R and I never go out for Valentine's day; overpriced prix fixe meals, crowded restaurants and crappy service make this holiday amateur night for diners. Ever since we had the superb panna cotta at Il Casale, R has wanted to me to make it, and what better than a dessert that when properly done should jiggle like a woman's breast to celebrate this Hallmark holiday?
I followed Cooks Illustrated's recipe to the T, and it was exquisite. The jiggle was perfect as was the sublime, smooth and creamy texture. I can not find the words to describe how heavenly this dessert was. I think it is a contender for best dessert I have ever made. The best part is that the recipe is simple; I think anyone could do it. The drawback? This recipe is not for the faint of heart when it comes to calories; there is a whopping 3 cups of cream. Maybe it is best if it is only had once a year.
Serves 8. Published July 1, 2000.
Serve panna cotta very cold with strawberry or raspberry sauce or lightly sweetened berries. Though traditionally unmolded, panna cotta may be chilled and served in wine glasses and sauced on top. If you would like to make the panna cotta a day ahead, decrease the gelatin to 2 5/8 teaspoons (2½ teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoon), and chill the filled wine glasses or ramekins for 18 to 24 hours.
|1||cup whole milk|
|2 3/4||teaspoons gelatin|
|3||cups heavy cream|
|2||inch piece vanilla bean , slit lengthwise with paring knife (or substitute 2 teaspoons extract)|
|6||tablespoons granulated sugar|
|Pinch table salt|
Pour milk into medium saucepan; sprinkle surface evenly with gelatin and let stand 10 minutes to hydrate gelatin. Meanwhile, turn contents of two ice cube trays (about 32 cubes) into large bowl; add 4 cups cold water. Measure cream into large measuring cup or pitcher. With paring knife, scrape vanilla seeds into cream; place pod in cream along with seeds and set mixture aside. Set eight wine glasses or 4-ounce ramekins on baking sheet.
Heat milk and gelatin mixture over high heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved and mixture registers 135 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1½ minutes. Off heat, add sugar and salt; stir until dissolved, about 1 minute.
Stirring constantly, slowly pour cream with vanilla into saucepan containing milk, then transfer mixture to medium bowl and set bowl over ice water bath. Stir frequently until thickened to the consistency of eggnog and mixture registers 50 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes. Strain mixture into large measuring cup or pitcher, then distribute evenly among wine glasses or ramekins. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap, making sure that plastic does not mar surface of cream; refrigerate until just set (mixture should wobble when shaken gently), 4 hours.
Serve panna cotta in wine glasses, or, following illustrations 1 through 4, unmold panna cotta from ramekins and serve immediately.