|This simple dessert is a great way to finish off a heavy meal
You have to give it to the Italians when it comes to creating magic with simple ingredients – bruschetta (the classic version with the chopped tomato-basil-mozarella), a panzanella salad which makes you want to have leftover bread and then there’s the panna cotta. The tiramisu might be the undisputed queen of desserts when it comes to an Italian meal, but for me if you’re looking to end the meal on a light but equally delicious note then you need not look past the panna cotta.
I don’t remember the first time I tasted this dessert but what I do remember is the first time I fell head-over-heels in love with it. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon at work, just like it is today, my colleague and I stepped out for an Italian lunch. We knew what we wanted the minute we took a look at the menu, the colleague had even decided on dessert by then. As we finished our main course I was in a quandary – should I have the usual tiramisu at this restaurant, which I know is fabulous, or should I go in for something different? I was quite full by then so I decided to go in for the vanilla bean panna cotta with mixed berry compote, the simple combination and clean flaovurs had me bowled over.
Since then I’d wanted to try panna cotta at home and the time came when we had an elaborate Sunday lunch. Instead of the usual cake or pudding, I decided to make a panna cotta to round off the meal. I had some mascarpone cheese in the fridge, so I decided use that instead of cream and I didn’t want anything heavy so chocolate was ruled out. All I did was grate some fresh orange zest into the cheese and sweeten it with some honey. Ah, delicious! La dolce vita, certainly.
Orange & honey panna cotta with lemon caramel
For the panna cotta
1 tsp of fresh orange zest
¼ cup of skim milk
2 tsp of gelatine mixed with some cold water
3 tbsp honey, use more if you like it sweet
A pinch of grated nutmeg
Heat the skim milk in a saucepan with some honey. Take it off the heat when it begins to bubble and allow it to cool down until it is a little above room temperature.
Mix the orange zest into the mascarpone cheese and fold well. Add the gelatine-water mixture to the warm milk and honey and add this to the cheese. Mix well and add the nutmeg powder before giving it one final stir. Divide the mixture into four individual glasses/bowls and chill for about 6 hours or allow it to set overnight.
For the lemon caramel
3 tbsp of demerara sugar
A small pat of butter
1 tsp of lemon juice (you can omit this because it tends to make the caramel a little bitter, use lemon zest instead)
In a saucepan melt the butter and add the sugar to this, keep stirring continuously until it melts and forms thick syrup. You know the caramel is done when it becomes very stringy. Remove from the heat, add the lime juice to this (it might cause the caramel to sputter, but don’t worry) and mix well. Drizzle this on to butter paper in various shapes, lines or squiggles.
|The caramel squiggles!
Allow them to completely dry out. I mean completely. That will take about 4 hours or so, before you use them.
|Allow the caramel to dry completely, otherwise it will break fast
To assemble the dessert:
Check if your panna cotta is set. Garnish with a piece of the caramel and serve immediately.
- Panna cotta is often made with just cream, you can replace the mascarpone in this recipe with fresh cream but remember to gently boil that with the milk.
- Let your imagination run wild with the flavours, but just remember this: don’t mix up too many of them or you’ll loose the attention from the creamy texture of the panna cotta.
- You can serve this with fresh, cut fruits for a stunning but simple dessert. The panna cotta is often white in colour, so add the colour with the fruits and berries.
PS: For those of you who are wondering what the title of this post means, it is ‘a sweet finale’ in Italian!
Since this is a simple dessert and fit for summer, I’m sending this to Anusha’s Summer Spirits at Tomato Blues
And also to Showcase Desserts at Divya’s culinary journey