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  • Mother of Mugwort

Sweet Spells Sunday: Blood Orange Brain Panna Cotta

This recipe involves a lot of legwork, but is so worth it for the finished product! It's perfect for a Halloween dinner or any special occasion when you're trying to get spooky! The base is a classic panna cotta, but it's filled with a blood orange curd and a topped with a blood orange syrup!

So here's the components altogether:

Blood Orange Curd:

(You'll recognize this recipe from my post on thyme lemon curd)


- 1-2 tbsp blood orange zest

- 3/4 cup fresh blood orange juice

- 3/4 cup granulated sugar

- 1/4 tsp. salt

- 3 large eggs

- 4 egg yolks

- 4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick) (chopped into small pieces)


First, pour the zest, juice, sugar, and salt into a small saucepan. Stir it until the sugar and salt dissolve a bit. Then set it on medium heat for 5min.

While that's cooking, beat the eggs in a bowl. Make sure to stir the saucepan mixture every minute or so.

Then pour some of the saucepan mixture into the bowl with the eggs. This is called tempering the eggs. Whisk it together and then add that all to the saucepan.

From here, you need to whisk it constantly on medium heat for 5min. I suggest wearing a pot holder over your hand in case it bubbles up.

After the 5min are up, push it through a mesh strainer into a bowl.

Add the butter and mix it in until it has melted entirely, and the curd has a smooth consistency.

Cut out a square of plastic wrap and press it on top of the curd rather than over the whole bowl. This will keep it from getting a film/skin on top.

Refrigerate it for about 2-4 hours or overnight, then transfer it into a jar or tupperware.

Blood Orange Syrup:

(This I pulled from my favorite recipe for Blood Orange Donuts)


- 3 cups water

- 1 cup granulated sugar

- 1/2 cup honey

- 1 blood orange, thinly sliced


In a saucepan combine water, sugar, and honey. Bring it to a boil over high heat.

Stir until the sugar dissolves. Once the syrup has come to a boil, add the orange slices. Then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes until the orange slices are tender and the syrup is fragrant.

Then strain the syrup and bottle it once it's had some time to chill!

And now for the base of our dessert: the panna cotta! For this I used a brain ice cube tray like this one:

Panna Cotta:

(This I pulled from 1 Fine Cookie)


- 1/2 an envelope of unflavored gelatin sprinkled over a 1/2 cup of cold heavy cream

- Another 1/2 cup + 6 tablespoons of heavy cream

- 1 vanilla bean

- 2 tablespoons of sugar


Begin by sprinkling the 1/2 packet of gelatin over the 1/2 cup of cream. Mix the gelatin in.

Combine your 1/2 cup + 6 tablespoons of cream, sugar, and the vanilla bean sliced in half into a sauce pan. Heat until boiling.

Stir occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Turn heat to low. Once simmering, stir in the cream and gelatin mixture. Stir occasionally over the course of about 2 minutes.

Pour into mold through a fine mesh strainer. Then place it in refrigerator.


Once the panna cotta seems firm, add a dollop of blood orange curd in the center of the brain and pop it in the freezer just until the curd seems to harden.

When it's finally hard enough that it doesn't slide at all when you move the mold, fill the rest of the mold with the remaining panna cotta mixture.

Once that's firm too, cover the top with plastic wrap. Prior to removing the brains from mold, place them in freezer for a bit just to firm it up for peeling out.

Then top with some extra blood orange curd and the syrup for presentation!

It's a bit of an arduous process but it's a beautiful, sophisticated dessert to make any special dinner just a little more spooky--and a lot more delicious!

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