Panna cotta, when done right, is one of my favorite desserts. I love the smooth, creamy texture, and its delicate simplicity. It’s hard to imagine that something so impressive could be so easy to make. Oh, but it is!
Unlike its Spanish counterpart, flan, a smooth custard made with eggs that needs to be baked for a while, panna cotta depends on gelatin to hold its shape, and doesn’t require any baking at all.
To end up with a perfect, creamy panna cotta, I tried making various combinations over a matter of weeks. My favorite used rose water to add a fragrant sweetness to the dessert that I figured would make it the perfect dessert for a special Valentine’s Day dinner. Vanilla flavored panna cotta was also spectacular, and either can definitely be enjoyed year round.
Te get the right consistency, you want the panna cotta to be smooth and creamy, and not heavy. Some recipes online called for using only heavy cream, but I found those to be a bit too heavy, and they didn’t have the light, creamy texture I was looking for.
Using only whole milk didn’t achieve what I was looking for either.
In the end, I used a combination of the two, using a bit more cream than milk. That resulted in the smooth, creamy texture I was searching for.
You want the panna cotta to have more of a custard texture rather than one of a heavy gelatin dessert, so you don’t want to overdo the amount of gelatin added to the mixture. When unmolded, this panna cotta holds its general shape, but gravity will bring it down slightly into a rounded version of its molded self. When you achieve that, you end up with a light dessert with just the right texture.
As for the sweetness?
I rarely use white sugar, but in this case, I have to admit that it was my favorite way to make the panna cotta. I tried both honey and maple syrup, and both worked out just fine, but I found that they both overpowered the delicate flavors a bit too much for my taste. Plus, I love the bright white color of a panna cotta made with white sugar.
So, you are free to change it up and use whatever sweetener you choose, but I stuck with table sugar this time.
I added just enough sugar to lightly sweeten it, but feel free to add more or less sugar to suit your own tastebuds.
Smooth and Creamy Panna Cotta
Mix together the gelatin granules with the rose water or the vanilla extract and water in a small bowl to help soften them.
If using molds, grease them with a mild flavored oil. If you prefer not to use molds, you can make the panna cotta directly in pretty glasses or bowls for serving directly without unmolding.
Mix the milk, cream, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Add in the gelatin and rose water mixture, and keep stirring over medium heat until the gelatin and sugar have dissolved.
When the gelatin has completely dissolved, cool the mixture by placing the pan over a bowl full of ice water.
Pour the cooled mixture into the prepared molds. Place the molds into your refrigerator for several hours. I usually leave mine overnight.
Once set, you can unmold the panna cotta onto a plate. This is most easily done by slipping a knife between the panna cotta and the edge of the mold, and sliding it around to help release it.
If you have a hard time getting the panna cotta out of the mold when you flip it over, you can run the bottom of the mold under warm water to help soften the panna cotta and completely release it from the mold.
Decorate the panna cotta with a fruit puree or other sauce of your choice, or serve it plain.
Serve and enjoy!