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.
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fruit Compote
- 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
How to cook Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fruit Compote
- In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the cream, sugar, vanilla beans and vanilla bean pod. Cook until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 10 minutes. Do not boil.Remove the cream mixture from heat, and allow it to rest, covered, for about 20 minutes. In a small bowl, add the 3 tablespoons water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand for five minutes.
- Return the cream mixture to the stove over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Quickly but gently, whisk the gelatin mixture into the cream mixture, and remove from heat. Remove the vanilla bean pod and divide the custard into 8 individual bowls and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until mixture is set and resembles pudding, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
- TO DE-POT THE PANNA COTTA, run a small knife around the sides of the panna cotta and place the bowls in a 1/4" of hot water to loosen the bottom from the dish. Invert panna cotta onto serving dish, slowly raising bowl off serving dish. If panna cotta doesn't release easily, repeat the previous steps to loosen it.
- Serve with fruit compote and enjoy.
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.