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Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Plums

Panna cotta ("cooked cream" in Italian) is like a baked custard without the eggs. Here, plums and strawberries dress up the dessert. You can substitute currants for the strawberries and green plums for the red ones.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 lemon zest strips, each 3 inches long
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, or 3/4
      tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 tsp. unflavored gelatin
  • 8 plums, about 1 1/2 lb. total, pitted and thinly
      sliced
  • 1 pint strawberries, halved

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cream, 2/3 cup of the milk, the confectioners' sugar, lemon zest and vanilla bean, if using. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup milk and the gelatin. Set aside to soften for about 10 minutes.

Bring the cream mixture back to a simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large measuring pitcher. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using.

Pour into six 6-oz. custard cups or ramekins. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

To serve, run a small knife around the edge of each cup and unmold onto individual serving plates. Arrange the plum slices and strawberry halves around the molds. Serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Outdoors Series, Beach House Cooking, by Charles Pierce (Time-Life Books, 1999).