Expert Advice with Gale Gand

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Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Gale Gand ’81, (metalcrafts and jewelry) was named pastry chef of the year by The James Beard Foundation and Bon Appétit magazine in 2001. She is a partner and founding executive pastry chef of the four-star restaurant TRU in Chicago and host of the long-running Food Network and Cooking Channel’s Sweet Dreams. Gand’s eighth cookbook, Gale Gand’s Lunch, comes out in April. Here are some of her recipes.

Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Makes 4 servings

For the panna cotta:

1½ cups heavy cream
10 tablespoons sugar
½ vanilla bean, split
2 teaspoons gelatin
4 teaspoons cold water
2 cups buttermilk

For the strawberry mash:

½ pint strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar

In a saucepan, heat the cream, sugar and vanilla bean together until boiling. Meanwhile, sponge the gelatin by slowly sprinkling it over the cold water and let sit until all the moisture is absorbed. Stir the softened gelatin into the hot liquid and mix well, then stir in the buttermilk. Remove the vanilla bean by straining it into a pitcher. Pour into containers and chill.

Take a potato masher and smash the strawberries with the sugar.

To serve, spoon the strawberry mash onto the panna cotta. Keep chilled.

Chocolate Almond Upside Down Cake

Why does upside down cake always have to be pineapple? You can use whatever kind of nuts you like best, hazelnuts, walnuts, or mix them to clean out the pantry! This cake is great the next day, if there’s any left. Use a serrated knife to cut this.

Makes 8 servings

For the caramel topping:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup honey
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds, lightly toasted

For the cake:

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, left out for 30 minutes
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Thickly butter the walls of a 9-inch round cake pan. Pour the melted butter into the cake pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Then sprinkle in the brown sugar. Drizzle in the honey and sprinkle the almonds evenly over the bottom. To make the cake batter, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.*

Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix. Add the eggs and mix in. Beat until fluffy and light. With the mixer running at low speed, add a third of the dry ingredients and mix. Add half of the buttermilk and mix. Add another third of the dry ingredients and mix. Add the remaining buttermilk and mix. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees until set in the center and springy, 25 to 35 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and immediately invert it onto a serving platter. Let sit inverted for 5 minutes so the caramel can soak into the cake a bit. Then remove the pan. If the topping is sticking to the pan, warm the pan surface on a burner to loosen the caramel.

*You can make the recipe a day ahead of time up to this point.