panna cotta with passion fruit puree
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Panna cotta means cooked cream in Italian which doesn’t sound like much, but the taste is heavenly – as long as you don’t overdo on gelatine and turn panna cotta into blancmange.
The second most popular Italian dessert, panna cotta is ridiculously simple: it is what it says on the tin, in Italian: cooked cream. Classically it should be flavoured with just good quality/real vanilla though multiple mutations abound: raspberry, chocolate, pineapple, ginger flavours, or messing with the medium: yoghurt or crème fraiche panna cottas.
I’m no purist or a cultural appropriation warrior but those fruity or chocolatey varieties make it more like a blancmange or one of those German milk puddings that come out of a package. If anything, panna cotta is closer to a posset – which is cooked cream all right, thickened with the acidity of lemon instead of gelatine.
So my preference is for the pure form: double cream with a little milk to lighten it up, and vanilla only. I borrowed from Nigel Slater the idea of drizzling the panna with passion fruit puree but the tasters proclaimed in unison it was best on its own. There you go – pure form on the double.
The pivotal element for me was the texture. Everyone knows that panna cotta is a shapely mound sitting pretty on a plate, trembling daintily when you plunge your spoon into it but tasting heavenly of cream, not jelly. That was crucial: achieving the creamy texture by all means, even at the cost of NOT sitting pretty. Because if you want it to sit, you’ll need to whack up the gelatine content and sacrifice the heavenly soft creaminess.
I didn’t – my panna cotta tastes like white magic but it doesn’t sit very well, as you can see above. Without making excuses, I really don’t think it must – perhaps in restaurants it does but if you’re making dessert for your family or a bunch of friends you don’t necessary need lots of ‘wows’ on sight – you need them on the first spoonful. And this panna cotta sure does deliver on that count.
panna cotta with passion fruit pureeServings: 6Time: 15 minutes plus chilling
- 100ml (scant ½ cup) milk
- 400ml (1 and 2/3 cup) double cream
- 2 vanilla pods, seeds scraped or 2 tsp very good quality vanilla extract
- 1 sheet gelatine
- 45g (3 tbsp.) icing sugar
- To serve:
- 6 passion fruit
- a handful of raspberries
- chocolate curls
1. Place the milk and 300ml of the cream in a small saucepan. Add the vanilla and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let it cook gently for 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water. Whisk the icing sugar into remaining cream until dissolved.
3. Take the cream mixture off the heat and stir in the softened and squeezed out gelatine sheet. Strain it through a sieve into the sweetened cream and whisk together. Pour into six espresso cups or shot glasses, cool down to room temperature and chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
4. For the passion fruit topping, slice the fruit across, spoon out the pulp and pass it through a sieve or a food mill to get rid of the pips.
5. To serve, you can try and turn out the dessert onto plates by immersing the cups briefly in hot water, but as this is a creamy dessert rather than jelly, the panna cotta won’t stay very firm upright on a plate. I serve it in the cups, topped up with passion fruit puree, smashed raspberries or a sprinkle of chocolate curls.