Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
This easy vanilla bean panna cotta is elegant enough for any special occasion and simple enough for a week night dessert.
For the longest time, panna cotta intimidated me. From its delicate texture to intricate flavors, it always seemed like a dessert that was best left for the expert level bakers of the world.
Guys, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Panna cotta is a gelatin dessert that anyone can make with a little bit of time and patience.
I have recently been really into baking with vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla extract, and today’s Panna Cotta recipe is made with vanilla bean paste. I find the flavor of vanilla bean paste to not be as harsh as extract, and for something as delicate as Panna Cotta, subtle is best.
Not everyone has vanilla bean paste in their pantry, so you can either scrape the seeds from a vanilla pod (which is the method I have used in the recipe below) or use about a teaspoon of vanilla extract in place of the paste. If you do have paste, use about half a teaspoon.
I know I say this a lot, but this vanilla bean Panna Cotta is a great dessert for nearly any occasion. Simply serve it with a fruit compote (such as this strawberry rhubarb compote), or even a drizzle of chocolate or homemade caramel sauce.
Like so many other custards or gelatin, the mixture is going to look somewhat running prior to refrigerating and that’s okay. If you follow each step carefully, the gelatin will firm up while it’s setting in the refrigerator.
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup superfine sugar (granulated is fine)
- 1 whole vanilla bean, sliced down the middle and seeds scraped out with a pairing knife
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, optional
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 envelope gelatin
The most difficult element to making panna cotta is de-potting it from whatever vessel you choose to set it in. Of course, you don’t have to de-pot it, but it certainly looks pretty sitting all by itself in the center of a serving dish.
A trick I’ve learned to de-pot it is to invert each dish and wrap each individual Panna Cotta dish in a towel soaked in hot water. If you’re lucky, as you slowly lift up the dish, the Panna Cotta will simply slips out. Other times, it’s necessary to run a kitchen knife around the inside edge of the gelatin to coax it into coming out in one piece.