Black Forest Berry Panna Cotta

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The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Panna Cotta, something I've seen umpteen times around foodie blogs and photo sites. Something I've read many a time is silky smooth and luxurious. Something that appears to be a lot of fun to make because of all the different flavours you can play with. Something I had never made or eaten until now.

I really don't know why it's taken me this long to try this dessert, because I tell you, wow! It is now in my top five of favourite desserts. If faced with making the choice of having tiramisu or panna cotta the next time I'm out for a meal, I think I may actually have to flip a coin!

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The texture reminds me of creme caramel (one of the other desserts in my top five favourites) except a little more delicate. It's creamy and soft on the tongue but packs a punch of flavour. Give me more I say!!!

Tiny specks of vanilla seeds settling in the cooling cream mixture

Tiny specks of vanilla seeds settling in the cooling cream mixture

I had a little of the cream mixture left over and had set it in its own cup, and I'm telling you, I could eat plain vanilla panna cotta by itself with no sauces or added flavours. 

Of course, I did add other flavours and sauces which was also delicious, but I really would be happy enough with a bucket of plain ol' vanilla panna cotta. Yes, a bucket. 

Right, I think you get the point. This dessert it magical. 

Love my blue teaspoons!

Love my blue teaspoons!

We were given a choice of making any flavour panna cotta we liked and my inspiration came from blue teaspoons.

I was out with a friend for lunch at one of my favourite places (I <3 Avoca) and was perusing some of the sale items when I came across these gorgeous blue teaspoons. I just had to have them and so they found their way into my basket and out the door with me. 

I'd decided right there and then that my dessert would have to look good with the blue teaspoons. Silly, I know, but I can't explain my thought process all the time! (Or ever?) 

Black forest fruit mix  

Black forest fruit mix

 

Berries were an obvious choice, although I'm sure blue teaspoons would also look pretty good with many other colours like orange or green, I just wanted to go the berry route for this challenge seeing as frozen berries are plentiful which is always convenient. Of course, you can also use fresh berries if they're in season. 

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I picked up a mix called Black Forest Berry Mix from Tesco (that's for any of you with a Tesco nearby) which is a mix of blackcurrents, blackberries, red grapes and black cherries. 

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I wanted to do a few layers for the visual appeal, but just a friendly warning, it literally took me the whole of a Saturday to do this because of freezing and setting times, so if you want this for dinner that night, go with 2 layers, one of panna cotta and one of the berry purée. If you have time to spare, then go with the four layers, it really is eye-catching and the flavour develops overnight. 

Here's the (tweaked) challenge recipe with my additions for Forest Berry Panna Cotta, enjoy!

 

 

Black Forest Berry Panna Cotta

Serves 6 (using glasses with 200ml capacity)

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Ingredients

2 cups / 500ml Full Cream Milk

2 cups / 500ml Whipping Cream (30+% butterfat)

4 sheets Platinum Gelatine

1/2 cup Granulated Sugar

1 Vanilla Bean

 

Berry Purée

Ingredients

350g / 2 cups mix of Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Black Cherries & Red Grapes, fresh or frozen

1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar

3 Tbsp Creme de Cassis (berry liqueur)

OR

3 Tbsp Berry Cordial (like Ribena)

2 sheets Platinum Gelatine

 

Method

  • Purée the berries in a food processor with the creme de cassis or berry cordial
  • Transfer to a small pot
  • Add the sugar and gently heat just until the sugar has melted
  • Set aside 1/3 of the berry purée for later
  • Divide the remaining purée evenly among your serving glasses
  • Freeze until solid

Meanwhile:

  • Soak 2 of the gelatine sheets in water to soften (about 2 mins)
  • Gently heat (but don't allow to boil) 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of cream with seeds from half a vanilla bean and the half of the bean that was scraped
  • Stir in 1/4 cup of the sugar until dissolved
  • Remove from heat
  • Squeeze out any water from the gelatine sheets and stir them into the hot mixture
  • Cool in the fridge, stirring and keeping a close eye on it so that it doesn't set
  • Tip: See extra tips at the end of the post regarding cooling of the mixture
  • Once the first layer of berry purée has frozen and panna cotta mixture has cooled, remove glasses from the freezer
  • Strain the panna cotta mixture into a jug to remove any bit of vanilla pod
  • Pour the panna cotta mixture evenly among the glasses
  • Tip: Be careful not to splash the sides, it helps to pour the mixture over the back of a spoon
  • Leave to set in the fridge, between 3-4 hours

Meanwhile:

  • Soak 2 sheets of gelatine in water until soft (about 2 mins)
  • Gently reheat the berry purée that was set aside
  • Remove from heat once hot
  • Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine leaves
  • Stir the sheets into the hot mixture to melt
  • Set aside to cool to room temp
  • Once the first layer of panna cotta has set and the berry purée has cooled, carefully spoon a little bit of the purée into each glass on top of the panna cotta until evenly divided among the glasses
  • Chill in the fridge to set, between 1 & 2 hours

Meanwhile:

  • Soak the remaining 2 sheets of gelatine in water to soften (about 2 mins)
  • Gently heat the remaining 1 cup of milk with 1 cup of cream (don't let it boil!) with the remaining half of the vanilla pod with the seeds scraped out and added to the liquid
  • Once hot, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until dissolved
  • Remove from heat
  • Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine sheets
  • Stir the gelatine into the hot mixture to dissolve
  • Cool in the fridge, stirring and keeping a close eye on it so that it doesn't set
  • Tip: See extra tips at the end of the post regarding cooling of the mixture
  • Once the fruit gelée layer has set and the panna cotta mixture has cooled to room temperature, carefully pour the panna cotta mixture into each glass until about 1cm from the top of the glass
  • Chill in the fridge to set, 3-4 hours, preferably over night
  • To serve, carefully place a few berries onto the top of each panna cotta and enjoy!

Thank you to our host for the February challenge, you've got me hooked!

Click here to see the original challenge recipes.


Nomnomnom, dig in!  

Nomnomnom, dig in!

 

Other Tips:

Whipping cream is also known as Single Cream, and around here in Ireland, it's simply called Fresh Cream. So make sure you don't use Double or Light Cream.

I used glasses with a 200ml capacity and had a bit of the panna cotta mixture left over, so you could easily make these in slightly larger glasses.

I use gelatine sheets because it's a better product than powdered gelatine, but if you can't find gelatine leaves, then you can use powdered gelatine. Use 1tsp of powdered gelatine for 1 sheet of platinum gelatine. Leave the powdered gelatine to bloom in a little bit of the milk used in the recipe.

I was reading an article about panna cotta which suggested that the best way to set the gelatine in the cream mixture is to let it cool at room temperature so that it cools gradually, which will then help the gelatine set with a better texture, rather than cooling it rapidly in the fridge. Click here for the full article.