Perfecting Panna Cotta

Filed under: recipes

To me (and I think I am not alone in this) the line between breakfast and dessert is a little blurry.  Why are sweet sticky pancakes and waffles considered breakfast foods while lovely fruit pies and puddings are not?
The only thing I am quite clear on is chocolate.  I love it but I don’t need that much of a jolt first thing in the morning! Although I will make exception for a lovely steaming frothy mug of hot chocolate.  The other thing I know is that I want my desserts to be sinful and my breakfast not quite so much so.  This is one of the reasons I have never been a fan of Panna Cotta…for dessert.  It’s lovely, especially when the consistency is so smooth and silky that a feather could cut through it.  But for dessert, no thanks.  After all it’s just milk and sugar with a little gelatin.  Add some cornflakes and there you go, a bowl of cereal!

But for breakfast?  Hmmm.  Could be wonderful. James took me to Fig for my birthday and I after tasting their PC I was hooked.  So I set out to perfect the Panna Cotta. And it’s interesting how something so simple could take some work to get right.  The real issue was aforementioned consistency.

Too much gelatin and it’s becomes “milk jello”.  Too little gelatin and you get a soupy mess when you unmold it.  As always I started out making it exactly as the recipe said, with one teaspoon of gelatin.  Soupy.  It was alright in the dish but you couldn’t unmold it.  James ate it anyway.  So next I tried 2 teaspoons of gelatin.  Not good.  It was like the blocks of jello they used to cut into dice for our school lunches.  But I ate it anyway.  Obviously the next thing to try was one and a half teaspoons of gelatin.  Once again, it was not quite right, just a little runny. (We ate it anyway).  Finally, after eating a lot of Panna Cotta, we settled on one and three-quarter teaspoons for the perfect consistency.  .To be absolutely sure of the amount, I plan to weigh it and go by weight in the future.  I just keep forgetting to do so.

One more word about gelatin and then I will stop:  the recipe says to put the gelatin in a small bowl and pour a tablespoon of water over it so it will soften.  Actually you need to stir the water into the gelatin or you will end up with soft gelatin on top and undiluted gelatin powder on the bottom.  Whatever you do, don’t add the undissolved gelatin directly to the panna cotta.  You will get lumps that won’t dissolve. The picture on top is of the gelatin powder.  The second picture is the softened gelatin.

It really couldn’t be easier after you get the gelling right.  Heat your milk and flavourings to a simmer, cool slightly,  add the gelatin and stir to dissolve, strain it if needed and pour into small ramekins.  Be sure to butter or spray the ramekins so it’s easy to unmold the Panna Cotta later.  Then it’s into the fridge and let it sit for at least four hours or overnight.

While that’s happening, you might want to think about what to serve with the panna cotta.  This particular recipe is for “orange infused” panna cotta  (hence the need to strain out the orange peel !)  So I decided to make an orange compote, which is just one step away from orange marmelade (think breakfast!)

After thinly slicing the peel and oranges, I simmered  them along with some sugar until the orange pieces collapsed down on themselves.

Then I took some strawberries, cooked them in just little sugar and then whirred them in the food processor to make a coulis.

And here it is, sort of.  I forgot to take a picture before I sent it out of the kitchen and all I had left was one which had broken when I unmolded it so it doesn’t look very elegant.  And I strongly suggest you not use a blue plate to serve it on because the coulis looks like ketchup! But the guests liked it.
I do want to give you the recipe but it is getting late so tomorrow I will post “Orange Infused Panna Cotta  Carolina Style” for you.  Promise!


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