Saturday, June 28, 2014

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Mixed Berries

It's almost here, it's almost here! It's almost the Fourth of July! With this holiday now less than a week away, it's time to whip up some delicious and summer treats in our favorite shades of red, white, and blue.  For me, red and blue mean BERRIES.  Artificially dyed treats like cupcakes and cookies dyed in unnatural shades of colors really weird me out (pastel is ok, but super bright and fluorescent is just not ok), so strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are my way of getting my red and blue fix.  Actually, the ultimate red, white, and blue dessert for me would be a simple bowl of strawberries and blueberries topped off with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.  It's the easiest thing in the world to make and it screams summer.  

I thought that I would take a cue from my ultimate easy summer dessert as a starting point for a simple and refined approach to a Fourth of July dessert.  Berries with fresh whipped cream has turned into panna cotta with macerated berries; it sounds fancy, but it's still a really easy dessert!  In Italian, panna cotta means "cooked cream," and that's literally what this dessert is. Panna cotta is traditionally a mixture of heavy cream, milk, sugar, and gelatin that gets cooked together, poured into a mold or cup, and then left in the fridge to chill until solidified. It's a very straightforward dish, and takes very little effort and time to prepare.  Essentially, if you can prepare a batch of Jell-O, you should have no problem making panna cotta.

Panna cotta is typically made with more cream than milk, so the final dish is incredibly rich.  For this summer-inspired panna cotta, I decided to lighten up the flavor a little, and made a buttermilk panna cotta.  I used two parts buttermilk to one part cream, so the resulting dessert had a really lovely tang to it and didn't have the sometimes slightly overwhelming richness of traditional cream-based panna cotta.  Regardless, this buttermilk panna cotta was creamy, smooth, and decadent,  and the texture was just as good as that of a traditional panna cotta.  I paired my buttermilk panna cottas with a simple mixture of strawberries and blueberries that I macerated with a little sugar and a splash of orange juice.  The sweet berries paired perfectly with the tangy panna cotta, and made this an nontraditional red, white, and blue dessert.  So fun!

If you're in need of a simple and impressive Fourth of July dessert that celebrates summer's best, this is it. Panna cotta is so simple to make, and since it takes so little time to prepare and needs to be refrigerated for several hours before serving, it's a great dessert option if you're hosting a party.  It's quick enough to make that you can make more than one batch if you have a lot of people and want to serve individual panna cottas, but you could also let the mixture set in a larger mold and either scoop it out or slice to serve with the berries on top. However you serve this panna cotta, it'll definitely be a hit at your Fourth of July celebration.  If you want a traditional panna cotta to serve with patriotic berries, this is my absolute favorite recipe.  Enjoy!

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Red and Blue Mixed Berries
panna cotta recipe from Epicurious


For the Panna Cotta

2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract

For the Macerated Berries

1 cup diced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 tablespoon sugar


Pour the 2 tablespoons of water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top.  Set aside to let the gelatin soften for about ten minutes.

In the meantime, heat the heavy cream and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium high heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar.  Once dissolved, increase the heat and bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring occasionally. Add the gelatin mixture and remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the gelatin has dissolved.  Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm, stirring often.  Once the mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract.  Divide the mixture among six 3/4 cup ramekins or clear glasses. Refrigerate the panna cottas until they are set, about 4 hours. 

While the panna cottas are chilling, prepare the macerated berries.  In a bowl, stir together the berries, orange juice, and sugar.  Let the berries chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve, at least one hour.  

To serve the panna cottas, simply spoon some macerated berries over the top of each panna cotta.  Enjoy!

Makes 6 panna cottas


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