Thursday, December 8, 2011

Things to Make with Cream: Panna Cotta

There's a marvelous cocoa recipe we've been indulging in way too often lately (I'll post about it tomorrow) and so when I saw little boxes of heavy cream on sale for five for a dollar - that's TWENTY CENTS EACH, people!!! I overbought. Because, you  know, you can never have too much heavy cream... (I think that's the slogan of cardiologists the world over)

It was on sale because the best before date was fast approaching and while I hear you can freeze heavy cream, cooking with it is so much better. But I needed to make something easy as the meds-pain-health woes are at an all time high and babying pots of cream in their water bath is WAY beyond my skill set right now.

Last time we were at a favorite tapas restaurant of ours we had Five Spice Panna Cotta and I thought it would be fun to recreate the dish at home. What was nice about the dessert we enjoyed was that it was subtly flavored and silky smooth. So many flavored panna cottas are over-flavored. They don't let the rich ingredients shine. When eating panna cotta the last thing I want is a mouth full of cinnamon. Ew.

So I borrowed a little from this recipe, a little from that, consulted my cookbooks, made educated guesses and worried myself sick that I'd end up with a rubbery horror. I mean let's face it, we're making cream jello. That isn't a pretty thought.

But nope, it was positively perfect. Most recipes serve this with a coulis, puree or sauce of some sort but we just ate them straight up and I think they were the better for it.

Panna cotta is a simple, fast to make, crowd pleasure. I'll be adding it to the rotation for entertaining or special celebrations.

Spice Panna cotta

4 cups heavy cream or half-and-half. I used 3 (shy) cups of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of fat free half and half and about a 1/2 cup non-fat milk to equal 4 cups - it was what we had on hand
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise mine are so dried out and old I used 3 beans
1/4 tsp of Five Spice Powder - more to taste.  I use 1/4 tsp, most recipes I saw called for 1 1/2 tsps - which I think is an insanely large amount. And I like five spice powder. So taste it and see if you have enough, if not, add more. 
You could also replace the five spice powder with nutmeg or cardamon. Yum!
2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
6 tablespoons cold water

1. Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)

If you are adding spices, add them here. 

2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil. *

4. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. How does a person know if the gelatin is completely dissolved? Please leave me a comment as I have no idea. I just stirred, a lot.

5. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, chill until firm. At least 2 hours, 4 is better. Overnight is great too.

* Orif you want to serve your panna cotta without inverting them (and subsequently avoiding unfolding disasters) skip this step and pour the cream mixture directly into custard cups, dessert dishes, shot glasses or wine goblets.

6. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired.

We didn't do advent last night *gasp* we're normal people, with busy schedules and every single one of us wanted to watch Work of Art more then we wanted to play a game. So we did. Slavish adherence to things make them not fun.


Mitralee said...

oh so hope you feel better! Looks yummy!

Mary C. said...

Must try this for the RGH...and me.
It looks delightful!

Kathi said...

Love this.
"Slavish adherence to things make them not fun."

Amen. Amen.

I hope you're feeling better.

That recipe scares me a little.

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