Sunday, December 20, 2009

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blackberry Coulis

Panna Cotta is a traditional Northern Italian dessert that is light and delicate, yet heavy on the dairy. Translated it means “cooked cream”. It does not need much cooking, just enough to dissolve sugar and gelatin. Technically, this is a type of pudding. This treat reminds me of eating melting vanilla ice cream. It is softly set with a luscious, creamy texture that is absolutely divine. Everyone loves panna cotta, even if do not know what it is. Once someone tries it for the first time, they find something familiar from their childhood. Not matter what the season, panna cotta fits in well. This panna cotta does not need any fancy fussing and can be enjoyed alone. I like putting a bright color of berry fruits on top to add a lightness to the creamy goodness. Blackberry coulis is a bright berry contrast to the white vanilla panna cotta. A coulis is just a fancy name for a sauce. Tis the season when blackberries are plentiful and the color makes for a merry garnish.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blackberry Coulis
(makes 6 - 8 servings)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or ~1 inch of scrapped vanilla pod (my fave)
  • 1 cup (8-ounce container) sour cream

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan, warm the cream with the sugar, salt, and vanilla over medium-high heat. Do not let it boil. Stir in the gelatin until thoroughly dissolved. Take the cream off the heat and cool about 5 minutes.
  3. Put the sour cream in a medium bowl. Gently whisk in the warm cream a little at a time until smooth. Taste for sweetness. It may need another teaspoon of sugar. Pour into ramekins, custard cups, tea cups, etc - 6 larger portions, or 8 smaller portions. Chill 4 to 24 hours to set.
  4. To serve, either unmold by packing the molds in hot towels and then turning each out onto a dessert plate, or serve in their containers. Serve alone or with the berry coulis.
Blackberry Coulis Topping
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • ~1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  1. Put all ingredients into a small saucepan over low to medium heat.
  2. Allow to simmer and mash up well with spoon, masher, etc.
  3. Simmer for about 30 minutes until syrupy. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar as needed. Caution: do not make too sweet. Just make sure to cut down the tartness of the berries.
  4. Run through a sieve, strainer, china cap, or food mill to strain out the seeds. Try to pass through the pump which adds to the thickness of the coulis. Mix well and chill in fridge with the panna cotta.
  5. Generously top the panna cotta with this coulis.
This is such an easy recipe that in the culinary world, they refer to making panna cotta as "child's play." I think it is child's play to eat it, too.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure