Updated: Aug 30, 2022
My absolutely favorite dessert is panna cotta! This dessert is essentially 3 ingredients, cream, sugar and gelatin, but is one of the most difficult desserts to make. It should be delicate and melt-in-your-mouth soft, most of those I have had at restaurants are tough, and custard-y, the texture is all wrong.
Panna cotta is an Italian dessert, meaning "cooked cream", and arrived quite late into the culinary scene in the 1960's. Some historians believe it originated in the Piedmont region, but the jury is still out on its creation and origin. The essence of this dessert is its simplicity, but this also belies it perfection. The factor that drives the perfect texture is the ratio of gelatin to cream, too little and it will not set, too much and it will get custard-y. Perfection is sometimes hard to achieve.
the best panna cotta I have ever had has been at Delfiina's in San Francisco. This plain no-fuss panna cotta is perfect in every way, soft, tart and delicious. I always get 2, I order it at the start of dinner just so they do not run out.
This buttermilk panna cotta is perfect in every way. the perfect smooth and melt-in-your-mouth texture, the subtle tartness from the buttermilk and strawberries and the creamy palate-feel make this my favorite dessert. I could have this everyday.
When I looked through my cookbook library for recipes, I saw that James Walt had one in his restaurant cookbook. I immediately knew this was the one I wanted to make. This is one of my favorite cookbooks, cooking from here always makes me happy! The recipes can occasionally be complex to make, but most are simple like this one. Every recipe from this cookbook is spectacular. The Araxi farm-to-table restaurant in Whistler is so on my bucket list.
For more amazing recipes from this cookbook, click here.
6 gelatin leaves or 3 teaspoons gelatin powder
3 cups whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup castor or regular sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or plain lassi
2 cups strawberries
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2-3/4 teaspoon pepper
Soak the gelatin leaves or powder in just enough water till soft, about 5 minutes.
Heat the cream and sugar in a pot on low heat. As soon as it begins to simmer gently, add the soft gelatin, without the water, to the mix and stir to dissolve the gelatin. Never boil the mix after adding the gelatin as the texture of the gelatin will change and it will become stringy.
Meanwhile set up a bowl of cold water with ice. Into that bowl add another bowl into which you will pour the heated cream. When the gelatin is dissolved, about 3-4 minutes, take off the heat and add the vanilla extract and mix in. Strain the mix through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl that has been chilled in cold water. Whisk the cream mix till cooled, it will thicken a bit.
Add the buttermilk or lassi and mix in well. Pour the mix into small bowls or ramekins. Let cool completely on your kitchen counter, cover with wrap and put into your fridge for at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.
While the panna cotta is chilling, wash and cut the strawberries along the horizontal axis. Mix in with the sugar and pepper. You want it a touch sweet, do not drown out the fresh tartness of the strawberries with too much sugar. Set aside in the fridge to macerate.
You can serve the panna cotta in the bowls topped with a couple teaspoons of the strawberry mix.
To turn out the panna cotta, heat a wide pan with water to about 3/4 the height of the ramekins or bowls the panna cotta has been set in. Bring the water to a boil and turn down to simmer. Add the ramekins to the water and simmer for 5-8 seconds, depending on the thickness of the bowls. You will see the sides of the ramekins get soft. Remove from the hot water and cover with the plate you want to serve the panna cotta in. Flip quickly, so the plate is on the bottom. You will feel the panna cotta pop out. Repeat for as many ramekins as needed. Top each with 2 teaspoons of the strawberries and serve immediately.