Three years later, I still finding myself drooling over all of the meals I ate while in Italy during the summer of 2007. The desserts in Italy are unique in that they are not super sugary and all have just the smallest kiss of sweetness. In Italian desserts, a little goes a long way. One of my very favorite desserts was an Italian custard-like dessert known as Panna Cotta. It was love at first bite. Berries and balsamic topped this amazing dish and oh my, my mouth had never been so happy! Fast forward to a few weeks ago while MM and I were on our honeymoon in Turks & Caicos. Our first night at our resort, I spotted the dessert dream come true on the menu! The resort's version of Panna Cotta had a touch of the islands and had a layer of some sort of liquor on top...I do recall lots of little angels dancing on my tongue when we met for the first time! This dessert made its way into our dessert craving tummies a few times throughout the week and our love affair with the Panna Cotta became sort of a joke.
It's amazing what a new kitchen and kitchen tools can do to a foodie like me. Maybe I subconsciously think that they give me culinary superpowers or something. Bibbity, bobbity, what!? The no desserts rule flew out the window real fast last week when MM pushed the repeat button and would not stop talking about Panna Cotta! This might have been my biggest kitchen feat yet and it was surprisingly simple and the result was dangerously delicious! This recipe made enough for us to give into our sweet teeth three nights in a row. I have little tingles on my spine just thinking about how wonderful every single bite was. I really was blown away by how easy this recipe was. I highly recommend this dessert for anyone looking for a good dessert while entertaining a large group, a small dinner party, or just to treat yourself. Now that I know how easy it is, I can't wait to experiment with different toppings and infusing the cream with different flavors. I love any food that can be personalized!
Perfect Panna Cotta
Recipe from David Lebovitz
4 cups heavy cream (you can also substitute with half and half, I used 2 cups cream, 2 cups of half and half)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or 1 whole vanilla bean, split in half
2 packets powdered gelatin
6 tablespoons cold water
On medium heat, heat the heavy cream and sugar in a sauce pan. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Lightly oil 8 custard cups with a neutral tasting oil. For a creative presentation, I opted to put two servings in stemless wine glasses- adorable!
Sprinkle the gelatin over the 6 tablespoons of water and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Divide the mixture into the custard cups or wine glasses and chill until firm. This usually takes around two hours but the longer they sit, the better. When ready to serve, the Panna Cotta can be topped with anything imaginable. Our 3 nights of Panna Cotta perfection are below.
Sunday- Panna Cotta topped with Strawberries in a sweet red wine reduction. Simple and sweet. One cup of sweet red wine (like Chianti), and two tablespoons of sugar. Simmer on medium until the mixture reduces by half, add strawberries and pour on top of the Panna Cotta.
Monday- Panna Cotta topped with Peaches in a sweet white wine reduction. Mmm this was good. Same as above, but with white wine (I used Pinot Grigio) and peaches.
Tuesday- Panna Cotta topped with Pumpkin Spiced Brown Sugared Walnuts. Ok, this one was Mark's idea and I have to admit, it was the best one of all! #1 Stunner by a mile! Melt two tablespoons of butter in a small skillet. Once melted, add a generous amount of walnuts and a few tablespoons of brown sugar. I added some pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon for seasonal delight, since it was only appropriate. I would like to eat this every night.