of undissolved gelatin and buttermilk..
  7. Pour the strained, cooled mixture into 6 serving dishes or ramekins. The mixture should be cooled before pouring it into the dishes or ramekins. Otherwise it might separate into layers.
  8. Refrigerate several hours or over night until the panna cotta is set.

Chocolate Ganache


  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 ounce corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)


  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces about the size of an M&M candy to make sure it will melt with the added hot cream before the cream cools off. . Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Combine the cream and corn syrup, stirring to make sure the syrup is completely  dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil in a small saucepan..
  3. Pour the hot cream and corn syrup mixture into the chopped chocolate. Let sit undisturbed for a moment or two to let the chocolate begin to melt.
  4. With a spatula, stir the chocolate from the center outward until the cream has been completely and evenly incorporated.
  5. If desired, add the orange liqueur and stir until completely incorporated.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes or so until just warm to the touch.
  7. Ladle one or two tablespoons onto each of the tops of the chilled panna cottas. Return to the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour. This will form a  firm chocolate layer. If you want something softer, use more cream when you make the ganache.
  8. Serve.


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