It's been a long time since I'd last had a panna cotta. It's one of those desserts that I find quite easy to forget but once I remember.... BOY do I remember. Take this past month for example, my year 11 have made panna cotta as part of a 2 course Italian meal and that was it, I have now had panna cotta 6 times in three weeks GASP it's alright though, they were small portions HA.
If you've never had a panna cotta before I would definitely say go for it! It's such a lovely thing, a set cream dessert with such a light flavour. It melts in your mouth if done well.
Did you realise just how simple it was to make a panna cotta? It's one of those desserts that I think some people are wary of. I usually hear the likes of 'oooh, but all that cream' I know I know.... but (and it's a big BUT) it can be such a light dessert when it's made properly!
Then I got to thinking, how come I've only ever had vanilla panna cotta and how easy would it be to make other flavours? I set about trying a basic panna cotta recipe but flavoured with lemon. I love lemon with creamy desserts, I think it takes away that claggy feel some desserts can leave in your mouth. My only worry was if it would curdle or not (I don't want it looking like cottage cheese here). I found that with a gentle heat and adding the rind first, all was good...WIN!
A decent panacotta should have a glorious wobble, like jelly. It should be firmly set and should have a really smooth consistency. So how do you do it? My favourite method uses gelatine* I prefer the leaves as it's easier to see when they've dissolved properly.
You can use agar agar to set it if you're vegetarian but you need to be really careful with the amounts as it is powerful stuff!
Panna cotta is such a fabulous dessert for so many reasons, I've made it for JB and I for 'date night' and also made it for family dinners. I always serve it with a tangy coulis, usually made of mixed berries. I am a visual eater so the contrast in colour always draws me in, I definitely eat with my eyes.
What to serve it with though? When I ate at The Oakridge my panna cotta came with a sorbet but I'm all about the texture. If I'm going all out with a double cream dessert I am definitely not going to shy away from throwing a biscuit in there for crunch. I found some awesome caramel sable biscuits in France and they work a treat. For all out home made though a shortbread is lovely too.
Over the weekend I paid a flying visit to Dorset, it was my night to make dinner so I went for an Italian theme, risotto followed by lemon panna cotta, my dessert of the moment. When it comes to plating it I feel that what you put it in can make such a HUGE difference. I use mini jars with lids for picnics, ramekins for the two of us at home and turned out on plates or in wine glasses for dinner parties. I did say I've eaten it a lot this month...
I love a good food chat, especially with someone who is as passionate about it as I am. Whilst chatting about dessert ideas on Saturday night (very rock and roll.. I know) my cousin threw out the idea of a lemongrass and ginger panna cotta. Thai flavours like that work so well in rice pudding, another creamy dessert so why not in a panna cotta? That will definitely be my next experiment I think.
Check out the recipe for my lemon panna cotta and let me know what you think : )
*powdered gelatine stinks! Honestly, if you have a weak stomach I'd avoid it.