How to Make Panna Cotta

Exceedingly simple, just the way I like it. Feels like it’s been an awfully long time coming, though, doesn’t it? First, let me thank several very talented pastry people who all wrote in with various tips on this dessert. They were all very much appreciated (though to be 100% honest, I went back to my own method in the end…but it’s been a great — if fattening — adventure).

Overall I should say there are no strict rules about what kind of liquid dairy ingredients you may wish to use: milk, cream, buttermilk. My only advice is to use the best quality stuff you can get your hands on. One of the (several) batches I made was simply conventional ultra-pasteurized cream with whole, un-homogenized milk instead of the buttermilk. It may sound plain, but I’ll tell you, it wasn’t. It rocked.

Also, if you plan to turn these out, you might want to consider using a teaspoon or so of good quality vanilla extract instead of the real bean. It won’t be as aromatic, but you won’t get the little clusters of seeds on the top of your desserts. Vanilla seeds tend to sink, you see…and the bottom of the mold becomes the top. Or you can just cover up the grey-ish blotches a garnish…like some strips of orange or lemon zest. Oh yes, that would be very nice.

Begin by assembling your ingredients. Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla (seeds or extract) in a saucepan.

Whisk to combine.

Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture brieflly to the boil, then allow it to sit for ten minutes to cool and allow the flavors to blend.

Sprinkle in your gelatin…

…and whisk thoroughly to incorporate it.

Strain through a fine mesh seive…

You can see a few bits of vanilla husk and a clump or two of gelatin there…

Ladle it into your molds and chill at least two hours or overnight.

That’s it. A bit of an anticlimax after all this, but then the simple things are usually worth the fuss. Or am I just full of it?

4 thoughts on “How to Make Panna Cotta”

  1. Again, what is a good substitute for gelatin? I do not use it due to the way it is made and Kosher gelatin (fish) is no better. I have heard that agar agar works but I do not know if the substitution amts. are the same. example if you use 1 pkg. gelatin how much agar would you use? Does anyone have any other suggestions? Thanks

    1. Agar agar and kuzu are thickeners I hear about fairly often, but I don’t know about conversion amounts, I’m sorry to say.

  2. Thanks, Joe. I’ve been on a panna cotta kick here lately — well, I made it once but think about it quite a bit! The one time I made it, using David Leibowitz’s recipe, it didn’t turn out creamy at all. The amount of gelatin that he called for was a bit confusing and I think I used one whole envelope of Knorr gelatin. Would that be the reason for the much too firm texture?

    1. Absolutely. I’ve spent quite a bit of time tweaking the proportion of gelatin in my panna cotta. It’s a tough thing to get exactly right. Some people like a perfect shape, but that can yield a panna cotta with a JELL-O like texture that’s quite unappetizing (as it seems you found out). Go lightly and you’re likely to have a finished product that slumps on the plate, but will feel much better on the tongue. I solve the problem by not worrying about the presentation and serving it in teacups. But to your point, I think a whole envelope of gelatin is too much. Scale back by at least half a teaspoon and see what you think. – Joe

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