Cream, milk, gelatin, sugar. That’s it. That’s a panna cotta. Luscious, basic, pristine, delicious.
If only the rest of the world were that simple.
In my quest for the uncomplicated and my affinity for something summery, I found this dessert and knew I had to get down with it. The first time I made one was at my pastry internship at a restaurant where we cooked for an event at the Metreon. My chef served at least a hundred of her sweet basil panna cotta in little cups for guests, who promptly fell in love with its capability to wipe away June gloom.
At its core, panna cotta is easy to make and easy to eat. It is flexible, both in its jiggly nature and its ability to suit your every whim. Fill it with fruit, nuts, or cookies; swap out the milk for yogurt or melted ice cream; infuse the cream with
coffee basil cinnamon lavender honey anything! Still on my Bollywood kick, I made a cardamom and brown sugar version and added in egg whites to give it the ethereal texture of kulfi. Farmer’s market plums made the dessert a done deal.
While you guys are busy channeling your inner Will Smith with this dessert, I’ll be busy getting jiggy with this nug. He has way more swag than me.
Just can’t sit.
Panna Cotta with Macerated Plums (adapted from The Sweet Life)
1.25 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
5 green cardamom pods, crushed
1.5 cups heavy cream
1.5 cups whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
Salt to taste
4 large egg whites
3 plums, chopped
2 Tbsp brown sugar
16 1.5-ounce plastic ketchup/Jello-shot cups
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 5 teaspoons of cold water and set aside; it will turn into a gummy paste.
- Combine the cream, milk, cardamom pods, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a medium heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites, salt, and 1/4 cup brown sugar. While mixer is running, gradually pour in half of the hot milk mixture to temper the whites (more on this technique here).
- Pour everything back into the heavy saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pan.
- Cook until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat. Whisk about 1/2 cup of the mixture into the bloomed gelatin until it dissolves completely. Add back into the pan and whisk together.
- Pour mixture into another bowl and set over an ice bath, letting it cool until it comes to room temperature. Pour into ketchup cups or whatever molds you are using and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. After 24 hours, the gelatin will not set any further.
- Half an hour before serving, combine plums and 2 Tbsp sugar and let sit. Run a small knife around the outside of the cups and unmold panna cotta onto a small plate. Serve with a spoonful of plums.