If I had to pick a dessert that works for any occasion, there is no doubt it would be the classic Italian panna cotta.
Originally from the north-western Italian region of Piemonte, today you will struggle not to find this creamy, silky dessert on the menu when heading to an Italian restaurant; be that in Italy or anywhere in the world.
The original panna cotta recipe, as so many other traditional Italian dishes, is rather simple and based on just few ingredients: heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla bean. Gelatine is added to allow the mixture to set. Back in Piemonte, a bit of Marsala is sometimes added to the mix as well.
Now you can obviously serve the panna cotta as plain as it is, as it already makes a delicious dessert.
However, the beauty of a panna cotta is, works with a wide variety of toppings from fresh berries to fruit sauces and melted chocolate or a caramel topping.
You can even go a step further and substitute heavy cream for a lighter mix of cream and milk, buttermilk, almond milk, or coconut milk, changing the flavour of your panna cotta. With any of the above toppings still working perfectly.
Or you directly mix additional flavours into your panna cotta. From coffee flavoured panna cotta to honey, basil, and all sorts of fruit purees, your imagination is the limit.
With summer being peak berry season and local farmers markets currently brimming with the likes of raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, and black currents, I could not resist to whip up this delicious blackberry panna cotta. Topped with a generous dose of blackberry sauce.
How to make the perfect panna cotta
Though panna cotta is a quick and easy dessert, there are a couple of essentials you should follow if you want to obtain the best possible result.
- Whether you use heavy cream, a mixture of cream and milk, buttermilk, or coconut milk, make sure to let it simmer for a couple of minutes after brought to boil.
- While you can substitute vanilla bean with vanilla extract, vanilla bean will bring more flavour. Plus, it gives the panna a more exciting look over a plain white.
- Make sure the gelatine fully dissolves to avoid it to causes little clumps. If it does, pour the mixture through a fine sieve.
- To avoid skin forming on your panna cotta, let the mixture cool to room temperature before pouring into moulds, bowls, glasses, or whatever you use, continuing to stir occasionally. Only then refrigerate.
- To properly set, the panna cotta needs at least 4 hours in the fridge. However, I recommend giving it at least 6 hours or better keep it overnight.
- To unmould the panna cotta, first run a knife along the inside perimeter of your mould then dip the mould into hot water. Put a plate on top of the mould, flip it over and give it a few quick and strong shakes until you hear the panna ‘plop’. Carefully remove the mould.
Recipe: Blackberry Panna Cotta with Blackberry Sauce
500 g blackberries
500 g heavy cream
80 g sugar
4 leaves white gelatine
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Puree half of the blackberries until very smooth, then pour through a sieve pressing on and then discarding the solids.
Soak gelatine in cold water for about 10 minutes.
Add heavy cream and sugar to a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Wring out the gelatine, add to the cream mixture and keep stirring until completely dissolved.
Set aside and let cool until lukewarm, then add the blackberry puree and stir to combine.
Divide over 4 bowls, glasses or moulds and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Prior to serving, puree the reminding half of the blackberries. Add powdered sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine.
Unmould the panna cotta and top up with blackberry puree.
Let me know how you liked the recipe in the comments.