Posted on Friday, 21st September 2012 by Grace Massa Langlois
Panna Cotta “cooked cream” is a delicate Italian dessert. The eggless custard is traditionally prepared with a combination of milk and cream, and sugar. It’s classically flavoured with vanilla bean and set with gelatine. The origin of the dessert is uncertain but the Piemonte region of Italy (Northern Italy bordering Switzerland and France) has identified the panna cotta as a traditional food product dating back to the early twentieth century. If we can believe the story panna cotta was invented in Langhe (city in Piemonte) by a woman of Hungarian descent.
It’s one of the most popular desserts enjoyed across Italy but its popularity has clearly extended beyond the Italian borders often seen on restaurant menus across the world. According to ancient tradition, to add flavour to the panna cotta, it should be paired with caramelized sugar like the crème caramel.
Panna Cotta is incredibly easy to make taking no longer than five minutes to prepare but achieving the perfect, slightly wobbly texture can be tricky. Although it can be prepared ahead of time to prevent a rubbery texture it’s best to pay close attention to the amount of gelatine used because as it chills it becomes firmer. Therefore depending on how far in advance you are preparing the dessert it’s best to reduce the amount of gelatine. Also once set it’s best to place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the panna cotta to prevent a thick skin from forming.
Another important mention, although panna cotta translates to “cooked cream” the cream/milk mixture should only be heated long enough to dissolve the sugar and at no time should the mixture come to a boil. To get the maximum flavour from the vanilla bean I usually infuse the vanilla bean in the cream/milk mixture for a couple of days prior to preparing the panna cotta.
In fact, when I return home from the market I immediately split and seed a vanilla bean and pop it in to the heavy cream container. Every time I reach for my coffee cream I give the container of heavy cream a shake. I have a wonderful vanilla infused cream at my fingertips, perfect for whipping to top desserts as well as for use in desserts.
After watching an episode of Top Chef I was inspired to prepare this dessert. The chef used a sheep’s milk yogurt in his version and I wondered if he was trying to achieve the same consistency worthy of a panna cotta prepared in the Piemonte region. The Piemonte dairy region produces an incredibly thick cream. And although I was anxious to try adding yogurt I wasn’t too keen on using sheep’s milk yogurt. It’s a flavour I’m not partial to. The yogurt brings an impressive freshness while providing a richer, creamier texture.
The options for flavouring a panna cotta are endless. Pairing the panna cotta with fruit is traditional. Initially I thought overall the pairing of the yogurt panna cotta with citrus gelée may be too tangy but I was pleasantly surprised. The rich, creamy texture cuts through the tartness. The fresh macerated fruit brings sweetness. And the roasted almonds not only provide a contrasting crunch but also a salty kick.
The pairing would make a wonderful option for a dessert menu consisting of a trio of desserts. I would serve this panna cotta in liqueur glasses with a minimum of four if not six alternating layers to ensure each spoonful incorporated some of the creamy panna cotta and tart gelée.
When I entertain my first priority is to ensure that I please my guests and they feel comfortable in my home. I hope you’ll indulge me today by answering a few questions in the comments. When attending a dinner party what is the one thing a host/hostess can do to instantly make you feel comfortable in their home? As a guest would you prefer the option of a single dessert or trio tasting? As the host/hostess, do you prefer serving a single dessert and why? And if you wouldn’t mind sharing, describe your best and worst dinner party experience.
I’m really looking forward to your answers. Have a wonderful weekend!
Greek Yogurt and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Citrus Gelée and Fresh Berry Compote with Almonds
Makes 1000 ml (about 4¼ cups)
To achieve the tilted layered look I used half-cylinder silicone moulds placing the moulds on a rimmed baking sheet and then placing one glass in each cavity on an angle. Egg cartons are a great alternative but you may have to make the egg slots a little larger depending on the size of the glasses you are using. When I am using the tilted layered look I prefer to do a trial run filling the glasses with water. This helps me to judge how much mixture I will need for each glass but it also helps me to determine how best to fill the glasses for best presentation.
- Greek Yogurt and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
- Citrus Gelée
- Fresh Berry Compote
Greek Yogurt and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
- 10g (6 sheets) gold gelatine leaves
- 120 ml (½ cup) heavy (whipping) cream, 35%
- 120 ml (½ cup) whole milk
- 120 g (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) honey
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
- 500 g (17.6 ounces) Greek yogurt
- Place dessert glasses on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Place gelatine leaves in a bowl of very cold water. Let stand to soften gelatine, about 15 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, bring cream, milk, honey, vanilla bean and seeds just barely to a simmer (do not let it come to a boil).
- Remove from heat. Add softened gelatine leaves and stir until gelatine is completely dissolved.
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a pourable container; discard vanilla bean (or rinse and save for use in compotes, sauces etc.).
- In medium bowl, whisk the yogurt until smooth.
- Gradually add the warm cream mixture, whisking to combine well. Transfer mixture to a pourable container.
- Evenly divide mixture between dessert glasses. Cover each glass with plastic wrap and carefully transfer to the refrigerator. Let chill until set, 4 to 6 hours.
Prepare gelée when panna cotta is set. The amount of citrus juice should equal about 500 ml (a tad bit more than 2 cups).
- 60 ml (¼ cup) cold water
- 7 g (1 package) unflavoured gelatine powder
- 420 ml (1¾ cups) orange juice
- Juice of 6 key limes
- Juice of half a large lemon
- 1 tablespoon Limoncello, optional
- 42 to 56 g (3 to 4 tablespoons) caster (superfine) sugar
- Sprinkle gelatine powder over cold water. Let stand to bloom, 5 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, bring orange, lime, and lemon juice, and sugar just barely to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Taste the mixture, if you would prefer it sweeter, add more sugar, one-half tablespoon at-a-time, tasting after each addition until desired sweetness is achieved.)
- Remove from heat; add Limoncello and stir to combine.
- Add bloomed gelatine; whisk to combine until gelatine is dissolved.
- Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a pourable container.
- Remove panna cotta from the refrigerator. Divide gelée mixture evenly between dessert glasses leaving enough room to layer glasses with berry-almond compote. Return desserts(covered with plastic wrap) to the refrigerator. Let chill until gelée is set, about 4 hours.
Fresh Berry Compote
- 120 ml sparkling wine
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Finely grated zest from one lemon
- 56 g (¼ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 pint strawberries, washed and quartered
- 1 pint raspberries, washed and halved
- 1 pint currants
- Place sparkling wine, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl. Stir together until sugar is dissolved.
- Add the fruit; gently stir together to combine. To allow flavours to come together, let stand at room temperature, about 30 minutes.
To Serve Desserts
- Sliced almonds, toasted
- Remove desserts from refrigerator.
- Spoon about 1 tablespoon compote over each layered desserts.
- Garnish with sliced almonds.
- Buon Appetito!
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Tags: citrus, citrus desserts, dessert, desserts, desserts for entertaining, entertaining, food, food photography, food photos, fruit, individual dessert, individual desserts, Italian dessert, Italian desserts, layered desserts, parfait, pudding, quick desserts, Summer desserts
Posted in Baking & Pastry, Baking Mise en Place, Custards, Creams & Mousses, Fillings, Frostings & Dessert Sauces, Recipes