Just Dessert

Strawberry Panna Cotta

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A little over a week ago I received a comment on the Dessert page of my recipes section. The commenter, ogz5, asked if I could teach him/her how to make a not-so-sweet strawberry panna cotta.

I said sure, and then of course got sidetracked with other things, but I did manage to pick up the few ingredients I needed, just so I'd have them on hand.

Panna cotta is, simply, cooked cream.  Basically, it's cream, sugar, and gelatin, and some sort of flavoring.  The gelatin provides structure, so you can pour the cooked cream into little molds and after a few hours in the fridge you have a pretty little dessert.  (In custards, it's the eggs that provide the structure.)

Anyway, strawberry panna cotta. 

I bought frozen strawberries because they're out of season here (RI) and now (late October), but if I was making this in June, I'd definitely go with fresh.  Much prettier garnish possiblities, as well.  But right now?  I just don't want to buy berries shipped from the other side of the country. 

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I actually made two batches of strawberry panna cotta.  The only real difference between the two was the amount of sugar; in the second batch, I cut the amount of sugar in half.  I wanted to to do a little taste test with my family to see which version each of them preferred.  And I was glad the request was for a strawberry panna cotta – everyone in here likes strawberry.

So.  First thing I did was thaw the strawberries and puree them.  Then I put them in a fine mesh strainer and pressed the juice out.  I wanted a cup, or 8 oz, of strawberry juice.  (4 oz for each batch.)

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Once I had enough strawberry juice, I divided it into two 4 oz portions, and then got the rest of the ingredients out.

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So, I should probably give you an ingredient list right about now, huh?

Here's what you'll need, for either version:

4 oz (1/2 cup) strawberry juice (and feel free to sub in other juice or cold coffee, as long as you have 4 ounces)

8 oz (1 cup) heavy cream

EITHER 1/4 OR 1/8 cup (4 or 2 Tablespoons) sugar

1 package of gelatin

~~~

Pour half of the cream, minus 2 Tablespoons, in a small pot, and put the other half, plus the 2 tablespoons taken from the first half, in the fridge for now.

Add the strawberry juice and the sugar to the pot with the cream, and heat until almost boiling. 

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As often happens, I got sidetracked here by the cool pattern of the cream and strawberry juice, and then the sugar, in the pot. 

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Set aside to cool completely, or, if you're in a hurry, put the post in an ice water bath and stir the mixture to speed up the cooling process.

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While the cream mixture is cooling, bloom the gelatin.  To do this, put two tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin onto the water, stir togethether briefly, and let it stand for five minutes.

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When you first add the gelatin to the water, it will be thick but easily poured.

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After five minutes, the mixture will be quite thick and won't pour as well.

Cool, huh? 

Once the cream mixture has cooled, add the bloomed gelatin to it and mix well.

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Now, get the rest of your cream out of the fridge and, with a whisk or a hand-held mixer, whip until you get to the soft peak stage. 

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Remove 8 tablespoons and put back in the fridge for later (this is so you can pipe some pretty little rosettes arount the panna cotta when it's time to serve)

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and continue whipping the rest until you have firm peaks.  Fold this whipped cream into the cooked cream and gelatin mixture by slicing down with a rubber spatula into the middle of the bowl, all the way to the bottom, and gently scooping it up the side of the bowl and out.  Go back down in the center and come up the side again, all the while turning the bowl with your other hand.  

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Be gentle.

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Then pour the mixture into little molds and place them in the fridge for about 3 hours.

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To unmold, lower the bottom of each mold in very hot water for a few seconds

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and then invert onto your plate. 

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You may need to lower the mold into the hot water a couple of times before it slides out.  You want enough heat to loosen the panna cotta but not so much that you end up soup.

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I noticed that some of the panna cotta melted a bit and puddled unattractively on top of the pureed strawberries I was using as a base sauce.  Here's where that extra whipped cream comes in reeeeeaalllll handy.  First, put the plate with the unmolded panna cotta back in the fridge so it firms up again.  Then whip your extra whipped cream into stiff peaks and spoon into a piping bag with a start tip.  Then just pipe little rosettes around the perimeter of the panna cotta and cover up the panna cotta drips and KNOW ONE WILL EVER KNOW! 

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Unless they read this post.

FYI, this recipe serves 2, but I used smaller molds and got lots of little servings – that way everyone could have a couple of small panna cotta shapes each to taste test.

Alex licked the bowl after I poured the second batch into the little molds, and he said it was pretty tasty – like melted strawberry ice cream.  A good omen.

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I dished up samples of each batch to Bill, the kids, and me, and had everyone taste both versions and tell me which one they preferred, and why.

We all preferred the flavor of the first batch – the one with 1/4 cup of sugar.  It wasn't overly sweet – the tartness of the strawberries helped to balance out the sugar – but for whatever reason, that batch had a more pronounced strawberry flavor.

Not sure if it it's because we subconsciously associate sweetness with good flavor or what, but that's how it played out.

Other than that, the texture was the same, both batches set up nicely and unmolded the same.

So I'd say, if you want to give this a try, maybe split the difference and use 3 tablespoons of sugar (if you're looking for something not-so-sweet) for your first batch and see how you like it.  Then, in subsequent batches, you can increase or decrease the sugar amount as it suits you.

Hope this was helpful, ogz5!

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3 thoughts on “Strawberry Panna Cotta

  1. Oh wow Jayne, thanks a lot for heeding my request *kneels and bows* 😛 . I will definitely try this recipe. OMG! I’m already salivating just by looking at the photos. Will keep you posted. Thanks to Alex and your family, the tasters.

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