I love this dessert. It’s not too sweet and it has saffron, one of my favorite spices. The trick is to add the right amount of gelatin so that the panna cotta ("cooked cream" in Italian) sets but is not overly firm or gummy. Here’s how I put it together. This can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.
Ingredients (serves 8-12):
-3 cups heavy cream
-1 cup milk
-1 pinch of saffron threads (not powder) equal to about 1 teaspoon
-1.5 ounces (42 grams) of unflavored gelatin
-Zest of one lemon
-3/4 cup of sugar
In a large, heavy sauce pan add the cream, sugar, saffron and lemon zest. Stir well over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the mixture boils, turn off the heat, give it a good stir and let it rest for 10 minutes.
At this point we need to incorporate the gelatin and it’s critical to add just the right amount. I typically use the little packages of unflavored from the super market. They come with 4 envelopes in each box. I use exactly one and a half envelopes for this recipe. Each envelope has 1 ounce or approximately 28 grams in it. So the total here is 1.5 ounces or about 42 grams.
Using a large whisk pour in the package and a half of gelatin. Whisk well, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan and ensure the gelatin is well integrated. Once you are sure everything is well mixed pour the whole mixture through a fine mesh sieve or strainer. Add the milk and stir together.
Using a ladle pour your mixture into serving containers such as small ramekins or little wide cups. Though you can later remove the panna cotta and carefully pour onto a plate (by taking a warm knife and going around the bowl and dropping each one out) I like to make it easy and just serve it straight from the refrigerator in a nice serving dish.
Carefully place your panna cotta uncovered into the regfrigerator and let set for about 3 hours. To serve remove from the refrigerator and garnish with your favorite seasonal fruit. In this case I used strawberries and finished with some very good balsamic vinegar and a hint of mint. You could also just take some lemon zest and go over the top or serve them as is.
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com