The Perfect Vanilla Panna Cotta

August 12, 2010

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Call me cynical, but if I were to see ‘perfect’ this and ‘perfect’ that, chances are, I’m just gonna pfft at it. But then again, if it was a claim made by somebody who knows his shit, like say David Lebovitz, then it’d probably be wise of me to sit up and take notice. Especially when he had the tasty photographic evidence to back it up.

For instance… perfect panna cotta?

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Vanilla Panna Cotta served with macerated berries

Simple fact is, I’ve never made panna cotta before but I’ve certainly enjoyed a few in my lifetime. Most notably, the naughty mammary-like ‘booby cottas’ of Jonah’s George Francisco. I didn’t know where to start and who to trust but a simple ‘perfect’ from Mr Lebovitz and I was reeled in.

This recipe is so simple and quick to make that it now takes a place in my lazy and fabulous recipe repetoire. It resulted in a panna cotta that’s silky and smooth, creamy without being cloying and just melted in your mouth. A wise man once said that, “a panna cotta should wobble like a Rubenesque woman wearing 5 inch heels”. And wobble and jiggle it did, that seductive temptress.

IMG_9974 edited

Ugh! Unmoulding massacre and naughty sinking vanilla seeds. Meh, still delicious with a red wine poached pear!

Because this panna cotta is just cream and vanilla, using the best quality ingredients is a must. For mine, I’m talking full bodied, farm-friendly, happy-cow whole cream with fragrant vanilla beans or top notch vanilla extract. What you’ll get is a pure, unadulterated panna cotta that’s heaven to eat on its own. But if you prefer a little extra on the side, it’s stunning with fruit.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

I had enough to feed an army so I served some with macerated berries and others with pears poached in spiced red wine. There was suppose to be a red wine syrup to garnish with but… well, lets just say, never play Angry Birds on your Ipod when you are suppose to be keeping an eye on stuff. Oops. And also, lets not speak of my wayward vanilla beans who decided not to play nice and sunk to the bottom of my ramekins. Still a tasty mishap no? If you’re short on time or you just, well, suck at delicately unmoulding a panna cotta out of a ramekin, serve it in glasses topped with a tumble of berries. Perrr…fect.



Berry syrupy goodness – the longer the berries macerate, the more liquid will seep out 

Perfect Panna Cotta

Recipe from David Lebovitz (who adapted from Secrets From My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts)

Recipe revisited here

1 L pouring cream (35-36% fat content)

100g sugar
2 tsps of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
90ml cold water


Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. You’re only warming it up to dissolve the sugar, don’t overheat it.

(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)

Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.

Pour the warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatine and stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved.

Allow mixture to cool down before dividing out into your ramekins. Chill for a few hours (I chilled mine overnight).

Run a small thin palette knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired. Alternatively you could make the panna cottas in glasses and not worry about unmoulding.

To make Panna Cotta with sheet gelatine: Soften 25g of gelatine leaves in a litre of cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. Wring the sheets out and stir them into the warm Panna Cotta mixture in step # 4, until dissolved.

To prevent your panna cottas from separating:

* Don’t overheat the cream. Just warm it enough to dissolve the sugar and gelatine (which can dissolve at body temperature).

* Either way, allow the cream mixture to cool down sufficiently before pouring into your ramekins or glasses and chilling it.

To Macerate Berries

Toss berries in caster sugar and allow to chill in the fridge for about 30mins to an hour. What this does is sweeten the flavour of the berries and draws the liquid out (which I love having with the panna cotta). Alternatively you could reduce this liquid in a small pan over medium heat until it’s syrupy.

Print this recipe!

Vanilla Panna Cotta