Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Panna Cotta Memories-- Panna Cotta with Strawberries Two Ways

Today is a good day as any to make a panna cotta. Desserts occupy a large chunk of the food pyramid in our house year-round. Winter time means warm puddings, souffles and custards whereas summer is a plethora of ice cream and  fruit concoctions panna cotta included. I was raised in a home where dinner usually ended with a warm pudding or a cold wobbly jelly , swimming in a pool of custard. In spite of the frigid temperatures outside I endeavor to make this summer concoction. It takes me to a happy place where the warmth of the sun comforts like a much used blanket. It was also one of  my Mums favorite desserts . She loved to pour heaped spoonfuls of macerated strawberries , raspberries and blueberries on to her ramekin of panna cotta. One portion was never enough to satisfy her sweet tooth so I made sure there were plenty of ramekins for  her indulgence. It's been three years since she passed away in January. I make panna cotta throughout the year especially in the summer months but its de rigueur in January. It's the perfect  antidote and a walk down memory lane. Food to satisfy the soul ,or in my case to reminisce about my Mum.  It's not the best time to find  fresh fruit . Sometimes I use Trader Joe's frozen Berries. If strawberries look delectible, then it's fresh strawberry purée with  sweetened chopped berries.  Peaches macerated in schnapps make a wonderful topping too. Today it is strawberries . They were the best looking fruit at the grocery.

It's three pm. I have to start from scratch . I'm in a new kitchen , a small galley kitchen unlike my spacious one that is being gutted as I write. Hurricane Sandy did a number on our home. So while it is being put back together , I endeavor to make culinary creations in a small rented  apartment. At this point I'm hoping the dessert will set by dinner . I measure gelatin into water . Pouring gelatin takes me back to my childhood standing by Mum's side making strawberry chiffon pie.  I measure cream, sugar and yoghurt . A sea of white. There is something comforting about white in a pan. It reminds me of kheer and Phirni. Back in India , where I was raised , these desserts were made to commemorate special occasions. I work fast as I want the panna cotta to set .

Everything falls into place .

Ramekins are the container of choice for this dish. they unmold elegantly to make a delectable trembling mound on a plate. This time I wont be using ramekins as they are buried in a container back at the house, in the hodge podge that is my displaced kitchen . A generic Pyrex dish will have to suffice. As I pour the mixture I tell myself  this time we won't have any portion control dilemmas. Large spoonfuls will be had by all.

We all wait in eager anticipation.

 I shake the dish a couple of hours later.  Success! It jiggles the way it should, Blancmange-like with jello overtones.

Panna Cotta with Strawberries Two Ways

Makes  10 to 12 ramekins.

2 cups cream
1/2 cup sugar
1  1/2 teaspoons gelatin
2 tablespoons water
1  3/4 cups 2% yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Start by mixing the gelatin and water in a small bowl. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Mound the sugar in a saucepan. Pour 1 cup cream over the sugar. Do not stir. Bring the sugar cream mixture to boil over high heat. The sugar will start to caramelize. Watch the pan carefully. When you see a golden brown color at the edges of the pan lower the flame and stir well. Keep the liquid at a simmer till the sugar dissolves. Do not worry about the color of the liquid.

In another bowl, mix the remaining 1 cup of cream, yogurt, and vanilla .

Add the gelatin to the warm cream/sugar blend.

Whisk the warm cream into the yogurt-cream.

You could pour it thought a sieve to get the lumps out. I don't. I like the texture of a few bubbles so I usually whisk the yogurt mixture well.

At this point pour the cream into ramekins (I make do with the Pyrex plate). Cover tightly with saran wrap.

Cool the plate or ramekins in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.

To serve, fill a shallow bowl with hot water. Dip the bottoms of the ramekins in the water for 5 seconds.

Invert the ramekins onto plates and top with strawberries and purée (recipe below).


Strawberry purée and fresh cut strawberries.
1 qt strawberries.

Core and cut strawberries into bite size pieces.
Purée half the strawberries in a food processor.
Use both as toppings for the panna cotta.

The panna cotta is silken smooth. Every spoonful dissolves in my mouth with the anticipation of the next bite. It doesn't fail to hit that sweet spot . It brings my Mum into the room. It's a good day to start a blog.