This one’s going to be short and sweet, because, hey! It’s Saturday! Ain’t nobody got time for reading long meandering blog posts. There are lawns to mow and trails to hike and friends to brunch with, or maybe just couches to nap on—whatever floats your Saturday boat. No judgment here.
I did want to pop in and share this quick party dessert recipe: Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta. Are you down with panna cotta? It’s a bit like a custard, but instead of being thickened with egg yolks or cornstarch, it uses unflavored gelatin. The gelatin gives it a really clean, pure texture, and lets the flavors of the simple ingredients shine through—in this case, heavy cream, crème fraîche (or sour cream), a bit of sugar, and vanilla bean paste.
This panna cotta is soft and supple, spoon-able like pudding but not cloying or thick. The mix of sweetness and tanginess is echoed in the toppings of balsamic glaze, fresh strawberries, and fresh basil leaves. The best part, though, is that it comes together in 10 minutes, then all it takes is a little chill in the fridge until it’s ready to serve.
Okay, I lied. The BEST best part is that everyone thinks they’re super fancy! I think it’s the name. Panna cotta must be Italian for “I am way better than you and I serve frou-frou desserts to prove it, capice?”
Seriously, though, I served these at our Godiva Girl’s Flight Night Party and everyone loved them. I felt like a character in a 1960’s tv show, deflecting compliments all night: “What, these old things? Oh nonsense, Gladys, they’re so easy to make, I must give you the recipe!” So here you go, Gladyses of the internet: the recipe for the easiest, most impressing-est, mostest tastiest thing you can serve your dinner guests. Capice?
Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta
yield: 6 1/2-cup servings
2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
3 tbsp cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
8 oz crème fraîche (can substitute full-fat sour cream)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
Balsamic glaze (or 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar; see Note below)
Fresh basil leaves
Whisk together the gelatin and the water in a small bowl. Set it aside to let the gelatin absorb the water, for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the heavy cream and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Whisk together, and place over medium heat until the cream is hot and the sugar is dissolved, but do not allow the cream to boil. Remove the pan from the heat.
Microwave the bowl of gelatin for 15 seconds, until it is liquefied. Whisk the gelatin into the cream, then add the crème fraîche, vanilla bean paste, and salt. Whisk until everything is smooth.
Pour the panna cotta into six 1/2-cup serving bowls. Refrigerate them until chilled and set, at least 2 hours. (Panna cottas can be made several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator. If making in advance, cover the bowls loosely with cling wrap.) Garnish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, a few sliced strawberries, and a sprinkle of fresh basil.
Note: I used prepackaged Balsamic Glaze (Trader Joe’s brand) which is a syrupy vinegar reduction that’s sweet, tart, and perfect with berries. If you don’t have the glaze, you can put 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and simmer it until it reduces by half. Let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) then spoon it over the panna cotta.
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