No one, including me, wants to turn on a hot oven when it’s a sizzling 100 degree outside! No, what we want to do is make a summer seasonal dessert that requires minimal effort, and a high reward of the rich, creamy and fruity dessert variety. So…cue in this Summer Berry Mascarpone Panna Cotta.
Panna Cotta (“cooked cream”) is an Italian dessert that originated in the Northern region of Piedmont that marries poetically with seasonal berries. The addition of mascarpone, a buttery and fresh Italian cream cheese, adds a silky and decadent richness that elevates this panna cotta to fancy dessert status.
The seeds for this particular recipe were planted outside, in the middle of the strawberry fields at Green Door Gourmet in Nashville earlier this summer.I was there to pick up strawberries for the kids’ school fundraiser (you see, Sumner Academy partners with local farms to sell fresh local produce instead of unhealthy foods as fundraisers, awesome, right?!?), and I grabbed a few or 20 baskets for me! Such an abundance of riches needed to be honored in way worthy of their natural, juicy, sun-ripened goodness.
The goal of a perfect Panna Cotta is to be just set, have a delicate wobble and hold it’s shape when umolded. This recipe meets those requirements, with the added bonus of being easy to prepare, and most lovely to devour.
2 cups half and half
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste or extract
1 packet plain unflavored gelatin
1, 8 oz (226 grams), container mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries
2 tablespoons sugar
How to us them:
In a small pot, whisk the half and half, sugar, and vanilla until combined. Sprinkle the gelatin over the half and half and sugar mixture, and let it sit for 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to bloom.After 5 minutes, gently heat the mixture on medium-low heat, whisking it frequently until it is heated all the way through, approximately 5 minutes. Do not allow it to come to a boil. You want to start seeing steam rise from the milk, but not come to a simmer or boil.While the half and half gelatin mixture is heating, add the mascarpone cheese and orange zest to a blender.
Once the half and half gelatin mixture is heated through, add it to the mascarpone in the blender and blend on the highest setting until the mixture is completely smooth and creamy.Pour the mixture into 6, 8oz small dessert dishes or ramekins.Chill the panna cotta for at least 4 hours.Half an hour before serving the panna cotta, macerate the berries by stirring them with the sugar and set aside.
Top each of the 6 panna cottas equally with the berries and serve. You can either serve the panna cotta in the chilled dessert dish…or you can also invert the panna cotta onto a plate. Simply run a small sharp knife along the edge of the panna cotta and then turn it over onto your serving dish.