It’s Julep time! That means oodles of fragrant mint coupled with the woody scent of Kentucky Bourbon. These are two of my favorite flavors, and when they’re combined….it’s magic! I’m on a bit of a bourbon kick right now anyway. I’ve been shaking up these Meyer Lemon & Thyme Whiskey Sours I saw on Dinner at Tiffani’s (love that show!) almost nightly. Must tell you, they are addictive. And with Kentucky Derby running this weekend, what better time to go all-out with this heady brown spirit. I figured there’d be heaps of Mint Julep cocktail ideas floating about the food-asphere this week and that you’d cringe at yet another plain old drink recipe. Ah, but not here my friends. Instead, I deconstructed this Derby-classic and its essential ingredients into a light dessert of Mint Julep Panna Cotta with Bourbon Sugar Cookies. All the best parts of the original, and perfect for this weekend’s racing parties.
For the panna cotta: the recipe is basically the same as my Mango & Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta–minus the yogurt — as I wanted the mint-infused cream and the bourbon to stand out. The yogurt would have been a bit overpowering I think. Fresh, whole mint leaves are added to the cream when warming and once it has steeped for a few minutes, the cream will turn a beautiful pale green. The heavenly aromas of warm mint will flood your kitchen. Then we’re going to add more fresh mint to the serving glass or dish—but this time the leaves are finely chopped. I used my rocks glass as the serving vessel (to keep with the cocktail theme), which in hindsight, may have been slightly too deep. But hey, just means more yummy dessert to eat right? I think next time though, I’d play around with smaller shot glasses or a maybe event a coupe glass. But you can use whatever you have on hand and looks good. Do they make mini silver julep glasses? That would be ideal!
Now for the boozy Bourbon Sugar Cookies: I’ve had this recipe for over 25 years and it works a charm each and every time. I tweaked it slightly for this special occasion with the addition of a little (or a lot!) of bourbon in the dough…AND in the glaze. This cookie will be delicate before baking, so be sure to work with it as cold as possible. If you have to pause between batches, then be sure to put the dough back in the fridge (or freezer) so it rolls out cleanly without sticking or breaking. Like my horse cookie cutter at the bottom? Goes with the theme don’t you think? Okay, just between us and if I’m being perfectly honest…I’m not entirely sold on it as a horse. I think it looks like The Laughing Cow cheese mascot with an elongated head. Or a Schnauzer. Or something. A horse? Three other people in the baking shop all agreed it was indeed a horse. Now THIS is a horse. Just gone on the wish-list!
Mint Julep Panna Cotta
yields 4 – 4ounce servings | printable version
2 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup fresh mint leaves, whole + 1-2 tablespoon finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon (to taste and optional)
Put the gelatin and water in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat warm the cream, milk and sugar. Do not boil, just warm until liquids and sugar have dissolved. Add in fresh mint and continue warming for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat allow to sit and steep for 10 minutes. Then stir in moistened gelatin until completely absorbed. Allow to cool slightly. Strain mixture through a sieve to remove mint leaves. Stir in bourbon. Take reserved fresh mint that has been finely chopped and place a pinch or two at the bottom of each vessel. Pour panna cotta into serving vessels, filling about 3/4 up the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, approximately 2-4 hours.
Bourbon Sugar Cookies
(yields 24-36 cookies, depending on size of cutter)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
2 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a standard baking sheet with a non-stick liner or parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in pieces of butter with clean hands or a pastry knife. Work in until it resembles fine bread crumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar. Whisk until all lumps are gone. Add in bourbon and whisk until smooth. Combine wet mixture into dry and then roll out dough onto a floured surface. Gently knead just to bring it to a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or chill in freezer for 30 minutes. Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thick and cut into desired shape(s). Carefully transfer to baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. For glaze: whisk together confectioner’s sugar and bourbon. Drizzle over cookie.