Panna Cotta with Berries
Panna cotta, or “cooked cream,” is a specialty of Piedmont, Italy, where large herds of dairy cows yield an abundance of fresh milk. It has the pure flavor of fresh cream, with a slightly thickened, custardlike consistency, thanks to a touch of gelatin. Using a vanilla bean imbues the cream with a particularly delicate floral aroma, but 1 tsp. vanilla extract can be substituted; add it after removing the pan from the heat.
- 2 1/2 tsp. (1 package) unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 cups berries such as blackberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries and/or raspberries, in any combination
In a large bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the milk. Let stand for about 2 minutes to soften the gelatin.
In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the cream and sugar. Using a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using the tip of the knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream. Add the vanilla bean pod to the cream. Heat, stirring occasionally, until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat and let cool briefly.
Remove the vanilla bean pod. Slowly add the warm cream to the gelatin mixture, stirring constantly until completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into four 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups, dividing it evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
When ready to serve, run a small knife blade around the inside of each ramekin to loosen the panna cotta, then invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate. Arrange the berries around the panna cotta and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).