I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Panna Cotta
Posted on August 6, 2014
Cool, creamy, delicious and dreamy—that’s how I’d describe this crowd-pleasing dessert which is oh-too perfect for summer. And if you’re thinking ice cream, you’re wrong. This time, when I scream, we scream, we all scream— it’s for panna cotta.
What is Panna Cotta?
Panna cotta is an eggless custard made from gelatin and cream. “Literally, it translates to cooked cream, which doesn’t sound very enticing. So, I call it a gourmet Italian pudding” vaunts Lara Galante, who brings the dessert to the streets of Denver via quaint bicycle cart under her alias The Panna Cotta Peddler.
Sophisticated and simple to make, panna cotta impresses guests with its unique texture and taste. “It’s creamy; a little bit heavier than an ice cream, but smooth, very velvety,” said Galante.
Why We Love It
This custardy Italian dessert is a well-prepared chef’s dream, needing only 4 basic ingredients and no baking. In spite of its simplicity, there is one issue the novice panna cotta maker must watch out for—separation into layers.
We turned to the pro to figure out a remedy for the little layers. Her advice?
“You really need to let it cool to room temperature, or even refrigerate it a little before you pour it into whatever the last receptacle it is going to be.”
Firmness is a factor too. Galante informs the gelatin ratio is all about preferences.
“Some people like their panna cotta firmer, while some like it a little looser.”
Flavors on Flavors
Variations in gelatin balance and fat percentage, let alone flavorings, cause this custard to easily become exclusively yours. Before adding it to a menu, run batch testing to find a favorite formula.
Featuring seasonal flavors is always beneficial for freshness and flavor variety. Lara fills us in on flavor formations of the past and present. “My personal favorite is the lemon rosemary, but the crowd favorite is the dark chocolate sea salt. When palisade peaches are in season I do a peaches and cream. I’ve done a strawberry margarita, with strawberry, lime zest and salt.”
Due to its cold serving state, summer is a perfect time to add panna cotta on as a special. But don’t limit yourself to the warm-weathered months. Once again, flavorings can work to your advantage to feature this unique dessert.
“I make a pumpkin spice in the fall [and] a peppermint flavor for the holidays.” Thinking of her year round favorites like the dark chocolate and espresso, Lara retorts, “I think it’s an all season dessert.”
Panna Cotta Tools
Once your dessert has set, it’s popular to serve it either in a dessert dish with a spoon similar to pudding. Another option is to unmold the ramekins into a quivery free-standing presentation, similar to flan. Mugs, tumblers, or wine glasses, especially stemless, can add a more modern flair.
Panna Cotta Recipe
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Set Time: 2-4 hours
Yield: 8 servings
- 4 Cups heavy cream
- 6 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 Packet powdered unflavored gelatin (or .25 oz)
- 6 Tablespoons cold water
2. Lightly oil your serving dishes. For this recipe, these can be eight ramekins, mugs, wine glasses, dessert cups, or whatever smaller bowl-shape dish you prefer.
3. Allow for the gelatin bloom by sprinkling the packet over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. In the meantime, remove the bean pod and rewarm the cream mixture.
4. Pour the warmed panna cotta mixture over the gelatin bowl and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. If you’re unsure if it is fully dissolved, rub a bit of the liquid between two fingers. If it is at all gritty, it needs more time.
5. Allow the mixture to fully cool before dividing it into the cups. You can let it sit on the counter to cool or you can put it in the fridge to speed things up.
6. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups. Chill them until firm, about two hours.
7. Run a knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired. Or serve directly out of glass.
Panna Cotta Creations we Love
Once you have the basic recipe down, try spicing it up with one of these variations:
- Coconut Panna Cotta (This one is dairy-free and vegan)
- Green Tea Panna Cotta with Blueberry Lavender Sauce
- Lemon Basil Panna Cotta