Panna cotta, or “cooked cream,” is a gelatin-based dessert that is Italian in origin, and easy to make. It is a versatile dinner party dessert option, as you can mix and match flavors and garnishes to your liking. As well, panna cotta can be made a couple of days in advance, and left to chill in the refrigerator, leaving you more time on the day of the party to focus on the rest of the menu, and your guests.
In this recipe, Carrie Mashaney, pastry chef at Spinasse in Seattle, Wash., prepares a vanilla bean-flavored panna cotta and serves it with a drizzle of honey. To dress up a panna cotta, you can substitute a different flavoring, like cinnamon, for the vanilla in the panna cotta, or add a layer of a fruit-flavored gelée to the base of the desired mold, before adding the panna cotta mixture.
To create a gelée, combine one package of powdered gelatin with ¼ cup of your preferred juice in a small bowl. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften. In a small saucepan, combine the mixture with an additional 1 ¾ cups of juice and bring everything to a simmer over medium heat. Pour the mixture into the molds and let them chill completely in the refrigerator before adding the panna cotta mixture. If you’d rather use a fruit purée, you can also substitute 1 ½ cups purée for the 2 cups of juice. — Allison Beck.