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Passapage Favorites: Panna Cotta

Weird name for a sweet dish, right? Well yes it surely sounds weird but the taste of it is delicious.

It’s the indulgent delight of traditional Italian cuisine. It is an Italian dessert named for cooked cream.

It’s all sweet cream, thickened with gelatin and is prepared in mould. The cream can be aromatized with coffee, vanilla or any other flavor you like. It’s a type of pudding.

The main ingredients to prepare Panna cotta are cream, sugar and gelatin. The purpose of gelatin is to set the mixture and create a custard-like stability. It’s a small Preparation which takes nearly 10 minutes, but to serve it, one would have to wait for at least 4 hours.

Sugar is mixed in warm cream, and then left to dissolve. As mentioned above the cream can be flavored, by infusing spices in it or by adding rum, coffee, vanilla etc. While this cream is prepared, gelatin should be softened in cold liquid and then added to the warm cream mixture. Once added, immediately whisk the mixture until it becomes very smooth in texture. Adding the gelatin to the warm mixture of cream and sugar is what activates the gelatin. The ingredients are warmed just to dissolve properly. When the batter is ready, make sure there are no lumps left in it. If they are left then bring it back to the stove and dissolve the lumps. Don’t let the ready batter boil again.

Pour it in the molds and allow it to set. To make it a little tasty and interesting, you can have the bottom layer of caramel. Before pouring the batter, you can pour caramel into the molds.

Tip- Panna cotta can also be prepared in shot glasses and topped with berries.

What if the Panna cotta is not coming out of the mold? Here’s what you can do- dip the molds (one at a time) in half filled warm water utensil for about 5 seconds. Then invert the mold on a serving plate and carefully remove the mold.

The best thing to use to make Panna cotta is flexible silicone muffin pans. Pour your dessert in it and freeze it. Pop them out on your serving plate and serve. This will take you only half an hour to make the dish. If you don’t want to freeze your dessert then you can serve it in ramekins. This is a small dish for serving an individual part of food.

Garnishing always makes the dish look more appealing. Strawberry, caramel or chocolate sauce can be garnished and served with Panna cotta. And you have a beautiful, tasty and appealing Panna cotta with a rich and silky smooth texture.

How will you know that the recipe of Panna cotta is executed perfectly? You will know it by its stability. But if the dessert wobbles like a little girl who has wore high-heeled shoes, then you should know that gelatin is over used.

A secret to make it perfect- never exceed from 8 grams of gelatin for every 500 grams of liquid.

Well obviously it’s a heavy dish with the cream and everything. But you can make it light by using lighter cream or milk instead of heavy cream. It will alter the taste.

This dessert is a restaurant dessert and also a home cooking dessert. Quickly prepared with easily found ingredients in the kitchen. It’s a gluten-free dessert, as long as your dairy, gelatin and flavoring are gluten free. People who are conscious about their sugar or diet or carbs – can enjoy this dessert. As it can be low- sugar, no-sugar or fruit sugar.

In baking, sugar not only sweetens the cake or cookies but also moisturizes it. Substituting sugar can vary the results of the dessert. But in Panna cotta you can lessen as much sugar you want and you will like it. Honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, and other alternative syrups can be used to sweeten Panna cotta. Using these alternative syrups will help you take a lot less sugar than needed. Real fruit’s sweetness will also taste amazing instead of sugar taste.

For those who are vegetarian- Panna cotta can be vegan as eggs are not used in Panna cotta. For those who ask about gelatin, it’s not vegetarian. Gelatin is the main ingredient which gives Panna cotta its stability. But there are some good substitutes coming in the market.

Some are allergic to dairy products. The gelatin can take care of it as almost any liquid can be used. Cream can be replaced by any of these- almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk. Or you can also supplement by using a non dairy creamer.

One last thing you should know about Panna cotta is that when you are serving the dessert and it separates into different layers of milk and cream, not to worry it’s a common problem. Just don’t panic or be upset, it happens sometimes if the mixture isn’t well whisked or it gets too warm. To avoid it, let the mixture come to room temperature before serving it. Once it is at room temperature, whisk it again and pour it in the serving dish or cups. Whatever you may please!

You can find more delicious recipes here at Epicurious