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panna cotta tilted in wine glass with peach and orange juice sauce.

How to make Vanilla Panna Cotta

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Incredibly creamy and silky smooth, a panna cotta is an Italian dessert that is very easy to make and only requires a few basic ingredients. Panna cotta, which means “cooked cream” in Italian, is a type of pudding that is stabilized using gelatin.

In order to make panna cotta, milk and cream are heated with sugar and flavored with vanilla. Gelatin is then added to the hot mixture and the pudding is poured into serving cups or molds until set. The panna cotta tastes amazing on its own or served with berry sauce, caramel, chocolate, fruits.

panna cotta tilted in wine glass with peach and orange juice sauce.

Panna Cotta Ingredients

  • Liquids: In today’s recipe, we’ll be using heavy cream (35% fat) which will yield a rich panna cotta. If you prefer a lighter version, you can replace part of the heavy cream with milk. You could even use other types of milk such as almond or coconut milk. Just keep in mind that you might need to add more gelatin if you replace the heavy cream. The liquid is heated with the sugar which will ensure the sugar (and later the gelatin) is fully dissolved.
  • Sugar: The sugar will provide sweetness. Add as much or as little as you’d like.
  • Gelatin: The gelatin will set the panna cotta. The more gelatin is added to the panna cotta, the easier it will be to unmold it once chilled. But it’s best not to overdo it with gelatin to retain the soft and creamy quality of the panna cotta and to avoid a rubbery texture. The gelatin is first soaked in cold water until softened. Hydrated gelatin will dissolve more easily when added to the hot cream. It’s important not to add the gelatin to a very hot mixture or it will lose its gelling ability. If on the other hand, the gelatin is added to a cold liquid, you’ll probably end up with pieces of gelatin in your panna cotta.
  • Flavoring: We will be using vanilla extract today but you can use whatever you’d like. You could add spices, coffee, chocolate, orange blossom water etc.
panna cotta tilted in wine glass with cherries and berries sauce

Making Panna Cotta, Step-by-Step

  • Soak the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of cold water for about 5-10 minutes, until softened. If the gelatin sheets are stuck together, separate them before soaking them or they won’t get properly hydrated.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar has fully dissolved. Remove from the heat as soon as the first bubbles appear. The cream shouldn’t be too hot or it will damage the gelatin and your panna cotta won’t set properly.
  • Add the vanilla extract.
  • Squeeze the softened gelatin to get rid of the water and add it to the hot cream. Stir until the gelatin has fully dissolved.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a measuring cup and pour into desired cups or bowls. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until set.

Tilted look

If you’d like to try out the tilted look like the one you see in the pictures, start by picking out the glasses or cups you will use. Next you’ll need something that will hold your glasses in a tilted position. This will really depend on the size of your glasses. You could use a baking pan or even a loaf pan, like I did, for taller glasses.

Line the pan with a kitchen towel and place the glasses slightly tilted over the edge of the pan. The kitchen towel will hold them in place and prevent them from sliding. I didn’t use one and banged my glasses several times against each other! Fill the glasses equally. I would recommend placing the pan in the fridge first and then filling, to avoid spilling. I found myself holding my breath and taking the tiniest steps while trying to get the panna cotta to the fridge!

And I wouldn’t recommend immediately trying to tidy up the inside of the glass if you moved the panna cotta around too much. You might just end up making a bigger mess (like I did!) so wait for it to set a little first.

filling panna cotta glasses with fruit sauces.

And that’s it! This is probably the easiest dessert I have ever made. And you can really take it in whatever direction you’d like. It’s delicious on its own. But you can also add caramel sauce, or give it a chocolate twist (next on my list!). And you can have as much fun as you want with fruits. I tried it with peaches and oranges, a mix of cherries and berries meant to be used for smoothies. And my favorite, a raspberry and strawberry sauce, which is the recipe I’ll be sharing with you today.

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How to make Panna Cotta

0 from 0 votes
Cuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
Servings

5

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

5

minutes
Chill time

4

hours 

Incredibly creamy and silky smooth, a panna cotta is an Italian dessert that is very easy to make and only requires a few basic ingredients. The panna cotta tastes amazing on its own or served with berry sauce, caramel, chocolate, fruits.

Ingredients

  • For the panna cotta
  • 2 gelatin sheets, unflavored (4 g, 0.14 oz.)

  • 400 g (394 ml, 13.3 fl oz.) heavy cream (35 % fat)

  • 60 g granulated sugar (2.1 oz.)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • For the berry sauce (optional)
  • 250 g strawberries (fresh or thawed) (8.8 oz.)

  • 250 g raspberries (fresh or thawed) (8.8 oz.)

  • 65 g sugar (5 1/4 tablespoons, 2.3 oz.), or to taste

  • 25 g (25.7 ml) lemon juice (about 1 3/4 tablespoons, 0.9 fl oz.), or to taste

Directions

  • Making the panna cotta
  • Soak the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of cold water for about 5-10 minutes, until softened. If the gelatin sheets are stuck together, separate them before soaking them or they won’t get properly hydrated.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar has fully dissolved. Remove from the heat as soon as the first bubbles appear. Add the vanilla extract. The cream shouldn’t be too hot or it will damage the gelatin and your panna cotta won’t set properly.
  • Squeeze the softened gelatin to get rid of the water and add it to the hot cream. Stir until the gelatin has fully dissolved. If the cream isn’t hot enough, you might end up with undissolved gelatin. If this happens, heat the panna cotta again on low heat whilst stirring, until the gelatin is fully dissolved.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a measuring cup and pour into desired cups or bowls. For the tilted look: Line a baking pan or loaf pan with a kitchen towel and place the glasses slightly tilted over the edge of the pan. Fill the glasses equally. I would recommend placing the pan in the fridge first and then filling, to avoid spilling.
  • Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until set.
  • Making the berry sauce (optional)
  • Blend the strawberries, raspberries, sugar and lemon juice together until smooth. Taste the sauce and adjust if needed by adding more sugar or lemon juice.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a measuring cup. Chill until needed. Before serving, place the chilled (and set) panna cotta glasses upright and pour the berry sauce.

Notes

  • Make-ahead tips: Panna cotta will keep in the refrigerator, well covered, for up to 3 days. Beyond that, it might start to get rubbery due to the gelatin.
  • Vanilla bean: If you’d like to use a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, you will need 3/4 of a vanilla bean. Split the bean lengthwise in two and scrape the seeds. Heat the bean and the seeds with the cream and sugar (step 2).
  • Berry sauce: You can make strawberry sauce if you prefer by omitting the raspberries and using 500 g of strawberries. Or raspberry sauce by omitting the strawberries. The amounts given are enough to fill the tilted cups to the top. If you don’t want that much sauce, you can make less sauce.
  • Peaches and oranges: If you’d like to try out the peach version, blend 530 g of washed, peeled and diced peaches (3-4 peaches). Add about 2 tablespoons of sugar (50 g) and 1/4 cup (60 ml) orange juice and blend until smooth. Taste and add more sugar or juice, if needed. Strain into a measuring cup through a fine mesh sieve.
  • Panna cotta recipe adapted from Christophe Felder’s book Patisserie.

Bibliography

Felder, C. (2014). Patisserie: Mastering the Fundamentals of French Pastry (4th ed.) Rizzoli.

Gisslen, W. (2005). Professional Baking (4th ed.). Wiley.

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