I'll be absolutely honest here, I've never made panna cotta before but it's been on my to-do list for a long time. I love whipping cream in any form (I would drink it instead of milk if possible :D) and I was very happy to find out what the challenge was. As for the florentines, I'm gonna show them mine next week :) And now it's time to prepare something full-fat and delicious!
Panna cotta (read pah-nah co-tah) comes from Italy (seems like there you can find all the best stuff). It means literally cooked cream and this says it all, in fact. The dessert is made by simmering cream, sugar and usually vanilla, and mixing this with gelatin, and letting it cool until set. The place of origin is probably Northern Italian region of Piemonte but nowadays it's eaten all over the world. The texture is similar to very thick custard or jelly (the basic panna cotta can be sliced like a loaf of bread is sliced into single slices). Usually it's served with coulis or any type of topping (caramel/chocolate sauce) but I think the best is the fruit sauce - panna cotta is quite sweet on its own so the fruit balances the sweetness well.
I wanted my panna cotta to be soft and silky so I used some milk instead of cream and I think I got exactly the right consistency -smooth and creamy, melt-in-your-mouth. However, I'm not sure how it'd turn out if unmoulded. I didn't find any pure vanilla extract in my pantry plus in my opinion real vanilla seeds are better than any extract so that's what I used. The vanilla adds wonderful depth and flavour to the panna cotta, but unfortunately the seeds tend to sink to the bottom of the bowl which means your panna cotta is perfectly white without any visible vanilla seeds. Nevertheless, when I was waiting for the first layer of panna cotta to firm up in the fridge, I noticed that the leftover batch of my panna cotta waiting on the countertop became a bit thicker and the seeds didn't sink to the bottom anymore - that's why my second layer of it is overfull with vanilla seeds so it looks like made of poppy seeds :)
The recipe for honey jelly is very simple and I found it here - on a fantastic site by Ellie Won (thank you!). It's not too sweet which is great and it has just a touch of honey flavour which complements the vanilla panna cotta extremely well.
I decided to add final third flavour to my dessert because it definitely needed something not so sweet and a bit on the sour side. I often eat roasted/grilled banana with honey and a glass of milk so here we have honey jelly to represent honey and panna cotta as a glass of milk and the final layer must banana cream to represent banana! I paired the banana with quark cheese (which is sour, too) and organic vanilla brown sugar and I got quite liquid cream with amazing taste. Fortunately the cream thickened in the fridge so no disaster happened :)
I'd like to thank Mallory for this equisite challenge that finally made me make panna cotta. As I said above, florentine cookies are coming next week and here is the recipe for my dreamy creamy dessert.
10g powdered gelatin
300ml whipping cream (33% fat or more)
200ml full fat milk, cold
50g granulated sugar
1 vanilla pod
8g powdered gelatin
Banana Quark Cream:
10g organic vanilla brown sugar
10ml full fat milk
1 medium size banana
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
70g low fat quark cheese
Panna Cotta: Sprinkle powdered gelatin over 45ml cold milk in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. The gelatin will absorb the milk. Heat whipping cream, the rest of milk, sugar, seeds from vanilla pod and the pod itself in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 80C. Do not boil! Pour the very warm mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Let cool a bit for about 5 minutes.
Honey Jelly: Pour the water and honey into a pot, and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Leave to rest for 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to absorb some of the water, then place on the stove over a low flame and stir constantly till it reaches 90C and the gelatin is dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly (for about 10-15 minutes).
Banana Quark Cream: Pour milk and sugar into a small pot and heat over low flame until the sugar is dissolved. Cut banana into smal pieces, add quark cheese and cooled milk-sugar mixture and mix until puree-like, smooth and creamy.
Assembling: Divide panna cotta into 4 glasses (don't use it all - keep about 1/2 cup of the mixture for another layer). Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes or until the surface is thick and firm. Now carefully pour a thin layer of honey jelly into each glass with panna cotta. Refrigerate for another 30-60 minutes or until the honey jelly is set. Then again carefully pour the final layer of panna cotta onto the honey jelly layer and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Fill your pastry bag with plain tip with banana quark cream and decorate the top of panna cotta as desired. As an additional decoration you can use honey, fresh banana etc.
- If you cannot find quark cheese (it's typical for Europe and has sour creamy taste, low fat content), you can use cream cheese with lower fat content.
I love it! The Panna Cotta is truly exquisite - so full of flavour, rich, sweet, creamy and not too thick like regular jelly (which I'm not very fond of). The Honey Jelly has a nice honey flavour, it's not overly sweet nor rich which is great as the Panna Cotta is rich enough. To be honest the best part for me was the Banana Quark Cream - sour, mild, just a little sweet, tangy taste with a hint of bitter aftertaste. It's creamy and not jelly-like at all and it wonderfully balances the richness and sweetness of the two other components. I can't wait to try out other Panna Cotta flavours!