Photos and Words by Fred Chang
Growing up Taiwanese American, my immigrant parents would always try to embrace the American traditions that my older sister and I were introduced to. One of these traditions was having cookies and milk for an after-school snack. I always had great memories of biting into that buttery, crunchy, chocolate chip cookie, while swigging a glass of cold milk and marveling at how great the combination of the two was.
Since I began exploring and conceptualizing desserts, I found that the easiest way to create a really good dessert is to take inspiration from your childhood. I really wanted to take the essence of cookies and cream, something so dear to my heart, and capture that in a plated dessert.
To capture that butteriness and crunchiness of those cookies I nibbled on every day as a kid, I went to sable cookies. Sable, in French, means sandy, referring to the crunchy, flaky texture that the cookie has. What makes a sable cookie special and different from your average shortbread is that particular mouthfeel and the addition of egg yolks in the butter-sugar dough.
As for the glass of milk, I really loved the creaminess as well as a cool, refreshing gulp of milk after a mouthful of cookies. I wanted to feature the milk even more so than the cookies and, in a literal sense, capture the milk. Panna cotta fits the description of what I wanted for this dish, using gelatin to set dairy into a silky, creamy custard. As it can be a tricky dish to execute, the ratio I use, as stated by a fantastically talented chef, Josef Centeno, is 1 cup dairy to 3/4 teaspoons gelatin powder to 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Such a ratio will result in a light, silky pudding, served with disks of buttery flakiness.
Enjoy it before bed, after school, or since the holidays are approaching, set it out by your nightstand for St. Nick to snack on!
Panna cotta with chocolate chip sable cookies
Makes enough for 8 servings
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon gelatin powder and cold water, enough to dissolve
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chocolate chip sable cookies:
2 sticks butter
3/4 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 egg yolks
2/3 cups roughly chopped dark chocolate chips
In a pot, heat the heavy cream with sugar. In another bowl, combine the water with gelatin powder. Once the gelatin begins to soften, add it into the cream along with salt. Stir together until the gelatin is fully melted into the cream and take off heat. Add in the vanilla, and distribute evenly into 8 bowls. Allow the panna cotta to set in either the refrigerator or freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
For the cookies, preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix eggs and sugar together first and slowly add in the egg yolks. Once the three have combined, add in the flour, and finally, chocolate chips. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into rounds. Bake for 20 minutes on a lined baking sheet and wait until cool - roughly 10-15 minutes - to room temperature before removing.