Panna cotta is kind of like artisanal ice cream you can make at home without an ice cream maker. You can infuse it with sexy flavours. You can impress your friends, who may not realise quite how easy it is to make. DON’T TELL THEM. Why should you? A well-made panna cotta, in which the balance of sugar and cream and gelatin is struck just right, is gorgeous. Infused with exciting flavours (Turmeric! Rhubarb! Saffron!) it is a seductive bourgeois dessert. I whipped up this panna cotta to follow a dinner of boned stuffed quail. It’s based on a recipe from David Lebovitz (thank you!), but I found I like my panna cotta a bit creamier, so adjusted my proportions accordingly.
2 and ½ cups single cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 green cardamom pods
1 sachet gelatin powder
¼ cup boiling water
2 passion fruits
Grease six panna cotta molds using a non-flavoured oil, such as canola. (I used miniature soufflé dishes.)
Pour boiling water into a medium bowl and sprinkle gelatin on the water, stirring until thoroughly dissolved.
Pour cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan or bain-marie. If using a saucepan, monitor heat carefully and whisk constantly to prevent cream from thickening at bottom. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into cream. Discard pods or reserve for another use. Lightly crush cardamom pods by gently flattening with the flat side of a knife, and add to cream. You want the pod to be split, so it will infuse the panna cotta with flavour, but not broken. Add sugar gradually, stirring over low heat until dissolved. Heat the cream gently, stirring frequently, allowing flavours to infuse for at least 15-20 minutes. Cream should be hot and fluffy, but do not allow it scald, as you don’t want the cream to break or a skin to form.
Remove and discard cardamom pods. Pour hot cream in a thin stream into the gelatin, whisking all the while, until gelatin is fully dissolved into cream. Divide cream among panna cotta molds. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for a minimum of two hours, or until set.
When ready to serve, loosen the panna cotta from the molds with a knife and, if necessary, by plunging the bottom of the molds into a hot water bath for 10 seconds or so. Turn the panna cotta onto dessert plates and garnish with passion fruit and raspberries (or whatever strikes your fancy). Serve.