Friday, April 19, 2019

Springtime Passion Fruit Panna Cotta with Nielsen Massey Vanillas

I've always heard that panna cotta is the lazy chef's fancy dessert. You'll see this thick, creamy, molded custard dessert on menus quite often, mostly because it requires very little cooking or baby sitting. Just heat, mix, and leave it in the fridge. Lazy or not, I love it. I am an unrepentant dairy addict, so if you offer me something creamy, most likely I'm gonna be ok with it.

This year, I have promised myself to be more adventurous when cooking at home and try things I've never done before, so I decided it was time to give the panna cotta a go. Now, the secret to making a perfect panna cotta is having a perfect base recipe to layer flavors on top of. That's one of the reasons this dessert is one of my favorites; it's versatility. It can be fruity, it can be chocolaty, it can be floral, it can be boozy, or any combination one could dream of.

When I started to build my panna cotta recipe, I knew immediately that I wanted to flavor the base with Nielsen Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. This stuff is a staple in my baking cabinet, mostly because it adds the touch of those little vanilla speckles that always make a dessert feel more elevated. They even recently released a new version of the Vanilla Bean Paste, made with Tahitian vanilla, which carries fruity and floral notes (as opposed to the Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste, which is more rich and creamy in flavor).

Since my vanilla of choice was a little more on the fruity side, I chose to make my first ever panna cotta a passion fruit panna cotta. Instead of making my own passion fruit curd, I opted for one I already knew was great, but maybe next time I'll be brave enough to try making one from scratch!

I was almost shaking when I un-molded my little rounds of creamy goodness for the first time, but they turned out PERFECTLY! Fruity, floral, just a touch of sourness, and a silky smooth texture that makes you never want to stop eating them. Don't like passion fruit? You can literally use this base recipe with any kind of flavor! Fruit jams, infused syrups, spice blends... the possibilities are literally endless!

Passion Fruit Panna Cotta

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup passion fruit curd
2 tablespoons Nielsen Massey Tahitian Vanilla Bean Paste
1 envelope un-flavored gelatin
2 tablespoons any sweet white wine (can also use white grape juice)

Add two tablespoons of white wine to a small sauce pan and sprinkle gelatin over the surface of the liquid. Leave to bloom.

Add heavy cream, half and half, and sugar to a medium sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a soft boil, then take off the heat. Add in the passion fruit curd and the vanilla bean paste and whisk slowly to combine.

Heat wine and gelatin mixture over a medium heat. Remove immediately once gelatin is completely dissolved. Very slowly, pour the gelatin mixture into the cream mixture while whisking. Once everything is combined, pour into small ramekins (should fill about 4-8, depending on size). Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour (over night is best).

To un-mold, unwrap the ramekins and run a thin knife blade along the edge. Dip them into a bowl of hot water for a few seconds, then invert them onto a plate. Garnish with fresh berries and serve.

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