I decided to make something I've never had before - panna cotta, or "cooked cream." It's one of the simplest, yet more indulgent, delights of traditional Italian cuisine.
The cream is not really "cooked." It's gently heated to dissolve the sugar. The most elemental Italian recipes call for cream, sugar, and gelatin, but panna cotta is extremely versatile. A wide spectrum of taste and richness can be created depending on the type of dairy used. You can take the base recipe for this "pudding" and make it extremely rich with a large amount of cream, or you can dial it back, as I did, by using Greek yogurt for a slight tang to the sweetness. It provides a perfect foil for my tart and sweet pomegranate topping.
To me, when I finally tasted my panna cotta, I was excited about the consistency and texture. It was firm, silky smooth, luxurious, and had a nice wobble to it, like those dash board hula girls.
Panna cotta today, is invariably made with gelatin, but in Northern Italy, the Piedmont, where this dessert originated, the earliest recipes mention simmering the cream with fish bones. The collagen from the bones would set the cream.
The toppings for panna cotta run the gamut - chocolate, coffee, caramel, coconut, fruit, you name it.
For more ideas for panna cotta couplings, see here.
4 packets Knox gelatine
1/4 cup cold water
3 cups cold whole milk
3 cups whole plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 TB sourwood honey from the Blue Ridge Mountains
2 tsp vanilla
1 3-inch vanilla bean, seeds extracted
Whisk gelatine, water, and 1/2 cup of milk and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk yogurt, cream, sugar, honey, remaining milk, vanilla, and scraped vanilla seeds and scraped bean over low heat until it is very warm and smooth. I went to 135°. Do not let it simmer or boil and whisk throughout.
Remove from heat, discard bean, and whisk in the gelatine mixture. Pour into an 8-cup Bundt pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Combine 1/3 cup pomegranate juice and 1/3 cup sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, over medium high heat. When sugar dissolves, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool before using.
1 cup pomegranate arils
2-inch piece cinnamon stick
2 TB sugar
2 TB pomegranate juice
zest and juice of one clementine
Combine all. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
To unmold panna cotta:
Set Bundt pan into warm water to just barely warm it enough to loosen the panna cotta. Invert onto serving platter and refrigerate. When the surface of the panna cotta has chilled up, drizzle with pomegranate glaze and syrup.
Sometimes, unmolding can use some help from a hair dryer.
Ahh... The pomegranate.
I don't have no stinkin' pomegranate tree. I shot these pictures at the Underground Gardens of Baldassare Forestiere in Fresno, California.
The way to remove pomegranate seeds is to slice it in half, take a wooden spoon, and spanky-spanky.
Next day, I started on the pomegranate/cinnamon syrup.
Drizzle the pomegranate glaze and spoon the aril mixture over top of the panna cotta.
I love the color!