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Deconstructing panna cotta: Explanations from the inside out

Panna cotta is a creamy, puddinglike dessert made by cooking cream, sugar and milk together then adding unflavored gelatin to firm it while it chills. Usually cooled in individual ramekins, panna cotta (PAHN-na KOH-tah) looks elegant when gently flipped onto a pool of sauce and crowned with a handful of berries.

Sometimes the northern Italian treat is flavored with vanilla or cocoa powder, but it is not terribly sweet so it needs a bit of a boost.

Think of panna cotta, which means "cooked cream" in Italian, as a blank slate. It can be adorned with nuts, caramel, berries, chocolate and sometimes even savory elements. Primi Urban Cafe in downtown St. Petersburg makes a version with blue cheese. We're seeing more and more panna cotta at area restaurants, including Belleair Grill and Wine Bar in Clearwater.

In a San Francisco restaurant last year, I ate panna cotta served on a shallow pool of artisan olive oil. The sweet mingled with the earthy oil and then pow!, a blast of salt. The pastry chef had judiciously placed four or so crunchy bits of sea salt on top. It may be the single most delicious thing I've ever eaten.

The most difficult aspect of making panna cotta may be the unmolding. Some recipes call for rinsing the ramekins and leaving them wet so that the chilled cooked cream slides out easily. Still, you may have a few failures. Luckily, it's not an expensive dessert (unless you spring for the vanilla bean) so making a few trial-and-errors are affordable.

Janet K. Keeler,

Times food and travel editor

>>moderate

Panna Cotta With Raspberry Sauce

1 cup cream

1/2 cup sugar

1 package unflavored gelatin

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Raspberry sauce:

1 pint fresh raspberries or 12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons strained fresh lemon juice

Fresh raspberries and mint for garnish

To make the panna cotta: In a small saucepan, combine cream, sugar and gelatin.

Heat until gelatin dissolves, stirring constantly as you heat. Add sour cream and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.

Pour into individual ramekins and chill at least 3 hours.

To make the raspberry sauce: Puree raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a blender until smooth.

Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing firmly with a rubber spatula to remove seeds.

Taste and adjust sweetness, if necessary, by adding either a bit more sugar or lemon juice.

To serve, top each ramekin with a bit of raspberry sauce and a few fresh raspberries (or a combination of others) and fresh mint leaves.

Serves 4.

Source: www.recipezaar.com

Deconstructing panna cotta: Explanations from the inside out 05/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 4:30am]
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