I love to bake. I seriously, really, honestly love to bake. It brings me immeasurable joy and it’s a passion I happily dwell in, often at the expense of a good night’s sleep! But, when the temperatures begins to rise and the most chic accessory I’m wearing is sunscreen, I look to our garden and the farmer’s market for culinary inspiration, and it often does not require turning on the oven. So, on days like today with a high of 91°F and 71% humidity, a lush, cool, creamy White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta topped with seasonal cherries is the most perfect end to a hot, muggy day.
1 cup (8 oz/237 ml) whole milk
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (about 1 tablespoon)
2 (16 oz/ 473 ml) cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 oz (128 grams) bar white chocolate, chopped
How to use them:
Panna Cotta (“cooked cream”) is an Italian dessert that originated in the Northern region of Piedmont, and it’s oh so much more grandiose than the humble name implies. This gelatin thickened cream can be flavored with a myriad of infusions. In this Panna Cotta, the classic vanilla bean and subtle notes of white chocolate where inspired by and naturally complimented the seasonal cherries that marry beautifully with this elegant dessert.
The goal of a perfect Panna Cotta is to be just set and have a delicate wobble. It should also hold it’s shape when umolded, and your spoon ought to effortlessly glide through the thicken cream. How do we accomplish all of that? Just like anything else in life my friends, it all starts with the first step! And our first step here is to prepare the ingredients by scraping the seeds from the vanilla bean pod and chop the white chocolate.Pour the milk in a small bowl or measuring cup and sprinkle the gelatin over it and set it aside for 5 minutes.Pour the milk and gelatin mixture in a medium pot and gently heat on medium 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. Once the milk is heated through, add the cream, vanilla bean seeds and pod, salt, and white chocolate.Continue to whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is thoroughly heated, without coming to a boil, an additional 5 minutes.Once everything is thoroughly incorporated and heated, pour the mixture through a strainer to remove the vanilla pod and catch any stray bits of gelatin to ensure a smooth mixture.Make sure to use your spatula to press all of these flavorful vanilla bits through the sieve. Pour the mixture into small dessert dishes or ramekins. The number of servings depends on the size of your serving dishes.Chill for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.Serve chilled in the dessert dish or you can also invert the dessert 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.I never tire of the stunning visual of all of the pretty little specks of vanilla against the stark white panna cotta. You can serve the panna cotta plain, but my preference is to adorn it with a fruit preserve such as the Homemade Cherry Preserves you see here……or fresh seasonal fruit, a decadent chocolate ganache, a creamy caramel, or anything your imagination can dream up.