Panna cotta (Italian for "cooked cream") is one of my favourite desserts - lighter than a crême brulée, yet still creamy and milky-rich in your mouth. Basically it is an Italian-style milk custard jelly, yet it's so hard to find good panna cotta when eating out as most places make their panna cotta too firm. Great panna cotta should be wobbly and soft, with a very luxurious and yielding mouthfeel, it should be rich yet light at the same time. Too often when eating out you get panna cotta that's nothing more than milky Jell-O, and that's just not good.
I've recently purchased a copy of the BBC Good Food Cookbook; it's got some interesting ideas for different dishes which I plan to test soon. This is the first recipe I've made from this dish (albeit with some major alterations/improvisations due to not having double cream or lemons and having leftover sour cream at home)*. I haven't made jelly in a long time; I think the last time was making Jell-O gummy worm vodka shots several years ago for a X'mas party (long story, don't ask!).
*The original Good Food Cookbook recipe was for lemon pannacotta with blackberries.This is a simple vanilla panna cotta with raspberry/blueberry topping.
Raspberry panna cotta
First make your panna cotta and then your raspberry layer. Or if you plan to invert the puddings out of the ramekin onto a plate for serving, do the raspberry topping first and use it as the "bottom" layer of your ramekin (it will become the "top" when you turn it upside down and out of the mould). Whichever layer you do, make sure you let the first layer set before pouring on the second layer as you're basically just making a 2-layer jelly.
Please note that regular gelatine is not vegetarian; if you want a vegetarian substitute you can try to find agar agar in your supermarket.
Makes 8 small ramekins or 6 small ramekins and 2 martini glasses.
Panna cotta Ingredients:
- 4 gelatine leaves (or 1 tablespoon granulated/powder gelatin)
- 450ml milk OR 400ml full-fat milk + 50ml sour cream, stirred/beaten until soft
- 400ml whipping cream (or fresh double cream if available)
- 100g vanilla sugar OR 100g sugar + 1tsp vanilla extract
- Soak gelatine leaves in ice cold water for 5-10 minutes to soften. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, add milk, cream, sour cream (if using), and sugar. Heat until you see bubbles but it's not quite boiling (a very very gentle simmer), about 2-3 minutes.
- Take saucepan off heat. Take the gelatin leaves and squeeze gently to expel excess water, then add to your milk/cream mixture. Stir until dissolved.
- Let cool slightly, then pour into your ramekins/little cups. I've also used martini glasses to good effect (being able to see the layers through the glass gives your panna cotta an extra "wow" factor), and I don't see why you can't use shot glasses, small teacups etc.
- Put your ramekins with the panna cotta in the fridge to chill for 2-3 hours or overnight.
After the panna cotta is set, then prepare the next layer (raspberry topping). I just prepared the mixtures for both milk and fruit layers at the same time but you can stagger the process so that you make the first layer on one day and the second layer 2-24 hours afterwards.
Raspberry layer ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons good raspberry jam + 1 tablespoon blueberry jam (or really, 3 tablespoons of whatever good fruit jam you have in your fridge)
- 1 gelatine leaf OR 1 tsp powdered gelatin
- 2 tablespoons of crème de framboise (raspberry liquor) or any other appropriate fruit liquor (you can also substitute water)
- Soak gelatine leaf in ice cold water for 5-10 minutes to soften. Set aside. I did this with the 4 other gelatine leaves for the panna cotta layer as I wanted to do both layers of the dessert after each other.
- In a small saucepan, gently heat the jam and the crème de framboise/water/etc until the mixture becomes runny. Stir regularly to make sure it doesn't burn/boil. If it bubbles over it's too hot: take it off the heat.
- Squeeze the gelatine leaf to remove excess water, then add to your jam/fruit mixture and stir until melted.
- Set aside on your countertop to cool. If you are doing this layer second, you can let it cool on your countertop (not in the fridge) while the first layer (the panna cotta) is setting in the fridge.
- When your first layer is set (the panna cotta should wobble but the surface should not ripple), gently pour the raspberry layer on top. Return to fridge until set (another 3 hours but best to wait overnight if you can if you're doing both layers in the same day).
- Serve in the ramekins themselves, or if you're feeling brave, run a thin-bladed knife around the walls of the ramekins to loosen, then tip upside down on a plate. I've had problems with this as the top of my pannacotta stuck to the moulds, so I think that I'll serve these little puddings in the ramekins until I get the hang of plating them properly.