Panna Cotta By Any Other Name

Pannacotte with blueberry sauce
Panna cotta with blueberry sauce

Blanc-manger, panna cotta or molded cream, the idea is similar: gelatin is added to milk and/or cream infused with herbs, spices or nuts. The end result? A simple dessert perfect for a picnic (if made and left in small Mason jars and kept cool in a cooler) or — when nicely dressed — ready for a dinner party. How to dress it up? Vary the flavoring (change the herb; add rosewater etc), garnish with coulis and fresh seasonal fruit: perfectly ripe berries, barely sweetened sour cherries, rhubarb compote or, when in winter a cooked fruit sauce made with frozen berries.  Top it with a mint sprig or an edible flower. Substitute yogurt for the crème fraiche for a tangier and lighter alternative.  If you can’t have dairy milk, use almond milk or coconut milk (omit the almond meal in either case).  Once the basic technique is understood, there is no end to the fun!

You need to plan a little for that dessert: it needs to be made it the day before as it needs plenty of time to chill and set.

Honey & Creme Fraiche Pannacotta

YIELD 6 to 10 servings depending on mold size

  • 1 ½ cup whole milk + 1/4 cup for the gelatin
  • 3/8 cup almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup crème fraiche (or sour cream)
  • Organic viola flowers or other organic edible flower for decoration (optional)
  • Fresh fruit or fruit sauce as desired
  1. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, combine 1 ½ cup milk, almond meal, and rosemary and heat until tiny bubbles form. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag (or a thin kitchen towel), pressing hard on the almond solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Put strained milk back in sauce pan, add honey and heat, stirring until honey is fully dissolves and milk is hot to the touch. Do not boil.
  2. Sprinkle gelatin over ¼ cup cold milk in a medium-sized bowl, let stand 1 minute and whisk to dissolve completely. Add hot milk, a little at a time, whisking to prevent lumps. Cool and chill until mixture starts to thicken, stirring occasionally (if you use an ice-bath it may take only 20 minutes). Whisk crème fraiche to soften it, then whisk in in the milk mixture until well incorporated.
  3. Spoon the mixture into small molds. I prefer 1/3 cup individual jelly molds (small brioche molds, ramekin or small Mason jars also work) Refrigerate until completely set 4-6 hours or overnight.
  4. To unmold, dip the mold in hot (but not boiling) water 1 or 2 seconds; be careful not to let the water in the panna cotta. Invert on a dessert plate. Spoon a fruit sauce or arrange fresh berries around the pudding. Garnish as desired. Refrigerate for up to a few hours until ready to eat.
Pannacotta with fresh spring strawberries



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