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.
Place sugar, salt, vanilla bean seeds with pod, and lemon in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips, until vanilla is distributed. Place sugar mixture, cream and milk in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Turn off heat and let the cream steep for one hour.
When gelatin is softened, remove it from the water, making sure to gently squeeze out any excess water. Place gelatin in a bowl that will hold all the ingredients. Re-warm cream mixture and strain it over the gelatin, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Place the bowl over an ice bath and chill until the cream mixture is cold and thick but still fluid, stirring frequently. Pour into desired molds and refrigerate. Let set for two hours, but it can also set overnight.
Drizzle panna cotta with desired honey just before serving.