Panna Cotta is an Italian custard like, dessert made by simmering together cream, milk, sugar, gelatin, and letting it cool until set. Translated it literally means “cooked cream”, there are similar desserts such as the well-known flan, little less known tembleque (a light coconut custard from Puerto Rico), the traditional Crème Brûlée and even (a stretch here) the exotic Sikand (India). Although they have different ingredients they share the creamy texture, and richness of the superb panna cotta.
Basic Panna Cotta
1/2-cup evaporated milk (it lends a silky character)
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin (approx. 2 teaspoons) if you are a nutso 😉 vegan you can substitute gelatin with Agar Agar Powder ( follow carefully instructions on the box)
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup milk; let stand until the gelatin is softened, about 5 minutes.
In a large saucepan, combine heavy cream and sugar. Add vanilla extract or vanilla bean. If using a vanilla bean, slice the bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds into cream (add whole bean to cream for additional flavor). Bring cream just to a simmer (do not let it boil), whisking occasionally until sugar has completely dissolved; remove from heat and remove vanilla bean pod. Add the softened gelatin mixture and whisk to completely dissolve the gelatin.
Strain hot cream mixture into a large glass measuring cup with a pouring spout; pour into ramekins or custard cups (if you don’t have any of the two, use a tea cup. don’t worry nobody will know the difference, and we’re not telling right?)
A nice touch; if using a vanilla bean, stir the bean to give the final product a peppered effect. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
To unmold, carefully dip bottom of each ramekin in a baking pan of hot water briefly. Run a thin knife around edge of each ramekin to loosen it from the inside of the bowl. Wipe the outside of the mold dry and place on individual chilled serving plate (topside down). Invert the custard onto the plate and carefully lift off ramekin (tap gently to release). Garnish with berries or fruit of your choice. Or with any berry, chocolate sauce.
1-1/2 cup strawberries
1-tablespoon pure vanilla extract
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine water and sugar. Stir and cook until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a slow boil; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced by half.
In a food processor or blender, add strawberries and process until a thick puree. Add strawberries puree into the hot syrup. Cover and refrigerator until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, sauce over and around the panna cotta and serve.