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Panna cotta [pahn-nah koh-tah] (Italian for “cooked cream”) is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and molded. The cream may be flavored with coffee, vanilla, or other flavorings.
Sugar is dissolved in warm cream. The cream may be flavored, either by infusing spices and the like in it, or by adding rum, coffee, vanilla, and so on. Gelatin is softened in a cold liquid, then added to the warm cream mixture. This is poured into molds and allowed to set. The molds may have caramel in the bottoms, giving a result similar to a crème caramel. Although the name means “cooked cream” the ingredients are only warmed enough to dissolve the gelatin and sugar. Panna cotta is often served with a coulis of berries, or a sauce of caramel or chocolate. It may be covered with other fruits or liqueurs.
The name panna cotta is not mentioned in Italian cookbooks before the 1960s, yet it is often cited as a traditional dessert of the northern Italian region of Piedmont. One (undocumented) story says that it was invented by a Hungarian woman in the Langhe in the early 1900s. An 1879 dictionary mentions a dish called latte inglese ‘English milk’, made of cream cooked with gelatin and molded, though other sources say that latte inglese is made with egg yolks; perhaps the name covered any thickened custard-like preparation.
The Region of Piedmont includes panna cotta in its 2001 list of traditional food products of the region. Its recipe includes cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, gelatin, rum, and marsala poured into a mold with caramel. Another author considers the traditional flavoring to be peach eau-de-vie, and the traditional presentation not to have sauce or other garnishes. Panna cotta became fashionable in the United States in the 1990s.
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 5 tsp gelatin
- Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the scraped vanilla bean. Cover and infuse.
- Lightly oil eight custard cups with neutral-tasting oil or pan spray.
- Sprinkle gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.
- Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, which will take atleast two hours but let them stand overnight if possible.
- You Can add different colour and flavours to make it look more beautiful.
- If Panna Cotta is still liquid! Perhaps the gelatin didn’t melt all the way, or you accidentally boiled the mixture. (Boiling destroys gelatin’s thickening power.) It may also have not set long enough.
- If panna cotta has two layers! I don’t find that it really affects the eating experience, but to reliably avoid this, use half and half instead of milk and cream.