Here’s a simple dessert chef’s keep up their sleeves and whip out when they need a great treat that never fails. Panna cotta sounds fancy, tastes fantastic and now you know what chefs know... it’s easy!
For the Panna Cotta
4 cups milk
1 cup sugar
A big splash of vanilla, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) or so
The zest of 2 oranges
2 packages unflavored gelatin (about 2 1/2 teaspoons/12 ml each)
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 heaping cup dried apricots
Some freshly ground nutmeg
Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the sugar. Splash in the vanilla and add the orange zest. Stir this together and remove 1/2 cup (125 ml) and set aside. Warm milk over medium heat, just until it begins to simmer.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin powder over the reserved half cup of milk. Let it rest for a minute or two until all the dry crystals appear moist. Take a little of the hot milk mixture, stir it into the gelatin and allow it to dissolve. You can tell when it’s dissolved by rubbing it with your fingers. It should feel smooth, not gritty.
Lightly oil 4 or 6 ramekins and fill them evenly with the milk mixture. Pop them in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set, or overnight if you have the time. Now it’s on to the sauce.
Place your orange juice, sugar, apricots and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue simmering until the apricots are swollen and soft, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from heat and smoothly puree with an immersion blender right in the pot or transfer to a blender or food processor.
To remove your panna cotta from the molds simply place them in a shallow baking pan filled with hot water. Leave them for exactly 30 seconds, remove, place a plate over top, flip and allow them to release.
Pour some apricot sauce all around, gather the gang and watch that creamy goodness win them over!
Don’t feel like sharing? No worries, it keeps in the fridge for a week!
Chef Michael’s Kitchen
© Chef Michael Smith
Freestyle Twist: Panna cotta is the perfect host for subtle flavor changes. Try using maple syrup, brown sugar or molasses as the sugar or add any spice that appeals to your taste buds. You can even add a splash of your favorite liqueur. Once you master the simple technique the flavor possibilities are endless.
My favourite dessert is a thick slice of just-baked pie, with apples fresh from our local orchard, and still warm from the oven. But I’m always careful to save a thick wedge because I believe apple pie is at its best the next morning for breakfast. I prefer an easy-to-make butter pastry crust. Its secret is frozen butter, which adds flavour and is much easier than shortening to “cut” into the flour.