Here's a quick summary video. The detailed method follows.
To make the pannacotta
- Start off by soaking your gelatine in enough cold water to cover it.
- Next, heat the cream and sugar in a small saucepan until just boiling, whisking while you do so.
- Remove your gelatine and squeeze out all water, then whisk into your cream mixture until fully dissolved.
- Transfer your mix to a jug and pour into each of your ashtrays, about 15mm deep.
- Put in the fridge to set for around 3 hours.
While the pannacotta is setting you can make the meringue ‘ash’.
For the meringue ash
- First heat your oven to 90℃.
- In a clean bowl, whisk your egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Mix both your sugars together in a separate bowl.
- While still whisking your egg whites at high speed add a tablespoon of sugar at a time until the meringue is thick and glossy and you’ve used all the sugar.
- Finally whisk in some black food colouring gel a drop at a time until you get a dark grey colour.
- Spread your meringue thinly onto a parchment lined baking tray and place in the oven for around an hour.
- Check it after this time to see if it is hard and set. If not leave it in for another half hour until it has dried out but not coloured.
- Once cooked, turn your oven off, leave the door open an inch and leave your meringue in until needed
While your pannacotta is setting and your meringue is cooking, you can make the rest of the components.
For the Lapsang gel
The Lapsang gel brings this dish to life, by giving a smoky flavour that really adds to the illusion. I highly recommend using Twinings, but any other smoky Lapsang will be fine.
- Start off by putting your teabags in 380 ml of just boiled water. Leave to steep for 5 minutes. Discard the teabags and bring to the boil in a saucepan.
- Whisk in the sugar and agar agar and boil for around 3 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Take off the heat and pour into a shallow tray.
- Leave in the fridge for around an hour to set.
- Once set, break up the jelly into your smoothie blender and blitz for around a minute.
- It should blend to a smooth yet stable gel. If it’s a bit lumpy or thick, add a tablespoon of water and blitz again until smooth.
- Transfer to your squeezy bottle or piping bag and chill until needed.
For the chocolate crumb
The chocolate crumb goes with the meringue ash to give the appearance of cigarette ash.
- Take your frozen chocolate and blitz in your smoothie blender or food processor. You want a small crumb, but not a fine powder.
- Pour your silver lustre powder into the smoothie cup with your crumb, replace the lid and shake until all the chocolate is coloured silver.
- Put aside until needed.
For the cigarette butts
- Start off by melting your white chocolate.
- Take 1/3 and put to one side.
- Take the rest and add your orange food colouring gel drop by drop, stirring constantly.
- After a few drops the chocolate will start to thicken and turn into a paste. Keep doing this until you achieve a mouldable texture (a bit like play doh). If the colour gets too orange, you can use drops of cold water to help thicken instead.
- Working quickly, use your hands to finish moulding the chocolate into a smooth texture (you may want to use gloves).
- You need to make 30 cylinder shapes around 1 inch long by 5mm thick (the size of cigarette butts).
- Cut each end to a flat finish and set aside. If you're feeling confident you can bend some to look like scrunched up butts.
- Next take your remaining white chocolate and add half a teaspoon of water and mix as before, until it hardens to a paste.
- Divide this into 30 pea sized balls, and flatten two sides to make small cylinders.
- Finally stick each one onto one end of each orange butt, roll on a flat surface till flush and put in the fridge to set.
Now it’s time to bring the whole thing together...
- Remove your pannacottas from the fridge.
- Squeeze an even layer of Lapsang gel onto each, about 3mm thick.
- Next add small piles of silver chocolate crumb.
- Take your grey meringue and put into a food processor.
- Blitz to a fine dust and add small piles on your pannacotta.
- Carefully, use a spoon to mix the meringue dust and chocolate crumb topping so your ashtrays look messy and full of ash.
- Finally add 5 chocolate butts to each ashtray, making sure to dip the white end into some meringue ash first.