Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Panna Cotta

Do you ever feel like once you've tried something, it begins popping up everywhere, and even if it is something that has long existed, it's now so popular? Something similar occurred to me yesterday with panna cotta. Then I remembered that I have yet to share my post on it. Panna Cotta (meaning cooked cream) is a well-known Italian dessert made with cream, milk and sugar, set with gelatin. It has been consumed for many years, originating in Italy and spreading throughout the world.
My first time attempting to make panna cotta, I was extremely nervous. I was/am not very familiar with gelatin and the thought of jiggly cream seemed a bit far-fetched to me. However, it was something I've been wanting to try and since I was making an Italian themed meal that day, I seized the opportunity. I had made an eggplant parmesan, mini BLT Caprese on little toothpicks as well as the panna cotta. Luckily, I made the panna cotta ahead so I had room for mishaps.

On the first try, I replaced the gelatin with agar agar so as to make it vegetarian. Well... It seems I was even less familiar with agar agar than I was with gelatin (even though I researched it), because it did not set. I do think it takes a while longer to set that gelatin but I had to have done something wrong, or the agar agar was no good because after more than 24 hours, it was still liquid. I discarded that, though I may try again in the future with the agar agar. The second batch I used the gelatin, and it was far more successful. It wasn't perfect, of course, it was only my first try, but it was pretty great - definitely better than I expected. The idea of jiggly cream wasn't so bad after all. I figured I was hesitant because I'm not a huge fan of custard jelly-like desserts and expected it to be similar, but it wasn't.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 6 oz. Plain Greek Yoghurt
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Vanilla Bean/1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Sugar (to taste) [I preferred mine on the mild side with reference to sweetness because of the way it was served i.e. with a Bailey's Caramel.]
  • 2 Tsp. Gelatin Powder
Heat heavy cream in a saucepan on medium low heat until just before the boil. Stir in and dissolve gelatin. Sweeten to taste. Add milk, mix in yoghurt and vanilla. Pour into moulds and allow to set for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. 

I used a silicon mould for these and they peeled right out. However, the glass and plastic containers were impossible to get the panna cotta out of, so those are best served in their dish. They must be served chilled as well since they are sometimes delicate and can easily melt. The bottom layer (the brown part) was a mild chocolate cream layer but it wasn't as creamy (or well-textured) as the vanilla. However, I do think following the vanilla recipe, omitting the sugar and adding in a little melted bittersweet chocolate may be brilliant. As mentioned before, these were served over a shortcut Bailey's caramel, simply by mixing a few tablespoons of the Bailey's with homemade or storebought caramel.

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