Panna Cotta: Everything you need to know about the dessert

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Panna Cotta is a famous Italian dessert that is served across restaurants and hotels in Italy. It has now gained popularity across the globe and is a favorite dessert for many. The word Panna Cotta translates to ‘cooked cream’. As the translation suggests, the dessert comprises of cream that is sweetened and thickened with gelatin. The mixture is then set in a mold and is served cold the next day. Often, the cream is flavored with vanilla, coffee, and other flavors.

The history of the famous Panna Cotta

Until the 1960s, the name of the dessert did not appear in any Italian cookbook. However, it often finds mention when one talks about the traditional desserts of the northern Italian region of Piedmont. Some even suggest that the dessert was invented in the early 1900s by a Hungarian woman.

Panna Cotta is included in the Region of Piedmont’s 2001 list of traditional foods of the region. The recipe for the same comprises of cream, milk, sugar, gelatin, rum, vanilla, and marsala. The prepared mixture is poured in a mold with some caramel.

It was in the 1990s that the dessert became really famous and fashionable in the US. There has been no stopping ever since. Today, the dessert is famous all across the globe.

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Preparing the classic dessert

Most believe that making a Panna Cotta is a laborious task. However, this is far, far away from the truth. Making Panna Cotta is actually easier than making some readymade jelly. And no, you do not need any fancy equipment or ingredients to make it.

The best part is how versatile the dessert actually is. Naturally, the dessert is gluten-free. With a few alterations, you can even make it dairy-free, to suit vegan needs.

Perhaps the only challenge in making a Panna Cotta is making sure that it sets well. You might have to adjust the recipe a bit depending on the quality of gelatin that you are using, and the dairy. But a few trials should solve the problem for you.

However, make sure that your panna cotta is not rubbery. It needs to be really velvety in texture.

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What does a Panna Cotta taste like?

On the face of it, a Panna Cotta is a very basic pudding. After all, it is just thickened cream with some gelatin. But the dessert really tastes very creamy and delicious, and yet is super soft of the palette. It just melts in the mouth, with no lumps or gritty aftertaste. Often, the dessert is served with some sweet sauce and fruit garnishes. You can also add some crunch in the form of a crumble if you prefer. These extra garnishes lend an extra depth to the taste of the dessert.

How to make the perfect Panna Cotta at home

Ingredients

1.5 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

1.5 cups heavy cream

1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

3 teaspoons powdered gelatin

Method

If you are planning to unmould the dessert later on, consider making them in ramekin molds. In that case, you need to grease the ramekins using some cooking spray. Use a paper towel to wipe out the oil, leaving only a residue to prevent sticking and allow easier unmoulding.

If you plan to serve the dessert as is, you can skip on this step.

Pour the milk in a saucepan, and start to warm it. Sprinkle the gelatin over this milk. Make sure that the milk does not come to a boil at all. It should only be warm at all stages. After about two minutes, the gelatin would have dissolved.

Now add in the sugar, and stir the mixture till the sugar gets dissolved. Do not let the mixture boil.

Remove this milk from the flame, and then add in the cream, salt, and vanilla. Whisk to combine well.

Divide the Panna Cotta mixture evenly between your ramekins or molds. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or best overnight.

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How to un-mold the dessert?

Once the Panna Cotta has chilled and cooled down completely, it is time to unmould and serve it.

Run a thin knife around the sides of the ramekin. You don’t have to slide the knife all the way through. Releasing the top edge is enough.

Invest the Panna Cotta over a plate, and then shake it gently to allow the Panna Cotta to fall out on to the plate. If it does not unmould, place the ramekin in warm water for around 5 seconds, up to the brim. Then flip it over the plate again.

Garnishing the dessert

You can garnish the panna cotta as per your preference. You can serve it with some coulis made up of fresh berries, such as raspberries and strawberries. Even some warm chocolate sauce would do. Or you can go really simple and classic. Just garnish with lemon zest and fresh mint leaves for a refreshing twist on a warm summery day. Even caramel would work very well with a classic Panna Cotta. Or you could just layer the Panna Cotta that has been set in a mold with some jelly, for some really cool innovations.

Playing around with the Panna Cotta

You can change the base of the dessert to whatever you want. You can use any combination of cream and milk, such as coconut milk, almond milk, or soy milk. However, remember that the lesser the fat in the base, the softer it will set.

You can also play with the flavours, by infusing the milk with anything that you want. Think coffee, or lemon, or even oranges. You can even add a bit of chopped chocolate to the mixture to make a chocolate panna cotta. You could even substitute the milk with pureed fruit for a fruit Panna Cotta. Think passion fruit or mango Panna Cotta.

The possibilities are simply endless.

Which Panna Cotta are you planning to make today? Let us know in the comment section below!

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