The beautiful warm weather we have been enjoying here in Connecticut lately, may have something to do with it, but I have been craving some creamy delicious Panna Cotta. I have had some wonderful renditions of this dessert. Most recent experience was at The Whelk where they served it with a delicate blood orange and sage sauce. YUM!
For some reason, I have never tried making this dessert at home. I did some recipe research and it turned out to be a very simple recipe. So, instead of trying to figure out the best restaurant to go get me some Panna Cotta, I decided to experiment with making it at home.
Let’s try it two ways, I thought. One, a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with a Mixed Berry Compote and for the other, I chose to try out something exotic. Cardamom came to mind. Hmmm… Cardamom Panna Cotta? Yes! Sounds delish!
Pistachios are a classic flavor pairing with cardamoms in many cultures…and so a Pistachio Cream sauce was the obvious choice. I can’t tell you how amazing this dessert turned out! You have got to try it at home. Here is how you do it…
Basic recipe for 5-6 servings of Panna Cotta involves 3 cups of heavy cream, 1 cup whole milk, 1 vanilla bean, ½ cup honey, 1 tablespoon of unflavored powdered gelatin and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Mix gelatin in milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cut a lengthwise slit in the vanilla bean, and scrape off the seeds inside. Add the seeds to the milk and gelatin mixture. If you are making the Cardamom Panna Cotta, you would also add ¼ tsp of ground cardamom seeds into the milk at this point. In a heavy saucepan on medium heat, heat the milk mixture until gelatin dissolves but milk does not boil. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Add the heavy cream, honey and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into 5-6 ramekins (fill the ramekins about halfway). Let the mixture cool before putting the ramekins into the refrigerator for at least 6 hours – to allow the Panna Cotta to set.
When serving, the best way to take the Panna Cotta out of the ramekins, is to run a paring knife along the inside edges of the ramekin. Turn the ramekin upside down on the serving plate and tap firmly but not too hard on the back of the ramekin until the Panna Cotta comes loose. And Voila!
Now for the best part…the sauces.
A Berry Compote is really simple. Take a bunch of mixed berries (quantities and types depend on your personal taste and preference – but I took about 3 cups of mixed berries for my purposes). Heat the berries in a sauce pan over medium heat, with 2 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Cook until the sugar is dissolved and berries are starting to come apart just a bit forming a sauce. Take it off the heat. Cool slightly. This compote is ready to serve as is…or it could be chilled before serving. It is totally up to you. I chilled mine.
The tartness of the berries is such a wonderful complement to the sweet Panna Cotta. Plus the wonderful contrast of the deep colors of the berries with the creamy white Panna Cotta makes for a great presentation.
While I have always loved the Berry Compote with Panna Cotta, the Pistachio cream sauce was my absolute favorite. As I tasted this cream sauce, I was picturing other possibilities – like serving it with a decadent flourless chocolate cake for instance. (Let’s save that for another blog post, shall we?) This sauce will make all your guests go “Mmmm….”.
Simple to make. You need 2 cups of unsalted, shelled pistachios, 1/3 cup whole milk, 1/3 cup agave nectar and 1/3 to a 1/2 cup heavy cream.
Soak the pistachios in water overnight. Once they are nice and soft from the soaking, pull off the skins from each pistachio. This sounds tedious but it is actually quite easy to do because the soaking helps the skin to literally slide off. In a food processor, add the skinned pistachios, whole milk, and agave nectar. Keep the food processor going until the mixture is a smooth thick paste. I prefer my pistachio sauce to have some texture to contrast with the creamy Panna Cotta – so I did not go all the way. Take the mixture out of the food processor into a bowl. Stir in heavy cream to this mixture to the desired consistency. Taste test the sauce and add more agave nectar or heavy cream if necessary.
Hope you try the two variations and let me know which flavor combination you preferred.