Ah, pannacotta. The dessert of so many a romantic meal with Hungry Hubby over the years. If it’s on the menu of a good Italian restaurant, we are so ordering one to share (we always pick the two puds we fancy and share them when they arrive). When Hungry Hubby and I met we spent our first summer together going out for either drinks or getting glammed up for a dinner date, I think at every single one of Liverpool’s restaurants. The days were long and sunny and full of happiness plus the nights were full of those intense getting-to-know-you conversations that last long into the night, in our case over a Barcardi Breezer for me, a Budweiser for hubs and/or a tasty morsel to eat or two to share (don’t judge – we were teenagers and it was the year 2000!). It was the most magical time. It was my very first year at university and the break was unusually long (13 glorious weeks) and as I was studying in London and Hubby in Liverpool, we didn’t waste a moment together. Pannacotta instantly transports me back to those blissfully happy days and even though nowadays, we are real homebirds and rarely venture out for dinner, I simply make it for us whenever there is something special to celebrate, even if that is just “date night” down at the Apple Chapel.
I am a vanilla-holic and sneak it into so many of my bakes. In this pannacotta, it is the star flavour and you really should use a pod so you get that fine speckling of the teeny, tiny black seeds in your cooked cream. I add very little sugar as you don’t want to overwhelm the vanilla perfumed cool, rich cream plus there ain’t no pannacotta without a fruit coulis to serve with. My strawberry coulis is something a little bit special too – it’s so good, you may want to make extra to pour over your breakfast yogurt for a luxurious treat or make some chocolate cookies and whilst they are still warm, scoop one into a small dish and ladle over this coulis – now, that is a hedonistic experience not to deprive yourself of! I cook some ripe and fragrant strawberries until they slump and add a little sugar, lime zest and a splash of Chambord. If you don’t have a cupboard full of liqueurs like me, then use some vanilla extract – strawberries and vanilla are another transcendental experience not to miss out on and it will compliment the cool, wibbly wobbliness of the pannacotta perfectly.
Here I set my pannacotta in my Nordic Ware bundtlette pan but you can use the more traditional darioles or ramekins if you only have those – you need ones with at least 200ml capacity. It is a bit nerve wracking to have to unmould however many pannacotta you make at once when using a bundtlette tin but I do love how you can fill the central void with plenty of coulis. The final, extravagant touch when I’m serving this king of puds, is to bake some mini dark chocolate cookies to scoop up mounds of the set cream and dip into the fruit sauce. Well, it is date night – if you can’t indulge in some decadence then, when can you?
- 180ml double cream
- 40ml milk (I use skim or semi-skim)
- 40g icing sugar
- One vanilla pod
- 2 leaves of gelatine (see note below recipe)
- 140g fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
- 1 level tbsp icing sugar
- A good grating of lime zest (about half the lime's worth)
- 1-2 tsp Chambord
- Grease you moulds (at least 200ml capacity) well with a flavourless oil, mopping up excess with a piece of kitchen paper.
- Soak your leaf gelatine in a small bowl of cool water.
- Pop the cream, milk and whole vanilla pod in a small saucepan and bring just up to the boil ("scald" the cream) then take off the heat. Squeeze the now gelled gelatine out of the bowl of cold water then whisk into the scalded cream.
- Pour into a jug and pop in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes, for it to thicken up and the vanilla to impart some more flavour.
- Before the cream is set, fish out the vanilla pod and slit it open, then scrape the seeds into the cream - leaving it to this point will help suspend them rather than having them sink to the bottom of the moulds. Stir in and fill your two prepared moulds, cover with cling and refrigerate at least 2 hours (over night is best).
- Now make the coulis. Simply chop the berries roughly and place in a small saucepan with the icing sugar and lime zest. Cook stirring frequently over medium high heat until no solid lumps of fruit remain then take off the heat and pour in the Chambord. Use an immersion blender to purée the fruit then pass through a sieve to remove the seeds. Pour into a jug and chill until needed.
- When ready to serve, fill a dish big enough to take whatever moulds you have used for the pannacottas with just boiled water from the kettle. Allow them to sit for no more than 30 seconds to allow the surface to start to melt then place a plate over the tops of the moulds, invert bravely and give them a sharp tap. If they don't release encourage them by breaking the seal with a dinner knife and they should plop out.
- Transfer to whatever dish you plan to serve them in using a greased fish slice (more flavourless oil required here!) and provide the coulis in the jug for both of you to pour out as you eat, preferably with a cookie or two along the way.
- If you don't have Chambord, 1 tsp vanilla extract is more than good enough a substitution but different complimentary flavour to add.
- Leaf gelatine will have directions on the packet telling you how many to use to set a given quantity of liquid. Mine are about 2 by 4 inches in size and I need 2 to set these pannacotta but you may need more or less, go by the manufacturer's directions.