I am usually not the biggest fan of pudding and ‘jell-o’ types of sweets and desserts since in too many of them the gelatin is often set way too hard resulting in a ‘pudding’ that is too firm and rubbery, rather than silky soft and wobbly. A good panna cotta, however, I’ve always liked very much. In my opinion, a ‘good’ version of this traditional Italian dessert, the name of which simply translates to ‘cooked cream’, has a very wobbly, smooth, almost-melting consistency with a subtle sweet and creamy flavor with some delicate hints of real vanilla bean.
Panna cotta can be eaten as is, but, as you probably will already know, it is often paired with some type of fruit coulis or fresh berries and you may even fine more exciting flavor additions – both as a garnish or as an added flavor to the cream itself – such as rum, coffee, star anise, matcha, rose, or salted caramel.
While I usually like bold flavors in my meals, I am actually not so adventurous with my desserts and I really do love panna cotta and the simple ‘vanilla and fruit’ version in particular… despite its apparent reputation for being a “boring” and “soulless dessert” according to some (source: Bon Appetit– https://www.bonappetit.com/restaurants-travel/article/panna-cotta-dessert-debate).
Perhaps, I am a bit ‘boring’ too, or it can just be that I don’t really care about desserts as much as other people… or perhaps panna cotta is just one of those simple classics that should really be appreciated in all its simplicity. Whatever it may be, I like to pair my simple vanilla panna cotta with a few simple but nice additions (though, perhaps, again, not adventurous enough to some): some chunky tart cherry ‘sauce’ for some freshness (which can basically be made with any other type of berry you like) and a crisp almond lace cookie for some crunch to contrast with the super wobbly texture of the pudding itself… as for the latter addition: you might want to make a couple extra batches of these ‘crunchy boys’ – future you will be thankful.
Panna Cotta with Cherry Sauce and Crispy Almond Lace Cookies
- For the panna cotta:
- 2 sheets gelatin (about 4g)
- 400ml whipping cream, or double cream
- 1 vanilla pod
- 60g icing sugar
- 50ml (full-fat) milk
- Sunflower-, or other neutral flavoured oil, to grease ramekins
- For the cherry sauce:
- 300g cherries
- 50g white sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 6cm strip of lemon zest
- 120ml water
- For the crisp almond cookies (makes 4):
- 10g butter
- 10g almonds, no skin
- 35g white sugar
- 1 teaspoon water
- 20g flour
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tiny pinch of salt
MethodTo make panna cotta:
- Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for about 5 minutes, or until they soften.
- Pour the cream into a saucepan and add the sugar. Cut open the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds with a knife. Add vanilla + pod to the cream. Bring just to a simmer on low heat, and then take off the heat.
- Squeeze out the gelatin and stir it into the warm cream. Stir gently to dissolve. Pour the cream through a sieve into a bowl to remove the vanilla pod and to see if the gelatin has fully dissolved. Stir in the milk.
- Very lightly grease the inside of 4 ramekins, or jars with some neutral flavoured oil and divide the cream mixture over the ramekins/jars. Cool and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Remove the stems and stones from the cherries.
- Add de-pitted cherries, sugar, water, lemon zest and lemon juice to a small saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium. Cook the cherry-mixture until the liquid starts to thicken slightly for about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and discard the piece of lemon zest. Let the mixture cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- To prepare your ingredients, finely chop the almonds and let the butter come to room temperature.
- In a bowl mix the soft, room-temperature butter with the sugar and water. Add the flour, cinnamon, salt and chopped almonds. Knead the dough until everything comes together, but don’t over-knead the dough.
- Roll the dough into 4 little balls of about 2cm. Divide the dough balls over a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Leave at least 5cm space between the balls since they will flatten a lot. Slightly flatten the balls with your fingers to help them.
- Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and brown for about 6 minutes. Keep an eye on them because there is a very thin line between crisp and burned!
- Remove cookies from oven and leave to cool.
- Take the panna cotta out of the ramekins, by putting the dishes very shortly in some hot water and invert onto plates.
- Divide the cherry sauce over the panna cotta.
- Either break the lace cookies to create shards that you can stick in your panna cotta, or crush up the crisp lace almond cookies and sprinkle over/around the panna cotta.