The eighth wonder of the world could most assuredly be why panna cotta isn’t the most popular non-chocolate dessert being celebrated by people everywhere. It’s a cross between custard, pudding, and jello, capitalizing on the best characteristics of each, and yet distinctly different from each. It’s perfectly smooth, creamy, and yet light as a feather. Speckled with vanilla bean and layered with fresh berries or cooked berries in a coulis, this dessert is divine intervention, I’m convinced of it.
The first time I ever had it was years ago at Pastabilities and my brother Dylan and I found it so life-changing that my dad used to order it to-go for us on the reg, and that would most likely be our dinner for the night (#dadshouse). When it left the dessert menu, never to return, we may have actually mourned our loss. And as I hinted before, this dessert is as elusive as it is delicious—I almost never see it on restaurant menus. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest things to create in the kitchen—so easy, in fact, that I’d recommend it to anyone with no experience who is looking to get her (or his!) feet wet. You could just stop there and die believing (knowing?) you’re Mario Batali—that’s how good, I promise, it will turn out.
Vanilla bean panna cotta with raspberry coulis
Inspired by Spoon Fork Bacon
Yields 4 servings
1 envelope powdered gelatin (I actually like to use a little less, maybe ⅔ of the packet, for a less-firm texture, but you do you!)
3 T ice cold water (again, slightly less if you're using less gelatin)
1½ cups heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
⅓ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract if you don’t have paste)
Raspberry coulis (recipe below)
In a wide bowl, sprinkle powdered gelatin over water and let it sit undisturbed. Set aside.
Combine heavy cream, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean paste in a medium saucepan and bring it almost to a simmer over medium-low heat, maybe 7-9 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat. Add gelatin to the cream mixture, and stir until gelatin is dissolved and mixture is uniform. Pour into small jars or glasses and immediately move them into the fridge for at least three hours or so to set (uncovered to prevent a skin from forming). Once they've set, top with a few tablespoons of raspberry coulis (recipe below), and refrigerate again until ready to serve with a little fresh lemon zest, if you’d like.
*Note: if you're going to double this recipe, I find that using 2 envelopes of gelatin makes a too-firm panna cotta. You may like the firmness, and in that case just double it. But I like it to be a bit softer, so I do about 1½ envelopes of gelatin and 4½ T water.
Yields enough for 4 servings
1½ cups raspberries
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
In a small saucepan, combine raspberries, water, and sugar, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk to break up the raspberries. Cook for 5 minutes or so, until bubbling and slightly thick and a very uniform texture. (If you don't like the seeds, you could strain them out, but I love the texture).
Remove from heat and store, uncovered, in a mason jar on the countertop until cooled. When it’s completely cooled, cover and store in fridge until ready to use. Pour on top of panna cotta after it has completely set.