Panna Cotta is an Italian cooked cream dessert that is considered to be from the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Delicious and rich cream is cooked with gelatine, sugar and aromatics like vanilla extract, coffee or other flavorings. This creamy and simple dessert needs to set overnight. You can serve it plain with fresh berries or include a sauce.
I made this vanilla bean panna cotta for my Valentine’s Day Coffee Table Picnic. If you want a chocolate version, take a look at my Hazelnut Panna Cotta – I made this version for my mom’s A Royal Afternoon Tea Party.
HERE’S HOW I MADE IT
Place the whole milk in a sauce pan and sprinkle with unflavored gelatine. Stir and set aside for 5 minutes to soften. In separate bowl, with a spout for easy pouring, combine half of heavy whipping cream and vanilla bean paste.
Note: Vanilla bean paste has the vanilla seeds throughout. If you can’t find the paste, substitute with vanilla extract and add the seeds from a vanilla bean pod.
Bring to heat over medium heat and stir to dissolve the gelatine. Add sugar, remaining half of whipping cream and continue to stir until sugar crystals have dissolved, about 5-7 additional minutes. Adjust the heat if necessary, you don’t want to boil the milk, just a light simmer. Combine the hot mixture with the heavy cream and vanilla mixture. Add Grand Marnier and stir well to combine.
Prepare your ramekins on a tray for easy transportation to the refrigerator. Pour the liquid into the ramekin, leaving enough space for any sauce or fruit garnish. Allow to cool slightly at room temperature.
Note: I used a jelly roll pan for six heart ramekins and custard cups with lids for the remaining liquid. The yield quantity will vary depending on the size of your serving container.
Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferable overnight. If pressed for time, make the panna cotta early in the morning and serve just before serving. The more time it has to set, the better the texture. Unlike a custard, you don’t need to invert it. Simply add fruit and a maybe a sauce. Here’s my Raspberry Grand Marnier Sauce and my Sweet Dark Cherry Sauce.
NEED A QUICK SAUCE?
If you don’t have extra fresh fruit or frozen fruit to make a sauce, try this easy hack. Combine about 3-4 tablespoons of berry preserves or jam with a little bit of water in a sauce pan. Stir frequently over low heat until the preserves become liquid. Remove from heat and strain to create a smooth sauce. Add 2-3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier and pour into a serving container. While it’s what I prefer, this will get you out of a pinch.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
A traditional cream and gelatine dessert that is molded and served cold. Easy to make ahead and makes for a lovely dessert. Serve with fresh berries.
- 1 Tablespoon unflavored gelatine
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 cups heavy cream, equally divided
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- tiny pinch of kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste substitute with vanilla extract plus ½ vanilla pod seeds
- 2-3 Tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur
- fresh raspberries, strawberries, blackberries
Add milk to sauce pot and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of unflavored gelatine. Allow the gelatine to soften, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a separate bowl with a pouring spout, combine 1 ½ cups of heavy whipping cream with vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
Stir milk and gelatine over low heat until gelatine dissolves. Add sugar, remaining half of whipping cream and continue to stir until sugar crystals have dissolved, about 5-7 additional minutes.
Note: Adjust the heat, if necessary. You don't want to boil the milk, just simmer lightly.
Remove from heat and combine the hot mixture with the heavy cream and vanilla bean mixture. Add Grand Marnier and stir well to combine.
Pour into ramekins, dessert cups or wine glasses. Allow enough space for fruit garnish. Allow to cool slightly at room temperature. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, best overnight.
Garnish with fresh berries and sauce (optional) just before serving. Best if served chilled.
Quick and Easy Raspberry Sauce
In a sauce pot over low heat, combine a tablespoon of water with 3-4 Tablespoons of raspberry preserves. Pour through sieve and add 2-3 Tablespoons of Grand Marnier. Cool at room temperature and serve with Panna Cotta.