On a fairly regular basis I’ll ask my partner for ideas of things to make for him. I tend to ask hoping for some super complex brilliant idea of a dessert he’s wanted for ages but has been some unattainable challenge of epic proportions. But usually, he just wants custard. So I tend to ignore that and make something else anyway. I guess what I’m really asking is, “What do you want that I want you to want?”
Ever since we started going out and I started cooking for him and asking him for ideas he’s asked me for panna cotta. I usually put it off due to its perceived ease. 6 years later, I thought it was about time I finally obliged.
One morning before we headed off to the football I decided to whip up a quick batch of it. I kept it a surprise and wouldn’t tell him what I was making when he asked me. I was almost finished. I strained the mixture into a jug, left it to rest on the sink and turned away to find a safe place to rest the still hot pot it had cooked in. That’s when I heard it. The thud of the unattended jug falling into my sink. I turned in time to see almost the entirety of the mixture swirl down the drain.
Maybe it was trying to tell me something.
There was enough left for a small serving, so I dejectedly poured it into a mould and gave it to him for dessert. He reported that it was the best panna cotta he’d ever tasted. I don’t know if that made it better or worse.
Take two happened a couple of weeks ago. Delicious, but it didn’t end up perfect and pretty like I wanted. So this weekend I embarked on take three. That’s what I get for sneering at this simple dessert. And I suppose the triple batch of panna cotta in the last month is exactly what Cam deserved for waiting so long.
But don’t be fooled by my dose of karma. This is an incredibly simple dessert, and the result is ever so rewarding.
Making diagonally layered desserts is incredibly easy. First, you want to find a way to rest your glasses that’s secure. I use a texas-size cupcake tray lined with a tea towel to stop the glasses from shifting. Then I pop them in and give them a wriggle to make sure they’re not going anywhere. Try to get them on the same angle.
Then it’s a matter of pouring equal amounts of the first liquid, in this case the jelly, into each one. You can use a measuring jug if you’re not confident eye-balling it.
Make sure you allow it to completely set before inverting it. Don’t get curious and check or it could collapse. You can, of course, order it whichever way you prefer. I like the contrast of the red, then the white of the panna cotta, then the red of the berries.
Once that’s done, you can add the panna cotta. It is important to let the panna cotta cool completely before adding it to the jelly. That’s the lesson I learned on take two – the jelly began disappearing before my eyes! It’s wise to let it cool under any circumstance when using glasses as the sudden change in heat can cause the glass to crack.
The first time I made the panna cotta, I used half cream, half milk. On this one I used all cream. Both are delicious, but the full cream one is noticeably richer and luxurious. Using vanilla bean paste, or a vanilla bean, gives it such a depth of flavour. It’s really quite a lovely dessert.
The jelly also makes for a lovely companion alongside the panna cotta. It gives a refreshing element next to the richness of all the panna cotta.
If you want to skip the jelly entirely you can just pour the panna cotta into a any dish, glass or ramekin alone. I made three tumblers full of the jelly version for us for dessert, then poured the rest into a scalloped ramekin of mine. It unmoulds pretty easily, though you still may want to oil your dish lightly to help it if you plan on turning it out.
I served this one with a little jam and raspberry juice I heated together in a pot, then poured over the top and decorated with a pile of berries. I have to confess to loving this version a little more. The pronounced tartness of the jam sauce really cuts through the richness of the panna cotta and makes it the perfect partner.
Whichever way you have it, it’s a quick and easy dessert that’s sure to satisfy.
|1 packet of raspberry jelly (will need 500ml – 1L of jelly)
4 cups (1 litre) cream, or a cream/milk combination
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp vanilla essence)
4 tsp powdered gelatine
4 tbsp cold water
berries, for garnish