Where panna cotta is cool, creamy and winey

Light, cool and creamy, a spoon glides though with ease — panna cotta with fresh berries is a perfect spring dessert. Of Italian heritage, panna cotta means cooked cream — though the cream is barely cooked, really just warmed enough to dissolve the sugar. Thickened with a little gelatin, these silky custards are best made a day ahead so the gelatin has time to set.

Usually made with sweet cream and milk, we added a touch of sour cream for a welcome tangy note that blends well with the fruity sauce. Strawberry season is beginning to peak and bathing the sliced berries in sweetened red wine syrup imparts an earthy flavor that complements the custard. Plus it looks gorgeous.

Panna cotta is possibly the easiest dessert that you can make, but a few things are important for success. Don’t boil the cream, just heat it. And be sure to stir the mixture well once you’ve added the gelatin, so it’s completely dissolved.

If you wish to unmold the custards, you’ll need to coat the insides of the ramekins lightly with cooking spray. If you don’t want to bother with that step, they’re just as delicious served in their little cups.

Miriam Rubin: mmmrubin@gmail.com or on Twitter @mmmrubin.

Sour Cream Panna Cotta 

PG tested

Serve these custards unmolded onto dessert plates or in their own little cups as they are equally elegant both ways. Make the panna cotta a day ahead for best results.

Cooking spray (optional)

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup whole milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set out four 6- to 8-ounce ramekins or custard cups. If you plan on unmolding the panna cottas, coat the insides of the cups with cooking spray.

Add 2 tablespoons cold water to a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let stand to “bloom.”

Add heavy cream, milk, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Remove from the heat, stir in the gelatin until completely mixed. Let cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, mix sour cream and vanilla. Without making too much foam, whisk cream-sugar mixture into the sour cream. Transfer to a Pyrex measuring cup and pour evenly into the ramekins or custard cups. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight until firm. It helps to put them on a baking sheet for transporting and keeping in the fridge so they’re level.

To unmold: One at a time, dip the ramekin in a small bowl of hot water for 20 seconds. Wipe it dry. With fingers, gently press around outside edge of custard to loosen it. Invert a dessert plate over the top and turn both over. Give it a shake and remove ramekin. Spoon the red wine-strawberry sauce over each panna cotta before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

— Miriam Rubin

Red Wine-Strawberry Sauce

1½ cups thinly sliced, hulled small strawberries

3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1/2 cup dry red wine

In serving bowl, mix strawberries and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes, to dissolve sugar and let juices flow.

Meanwhile, put red wine and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in heavy, medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 to 6 minutes, just until wine is reduced to about ¼ cup and is slightly syrupy.

Pour over strawberries and let cool or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 4 servings.


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