I’m back after a month’s hiatus from the blog, and it feels like coming home again. I’ve missed you! Did you miss me? (Shameless fishing …)
If you were expecting a complicated recipe, think again — I’m still in living-is-easy mode.
Every cook needs a few recipes in their repertoire for desserts that are low in time and effort but high in pizzazz. Panna cotta is one, ideal for those occasions where you spontaneously invite people to dinner that day and then wonder what to make.
Panna cotta is literally Italian for “cooked cream,” and that’s about how easy it is to make. Add a bit of sugar, a flavouring element or two and some gelatin to set it, and it’s ready to chill out in the fridge until it’s time for dessert. Essentially, it’s a pudding but much easier to make than one that is custard-based.
Until now, I’ve always made vanilla panna cotta served with fresh berries and coulis. This time, I decided to go in a different direction using milk chocolate as the chief flavouring agent and a dashing garnish of grated semi-sweet chocolate for flair. The amount of chocolate in this recipe is subtle, which for me is part of its charm. I love chocolate, but I’m generally not fond of its aggressive use in desserts. (This spoken by someone who surreptitiously eats baking chocolate chips right out of the package, but I digress.)
In the past, I’ve tended to use too much gelatin due to some vague anxiety that the pudding would not set properly. This time I restrained that impulse, to impressive effect. The panna cotta was set, but was soft, silky and wobbly, much preferable in texture to the more regimented stiffness of past efforts.
The result was a refined, subtly sweet and chocolatey, gently quivering dessert that took no more than 15 minutes to put together. My guests ate it in far less time.
Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta
I made this panna cotta in ramekins, but espresso cups are a good option for presentation flair as you can see here. I’ve never unmolded my panna cotta, but if you wish to do so, my research indicates you can lightly oil the ramekins or dampen them with water before filling, and then run a knife around the edge before turning out the set pudding. Not having tried either of these methods, I wish you good luck (and let me know how it goes!).
Set six ramekins or other serving cups that will hold 4 fluid ounces on a baking tray or pan and set aside.
- 2 ounces milk chocolate chips
- 2 cups whipping cream (35% milk fat)
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ envelope gelatin (about 1-1/2 tsp)
- water (¼ cup cold, ¼ cup boiling)
- ½ ounce semi sweet chocolate, grated
Gently melt the chocolate in a double boiler. I just set a heat-proof bowl over a pan of water that was first heated to a boil and then kept at a low simmer. You could also use the microwave. In either case, set it aside once melted.
While the chocolate is melting, put the cream, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan over medium heat and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. When the cream is just starting to shimmer, turn the heat as low as it will go and simmer for a few more minutes.
In the meantime, sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup cold water. Let it sit for a few minutes (this is called blooming, by the way), then add ¼ cup boiling water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
Whisk the warm melted chocolate into the cream mixture. Then add the gelatin mixture, stir well and carefully decant into the ramekins. Wipe away any dribbles or splashes (unless your decanting skills are much better than mine and it’s not necessary) and place the tray of ramekins into the fridge to set for at least four hours.
You can make the panna cotta a day ahead. If refrigerating longer than four hours, wrap well with plastic wrap.
Garnish with the grated chocolate and prepare yourself to graciously accept the ooh’s and aah’s.