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I’m not trying to toot my own horn here but once in a while I have an idea that is total genius and I can’t help but pat myself on the back a bit. I am forever trying to adapt recipes to fit my gluten/wheat/dairy free kid because frankly it just breaks my heart when she gamely watches others devour donuts and ice cream..not that I ever let her have them with regularity but now she can’t have them at all.

But back to my intellectual prowess..

I was mulling around the kitchen the other night trying to figure out what to make…when I have idle hands I must bake or cook or do SOMETHING and I was inspired to make Izzie a little treat as she had been a bit bent out of shape at not being able to have a pretty pink princess donut at Starbucks. Nut mix just isn’t the same thing..

I was prowling through the Joy of Cooking and opening and closing the fridge so many times my environmentalist wife was having a fit, I wanted to make custard but our new oven smelled curiously of cow manure every time we turned it on so I scrapped that idea and continued to rack my brain. I have always had an easy time with the custard family, come people find it difficult but I seem to possess some sort of innate knack for it, as with candy making as well..it probably has something to do with the liquid sugar that runs through my veins. It came to me at last! Pannacotta!!!

Pannacotta is the easiest way to impress your friends EVER. No really, it’s super easy, looks totally difficult and can be modified in any number of ways to suit even the most finicky palates (unless they have a texture thing). One other thing most people don’t realize is that those “desserts” in the custard family don’t have to be unhealthy. Indeed, custard doesn’t have to be all cream and egg yolks, it can be skim milk and egg whites, and truly it’s still delicious. Pannacotta is even easier because you aren’t relying on any egg product or cooking in a water bath to achieve the end result. All you need is gelatin and a little time. My recipe is very distantly adapted from an Alice Waters recipe, I say very distantly because this recipe is completely dairy free, though one couldn’t call it vegan unless you used vegan gelatin, which I did not.

Apple Pannacotta with Vanilla Honey

1 packet (0.25 oz) gelatin (I used Knox)

2 cups dairy free milk (I used half hazelnut and half almond)

2 tsp honey

1 tsp vanilla

1 apple, sliced VERY thin on a mandoline

1/2 tsp cinnamon

flavorless vegetable oil

2 tsp honey

1/4 tsp vanilla

Grease 2 medium-sized ramekins with the vegetable oil and chill until ready to use. In a small measuring cup soften the gelatin by combining it with 2 Tbsp water. Meanwhile in a small saucepan bring the milk to a slow simmer (do not let it boil!), stir in the honey and vanilla. Pour about 1 cup of the milk mixture into the measuring cup and stir to mix in the gelatin thoroughly. Pour milk mixture back into remaining milk and cool to 115 degrees.

Dust chilled ramekins with cinnamon and artfully arrange very thin apple slices in a decorative pattern on the bottom of the ramekin. GENTLY pour cooled milk mixture on top of the apples. Chill at least 6 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve run a knife along the perimeter of the ramekin and unmold pannacotta’s onto plates. Warm remaining vanilla and honey and drizzle over the pannacotta.

Izzie LOVED this more than I could have guessed, I served it to her for breakfast and she exclaimed; “Dessert for breakfast!” with wide-eyed amazement. The thing is..it isn’t really unhealthy at all, especially when paired with a small bowl of oatmeal or some green juice (which is what she had). She requested that we have this for breakfast “..every day!” and why not? It’s a lovely low-cost way to make your morning special.