Guess what’s for dessert? Oh my goodness, my friend Justine brought me the most delicious treat recently. It’s called panna cotta, which is of course Italian, and it comes originally from the Piedmonte area in northern Italy, which makes sense as they have dairies, in addition to vineyards. I don’t know how it’s escaped my radar all this time. And it was sooooo delicious I immediately asked for the recipe and learned how to make it, and lucky you if you didn’t know either. You are about to find out. I know I have myriad readers who will tell me they have traversed Italy many times and have made this for years. Send me your recipes and I will try them as well. But for the uninitiated, pull up a chair. We’re about to make panna cotta! YUM!!!
I have to say this right off the bat. This dessert is so ridiculously easy to make it’s almost sinful as everyone will think you worked really hard to create such a special, luscious, and beautiful treat. Not so! Watch this!
Ready? OK, measure out 1 1/2 cups of plain yogurt and 1 1/2 cups of half and half. Oh. Did I mention this dessert is fattening?? You can only serve this when you have guests, my dears. You can’t get addicted, OK? Promise me. OK, now that we have that out of the way, moving right along. Mix in a single bowl the yogurt and the half and half into which you’ve put one teaspoon of vanilla, and then add two teaspoons of lemon zest. Now let me mention here that I used very high quality organic yogurt. Straus. Can you get Straus all over the US? Probably. But use the highest quality yogurt you can find. I would think in Europe this would be easily obtained. And since we are using the lemon peel, it’s critical that be organic as well. Some of you will have your own trees, though it’s a bit late in the season. And, oh please use only real vanilla. Really, my darlings. You must. You want the best ingredients for the best result.
OK, step two already! (Wasn’t that easy?) Pour 1/4 cup lemon juice in a small bowl.
Pour into the lemon juice one envelope of unflavored gelatin and stir it up. (Jello! Do you believe it??) Now let this stand for five minutes.
OMG, we’re almost done. (I told you!) Now. Put 1/2 cup heavy cream (gasp!) in a small pan and add 1/2 cup sugar and just barely heat it enough that the sugar dissolves into the cream. So easy!
Now the big finale. (Did I mention how E-A-S-Y this is???) Pour the cream and sugar mixture into the lemon juice/gelatin bowl. Stir until you don’t see any lumps. Lumps would be bad. Then pour the lemon/cream/gelatin mixture into the yogurt mixture. And you are basically done. Can you believe it? I barely can. Now this is what I did.
I took out my dear old Grandmother’s pudding bowls (she left five) and filled those. I love how they look and I love that they were hers. Pick your favorites. Traditionally I think recipes say use ramekins. I personally like the idea of pudding bowls, but that’s just me. So be creative–as long as you can get it OUT, as that’s the next step. I’ll tell you how in a minute. Meanwhile, refrigerate the panna cotta overnight. (You could do it in less time in a pinch, say, at least five hours?)
Now this is the beautiful part. You are going to top your panna cotta with berries! Doesn’t that sound delicious? I experimented with blueberries and strawberries. Look at this.
Aren’t they inspiring, those gorgeous berries? So here’s what I did. Once the panna cotta was set (and I waited overnight to be sure) I first ran a knife carefully around the inner edge. Then I filled a bowl with hot hot water and held each pudding dish in the water until the panna cotta could slip onto a dessert plate. It’s less scary than it sounds, as you can just put the dessert plate on top of the bowl and flip it and see if it comes out. It not, dip the dish in the hot water a little longer and try again. You’ll get it. This is the most delicate part, as you can see.
Then I put the blueberries in a little pan with a little water and sugar and heated quickly until they broke down a bit and the liquid thickened just a little. The strawberries I sliced and then sprinkled with a teeny bit of sugar. Then I simply spooned the berries onto the panna cotta, for an incredible result. I find this to be a very elegant dessert worthy of holiday fare.
I hope you and your family thoroughly enjoy your panna cotta, and it becomes a treasured family recipe. Let me know, will you?
Love and kitchen blessings,
Posted on August 20th, 2008 by Kathryn
Filed under: People at Life