I love to eat pudding but rarely make it because the whole custard aspect feels too involved except on rare occasions. Then I saw this recipe for perfect panna cotta on David Leibovitz' blog and decided to give it a whirl because, no custard! And I was also looking for ways to show off the beautiful berries we'd just picked at our annual pilgrimage to Story Farms in Catskill.
David wasn't exaggerating – it is amazingly easy to make, thanks to the powdered gelatin. Just make sure to start several hours before you plan to serve dessert as it needs time to cool in order to set fully.
I do not own a matched set of custard cups and I currently have only one ramekin so I used a combination of bowls and my small army of used Bonne Maman jam jars. One other reason to go with the jam jars is that you can just screw that little red-and-white-checked lid onto the jar, making it easier to store and transport if you wanted to something decadent like bring these on a picnic.
You can either unmold the panna cotta or just serve it as is in the bowl or jar you made it in with the fruit/syrup/chocolate right on top – equally tasty and pretty and much easier, methinks. I unmolded one and then left the rest in their respective jars and bowls.
Serve with the fresh fruit of your choice – strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, and more. You could also shave a little dark chocolate over it or drizzle a little honey on it if you don't have any fruit on hand. I added a drizzle of the linden blossom syrup that's currently infusing in my fridge (post coming soon) to mine and it was divine.
Perfect Panna Cotta
Adapted from Judy Witts Francini's Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen
Makes 8 servings
4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream or half-and-half – I used 1 pint of each
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4-1/2 teaspoons)
6 tablespoons cold water
1. Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
2. Lightly grease eight small cups or bowls with a neutral-tasting oil - avocado, coconut, safflower, etc.
3. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Don't be alarmed if it has an unappealing, acrid odor.
4. Pour the very warm cream and sugar mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
5. Divide the mixture into the bowls or cups, then chill until firm - between 2-4 hours. If you'd like to unmold them before serving, run a sharp knife carefully around the edge of each bowl/cup and turn out onto a plate (I had to give mine quite a bit of assistance.) Top with fruit, chocolate, honey or syrup and serve.
Related post on The Garden of Eating: Strawberry Shortcake