This panna cotta recipe represents all of the reasons that I fell in love with cooking. When I first decided that it was a necessity for our family that I at least try to learn to prepare something other than boxed macaroni & cheese, it was recipes like this one that made me realize that cooking really is not difficult. That there are certain recipes that will make you look as if you’re a rock star in the kitchen, even though they’re so easy that a child could pull them off. It’s the secret that chefs keep from those who have never attempted to cook.
Panna cotta is one of these amazing recipes. It’s a fairly upscale dessert – you’ll find it on the menu of many fine dining restaurants. It’s lusciously creamy and smooth with a subtle sweetness. A bit like custard without all the tempering and fuss. It takes about 10 minutes total time to put together, then you just sit back while it firms in the cool fridge. Unmold it or put in pretty glasses and serve as is – it’s gorgeous either way and always makes an impression.
I decided to use completely different dishes for this batch so that I could show how simple it is to tailor it to whatever occasion you’ve prepared it for. I like to unmold it for a dinner party or serve it in small dessert glasses if I have a crowd (place it on a tray and let guests pick them up as they’re ready). Sometimes I’ll garnish just a few but let everyone choose their own toppings: berry or citrus-brandy sauce, dark chocolate sauce, assorted fresh berries, or diced peaches soaked in Grand Marnier as I’ve done here. The choices are vast and you can tailor it to any season. You could even put it in mason jars and bring it to a picnic!
Although I love this recipe any time of year, I especially love it in the summer time. Fresh berries and fruits pair so perfectly with it that you really don’t need anything else. But you know me, and any chance I have to add booze to a dish I’ll take it! A drizzle of Grand Marnier to the peaches adds great flavor without any real effort.They’re best if you let them soak awhile but you can always add at the last minute if you’re concerned that not everyone wants the booze.
In any case, if you’ve never tried making panna cotta before, here is my plea that you do so right away. Nothing could be easier – or more delicious! You can thank me later ;-)
Panna Cotta with Summer Peaches & Grand Marnier
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lenghtwise & seeds scraped from pod (or 2 t of pure vanilla extract)
- 2 packets plain powdered gelatin
- 6 tablespoons cold water
- 2 ripe summer peaches
- 1/4 c Grand Marnier
- a handful of blueberries and some mint for garnishing, if desired
- Heat the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved.
- Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a let stand at least 5 minutes.
- Stir the gelatin into the warm cream mixture until it’s completely dissolved.
- Pour into dessert molds or dishes, cover lightly and chill until very firm. I usually do mine first thing in the morning and leave it all day or do it the night before (a few hours should be good, however).
- About an hour or so before serving, dice the peach and toss with the Grand Marnier, letting it soak until you’re ready to serve. Top each panna cotta with a small amount of peaches, serving the rest on the side to be added as desired. Garnish with blueberries and mint.