Dessert is not something I eat every day, but when we entertain I always feel that I need to plan something sweet at the end of our meal to finish it off. Unfortunately, I also plan a number of courses that come before dessert that I want to share with family and friends, so that by the time we get to dessert everyone is quite full. That is why panna cotta is the perfect dessert when entertaining. You can prepare it from start to finish hours before you plan to serve it so you do not have to worry about fussing with it when your guests arrive, and it is very light. Just the right touch after a big meal! Panna cotta translates as cooked cream, and is simply a sweetened cream and milk combination that is flavored and then set into a pudding with the use of gelatin.
What I enjoy most about making panna cotta is that I can play around with flavorings and garnishes or sauces and create a new dessert every time I serve it. The options are truly endless! This panna cotta is one I actually made this summer but just didn’t get around to posting. It turned out so well however, that I just cannot wait until next summer to share it so am doing so now. I used apricot nectar in my recipe to add a subtle sweet apricot flavor, and I poured the mixture into fluted tart shells (not removable bottom ones) to set which turned out great and almost looked like flowers on the plate. If you do use forms like I did in my version, do oil them well to prevent the pudding from sticking. When removing the pudding from ramekins or forms, you can run a knife around the outside edge, and if it still sticks a bit, lower the bottom of the container into a bowl of very warm water being careful not to let the water touch the pudding. In general however, as long as you lightly oil the ramekin or form, I find the panna cotta will release easily.
To make any panna cotta you can use individual ramekins, small clear glasses, or those new silicon forms that seem to be sold everywhere these days. I made this panna cotta the night before I planned to serve it which worked out perfectly. The pudding was still soft, but was set enough so that it came out of the shells easily.
To get the right apricot flavor, do use nectar, not apricot juice. The nectar is thicker and has a more pronounced flavor which works really well in this pudding. Since the apricot flavor of my panna cotta was light and fresh, I didn’t want to use a heavy sauce or other strong flavored garnish and instead chose fresh fruit. I simply diced up some fresh, ripe peaches and apricots, tossed them with a little sugar and a squeeze of lemon and served a spoonful alongside my pretty puddings. If fresh stone fruit is out of season for you, I also think a nice raspberry coulis would work well with the apricot flavor and would allow you to make this dessert year round. Simply take 1 1/2 cups thawed frozen raspberries, add 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Pulse in a food processor until blended, then strain the berry mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds. This sauce can then be used alongside this panna cotta either underneath, or drizzled on top.
Deborah Mele 2013
- 2 Cups Heavy Cream
- 1 Cup Milk
- 1/4 + Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Apricot Nectar
- 3 Gelatin Sheets
- 2 Cups Diced Peeled Peaches (Or Peach & Apricot Combination)
- 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
- 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- Heat the cream, milk, sugar until steaming.
- Add the apricot nectar and stir to mix.
- Taste, and add a little more sugar if not sweet enough for your taste.
- Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for 5 minutes, squeeze out the water and add to the pot.
- Stir until the gelatin has dissolved.
- Pour the panna cotta into 6 ramekins or forms, or small clear glasses and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
- Just before serving, mix together the peaches, apricots, lemon juice and sugar.
- To serve, if using ramekins or forms, unmold onto plates and garnish with a couple of spoonfuls of the fruit.
- If using small glasses, simply spoon some of the fruit into each glass and serve.