Reimagining the Perfect Childhood Breakfast

This Mothers' Day, impress mum with a cereal milk panna cotta with caramelized cornflakes and strawberry puree.

Photo by Leah Lizarondo

I tweeted about this post as I was prepping for it, warning that this would be the first of many recipes inspired by Momofuku, the Michelin-starred, James Beard-lauded, 50 Best Restaurants-awarded group of restaurants by David Chang. I've been obsessed with David Chang ever since I stepped into my first Momofuku experience. The menu confronted me with this scathing declaration: We do not serve vegetarian-friendly items here.

Even though I was still a raging carnivore who left no meat untouched (including Spam – hey, they know how to do it up in Hawaii), I was miffed. Still, I grudgingly ordered, prepared to scathe back with "what's all the hype?" But I just couldn't. The meal, including the (incidentally) vegetarian ginger scallion noodles, was astounding.

Fast forward years later, I — now a "lapsed omnivore" — read this article in Food & Wine magazine that begins with "David Chang is stressed out …" and chronicles his retreat to a Korean Buddhist temple known for their vegetarian cuisine. "The truth is that for the last year or so, Chang has become obsessed with vegetables," the article reveals. And then boom! the article ends with Chang declaring, "For the rest of my life, I'm going to wish that I were as happy as those nuns." Redemption. Vegetables have a tendency to do that!

So this week, as you plan your homage to 'ma this Mothers' Day, I offer up a recipe that will not only remind you and your mom of wonderful childhood mornings, but also celebrate her with a dessert that elevates that memory to new heights.

What do I mean? Remember those warm and fuzzy childhood mornings, eating cereal at the breakfast table, waiting for the last bit of cornflake to be consumed so that you could slurp the yummy sweet milk left at the bottom of the bowl? That was the best part! Relive the halcyon days when a mommy’s kiss makes any booboo go away. But let’s show mommy how much we’ve grown up.

Let us deconstruct that breakfast into a Momofuku-inspired, end-of-meal showstopper. That cereal milk? We'll turn that yumminess into a panna cotta — the celebrated Italian dessert. The cereal itself will be caramelized to add texture and crunch and those strawberries you put on your cereal will be a delicious strawberry cream. Oh yes.

What's more is that, while the dish has multiple steps, they are all easy. Once plated, this dessert will earn you the foodie crown among your friends and your mom will wonder when you went to cooking school.

  Cereal Milk Panna Cotta with Caramelized Cornflakes and Strawberry Cream

Adapted from Momofuku

Cereal Milk Panna Cotta
Serves 6
6 cups cornflakes
3 cups almond milk, unsweetened
2 cups coconut milk creamer
1/4 cup maple sugar or light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 packet powdered gelatin
1/3 cup water

1. Heat the oven to 300F
2. Spread out the cornflakes on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven. Toast the cereal for 12 minutes to deepen the flavor. Cool until no longer hot to the touch.
3. Combine milk, cream and warm cornflakes in a container and let steep for 40-45 minutes (not longer).
4. Strain the milk, squeezing out as much liquid from the cornflakes as possible. Repeat. (You can discard the soggy cereal or you can eat it. I did. Don’t judge.
5. Add the sugar and salt to the mixture and in a heavy bottomed pan, over low heat, warm the milk until just hot enough so that the sugar melts. Don't overheat the milk or whisk it.
6. Add the vanilla extract or the seeds, stir gently.
7. In another bowl, mix the gelatin with the water and let stand for about 8-10 minutes.
8. Pour the warm milk mixture over the gelatin until the gelatin is dissolved completely.
9. Divide the mixture into 6 lightly oiled the prepared cups or ramekins, then put in the fridge to set, about 2 hours. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin before unmolding or serve in the ramekin.
10. To serve, top with strawberry puree, caramelized cereal, and a few slices of strawberries.

Caramelized Cornflakes
Makes about 3/4 cup

3/4 cup cornflakes
1 tablespoon maple sugar or brown sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 1/2 T Earth Balance or butter, melted

1. Heat the oven to 275F
2. Put the cornflakes in a large mixing bowl and crush them with your hands (practice restraint, you want crumbles not powder)
3. Stir together sugar and salt in a small bowl
4. Add the butter to cornflakes and sprinkle the sugar mixture over them. Toss to coat evenly.
5. Spread out the cereal on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 20 minutes until the sugar has caramelized to a deep golden brown.
6. Remove from oven and let cool.

Strawberry Puree
Makes about ¾ cup

1 cup strawberries
2 T maple syrup

Puree in a blender until smooth.

Categories: Brazen Kitchen