An impressively elegant yet easy dessert!
I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to try my hand at panna cotta, one of Italy’s most famous and delicious desserts. The name means ‘cooked cream’ but it’s so much more than that (and the cream is, in fact, just heated and not actually cooked). Panna cotta is often made with just vanilla for flavouring, then garnished with fruit-based, caramel or chocolate sauce; for this recipe, I decided to make fruit one of the central elements. I love three things about this dessert: it’s super easy to make, it’s not too sweet and it’s the perfect light finish to any meal, especially a rich one. Any fresh berries will do (avoid icy frozen ones as they will release too much liquid but if they have been flash frozen and are not covered in ice crystals they should be fine). I plan to try raspberries and blueberries next.
- 2 cups (500 mL) fresh blackberries
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped mint leaves
- 1/3 cup (90 mL) granulated sugar
- 2 cups (500 mL) heavy (35%) cream
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) cold water
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) gelatin powder
- Additional blackberries and mint leaves to garnish
- In a medium-sized pot, combine the blackberries with the mint and sugar and let macerate (sit) for at least one hour (up to 4 hours is fine), stirring occasionally. This draws the juice out of the berries.
- Add the cream to the blackberry and sugar mixture and place the pot over medium heat. Warm the mixture, stirring often and pressing down on blackberries with the back of a spoon to release more juice. Do not let it come to a boil – you want it to be just steaming (about 170F).
- When it begins to steam, remove pot from heat and let the mixture steep for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, combine the cold water and gelatin mixture in a large glass measure or other non-reactive vessel with a broad opening and, preferably, a pouring spout.
- Return the cream and fruit to medium heat, bringing it just to the steaming point again.
- Place a large fine-meshed strainer over the vessel that has the gelatin mixture in it (if you don’t have a fine-meshed strainer, line yours with several layers of cheesecloth.
- Pour the hot cream and fruit through the strainer into the container. Press down on the blackberries to extract as much of the juice as you can, without pressing seeds through the strainer or cheesecloth. Discard the fruit pulp.
- Stir the panna cotta mixture a few times so that the gelatin gets thoroughly mixed it, then pour or ladle the mixture into six serving dishes.
- Let set in the fridge for a few hours.
- Note that panna cotta can be made up to 24 hours before serving; it’s a good idea to cover the serving dishes with plastic or beeswax wraps once they’ve cooled so the surface does not dry out.
- When ready to serve, garnish with blackberries and a sprig of fresh mint.