The perfect panna cotta

I’ve been in a head-to-head battle with Monday today to beat the customary blues…and so far, I think I might be the victor. The first snippet of good news is that we have reached the month of April. The magnolias are in peak full bloom, the additional evening light has already lent a huge amount of positivity to everyone’s lives, and last but certainly not least of all, I’m creating panna cotta recipes.

As a long-established firm favourite of mine, it’s been a fixture on my sweet-making repertoire since I can remember. (Panna cotta is a traditional Italian dessert, translated simply as ‘cooked cream’.)  The important balance to strike is the quantity of liquid to gelatine i.e please don’t be tempted to stray far from my fail-safe recipe. After all, it’s all in the slight wobble.

Panna Cotta

Vanilla Bean Panna cotta

I used traditional vanilla bean pods as standard but if you prefer less faff, the vanilla bean paste is the way to go. I love the flavour of vanilla so it was a given really. Having said this, many alternatives would work equally well to suit your own taste such as coffee, rose water, orange blossom et al. Neilson-Massey has a wonderful line of flavourings that would work very well. Fresh fruit such as berries and rhubarb, whether used in their original form or when made in to a coulis, also make a superb pairing.

In my view, vanilla and cream make perfect bedfellows, but if vanilla is just a bit, well ‘vanilla’ for you, then see this recipe as a carte blanche – one of the most versatile I know. Grappa is added here to give a slight twist, but this can be omitted and substituted for cream or milk if you prefer.

Makes 4 x 175ml ramekins

600ml double cream
4 tbsp golden caster sugar
3 tbsp grappa
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or alternatively, a vanilla pod, seeds removed, can be used.
3 leaves or 1 1/2 tsp gelatine

1. Put the cream and golden caster sugar in a saucepan and stir over a gentle heat
until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes, adding the
grappa (if using) and vanilla bean pod, seeds removed and pod added to infuse.
2. If you are using gelatine leaves, soak them in cold water until floppy, then squeeze
out any excess water. Stir the leaves into the hot cream until they are completely
dissolved. If you are using powdered gelatine, sprinkle it onto the hot cream in an
even layer and leave it to absorb for a minute, then stir in the cream until dissolved.
3. Pour the mixture into four 175ml metal or ceramic ramekins (removing the pod if using.) Cover each with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate until set.
4. Unmould the panna cotta by placing the ramekins briefly into a bowl of hot water
and then tipping them gently onto plates. Serve immediately, or place in the fridge until ready to eat.

Recipe, styling & photography: Natalie Seldon

About prettyediblestylist

Cookbook author, Food and recipe writer, Food and Prop stylist, Photographer, Jo Malone London stylist, Estella Cupcakes founder. Instagram: @prettyediblestylist
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