There’s something so sophisticated about Panna Cotta – this simple Italian dish that literally translates to ‘cooked cream’.
If it’s on a restaurant menu, I’ll almost inevitably order it. Yet, how often I’ve cursed when it turns out to be tasteless or, worse, rubbery!
So, I’ve set out to see if I can do any better. What I discovered was that it’s a simple process (surprisingly so), yet you need to treat the process with a little respect. Measure the ingredients precisely, ensure the gelatin is dissolved, cool the cooked mixture before chilling it – ignoring any of those details can result in a separated mixture, an undercooked one, or one that’s too firm.
This recipe by Kerrie Ray, on Taste.com.au delivers a rich, soft and creamy Panna Cotta. The white chocolate and vanilla are a perfect combination and the berry compote (which I used instead of the chocolate sauce in the original recipe) provides a nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the chocolate. A ‘simple’ dessert it may be, but it sure as heck is bound to impress when you serve it!
WHITE CHOCOLATE PANNA COTTA WITH BERRY COMPOTE
For the Panna Cotta:
- 1 packet 1 scant tablespoon gelatin powder plus 2 Tbsp cold water
- 600 ml pouring cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split length-ways
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 50 g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
For the Fruit Compote:
- 1.5 cup frozen or fresh berries
- 1/3 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Lightly oil 6 x 125ml (1/2-cup) capacity moulds or ramekins with baking spray or flavourless oil, then with a paper towel wipe most of it out, leaving only a slight residue. Set aside.
- Place the water in a small heatproof bowl. Sprinkle with the gelatin and let stand for about 5 minutes to soften. Place the bowl of softened gelatin in a small saucepan. Add enough boiling water to the saucepan to come three-quarters of the way up the side of the bowl. Use a fork to whisk the mixture until the gelatine dissolves. Alternatively, microwave the softened gelatin for 10-15 seconds (don’t let it boil) and stir to dissolve fully – rub a little between your fingers to ensure there are no grains. Set aside and stir occasionally.
- Put the pouring cream, milk, vanilla bean and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and it reaches scalding point (just before boiling). Remove from heat and take out the vanilla bean. Add white chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Add the dissolved gelatine mixture and stir until completely incorporated.
- Strain mixture into a jug and pour among six 125ml (1/2-cup) capacity moulds or ramekins (or alternatively into six dessert glasses if you don’t wish to invert the puddings). Allow to cool completely to room temperature, then cover lightly with foil and place in the fridge for several hours, or preferably overnight to set (the longer it sets, the firmer it will be).
- For the Fruit Compote: Place the berries, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan over a low heat. The juice of the berries will begin to seep out and the heat will dissolve the sugar. Keep it at a low simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the juice becomes slightly syrupy. Let it cool to room temperature.
- To serve: Take the desserts out of the fridge and let them stand for 15-20 minutes. Invert the panna cotta onto serving plates (unless you’re using glasses). This bit can be tricky, particularly as these desserts are so soft and creamy. Gently run a small palette knife around the outsides of the puddings, then place your serving dish over top of the ramekin and invert. It might need a little shake for the pudding to plop out. If it’s proving stubborn, dip the bottom of the ramekin into some hot water briefly and try again. Spoon over the cooled compote and serve.
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