Monday, March 26, 2012

My Best Panna Cotta

Yes, those are penguin martini glasses...
Mmmmm....gelatin!  I am not usually a huge fan of the stuff, but when used properly, there are some really cool, fun, and crazy things you can do with it!  One item that is pretty common is panna cotta (literally cooked cream).  It is of Italian origin and is a very simple, straightforward creamy dessert that is excellent for dinner parties and such since you can make it up to a day ahead of time.  The recipe that follows here is adapted from the book "Indulge" by Claire Clark.  Claire was the head pastry chef at the French Laundry just before my time there (we only overlapped for a few weeks), and is a lovely lady and a fabulous pastry chef.  Her version if panna cotta is the best I've had yet- it is as light as air and delicious besides.  One hallmark of typical panna cotta is that you can turn it out of it's mold and have it jiggle like Jello on a plate; this recipe will not do that.  It is soft and delicate and would not hold up it's shape if ejected from the mold.

Yogurt and Buttermilk Panna Cotta
yield: 6 servings

2 leaves gelatin
18 fluid oz plain yogurt
4 1/2 oz granulated sugar
5 fluid oz creme fraiche
2 fluid oz buttermilk

Get ready:
Soak the gelatin in cold water for five minutes.  Squeeze out the excess liquid and set aside.  Put 4 ounces of yogurt in a small saucepan, add the sugar, and warm just until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the gelatin and dissolve in the yogurt-sugar mixture.  Do not boil it!  Get an ice bath ready (a large bowl with ice, and a smaller bowl set within).

Add the rest of the yogurt, mix well, and pass through a fine sieve into a bowl set over an ice bath.  Whisk the mixture gently and frequently to prevent lumps.  Once it is cool to the touch, remove from the ice bath.  It will have begun to thicken at this point but should not be fully set.

Whip the creme fraiche to soft peaks, and whisk it into the yogurt along with the buttermilk until it is smooth.  The mixture should be homogeneous and pourable.  Transfer quickly to decorative serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.

Serve in the vessels with fruit, compote, or whatever suits your taste!

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