I have seen recipes for panna cotta for years, and frankly, I didn’t understand the point of it. Sweetened cream, set with gelatin? Eww. But when we were in Siena several years ago, I tried it for the first time. OH. MY. This is definitely something whose description doesn’t do it justice. Not at all. It’s just--well, wonderful.
It’s the perfect light dessert after a rich meal. It’s just the right touch of sweetness, balanced by the vanilla. When you add berries as I have, you have a light, sweet/tart dessert, the perfect end to a perfect meal. What more can you ask?
Personally, I can ask more. Call me greedy. I can ask that it be easy, and this is that. It takes only a few minutes to prepare, and I make it in little verrines, so that I don’t have to un-mold it. This presentation is not only pretty but it’s also (even better) almost totally do-ahead. I usually have an Italian almond cookie to put on the side, and maybe a pretty edible flower.
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup (scant) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 sheets gelatine (3.5 - 4 g total)
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or any other tart berry macerated in sugar to draw out the juice.
- Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water while you prepare the cream. Put the cream, milk, sugar in a saucepan.
- Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add these to the cream mixture, and whisk to break up the vanilla seeds.
- Squeeze the water from the gelatine and stir it into the pan with the hot cream/milk.
- Heat gently till just beginning to steam--don’t let it boil! Don’t even let it simmer. Keep it gently steaming for about 5 minutes to allow the vanilla to steep.
- Pour into 4 small verrines or pretty glasses, and chill for 8 hours or overnight. To serve, spoon berries and their juice over the panna cotta and add a dab of whipped cream if you like.
Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don’t.
- Make this in a larger bowl and unmold it onto a plate at serving time. Surround it with berries or fruit coulis and serve.
- Make individual servings in small cups and unmold each of them. This is really pretty, especially if you have some pretty dessert plates.
- Use rosewater or lavender instead of vanilla for a delicate, floral perfume.