Panna Cotta simply means 'cooked cream'. It's texture is silken and light and it's flavor is fresh and tangy. I love making panna cotta with buttermilk and yogurt since it adds to the 'tang' quality of the finished dessert, which I really enjoy. If you can find it, use sheep or goat's milk yogurt to give your dessert that extra depth of flavor.
One of the best things about panna cotta is that it's endlessly versatile. I have some gorgeous blackberries on hand and I thought I'd macerate them with a little honey and aged balsamic vinegar and spoon that compote over top. Macerated fresh fruits or berries with honey & liqueur or any fruit conserve would be divine here. Use your imagination about toppings based on what looks best in season.
**Note- Since this is primarily a vegetarian blog, I do feel the need to mention that this dessert contains gelatin. Without going into what exactly gelatin is made of (unpleasant), I will say that it's anything but vegetarian. If you want to keep things truly veg-friendly here, you can easily substitute 1/3 cup silken tofu in place of the hydrated gelatin in the recipe. After steps 2-3 below, add the tofu along with the rest of the ingredients to a food processor and process until completely smooth. Continue with steps 4-5 as indicated.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta:
Yields 4, 4 oz ramekins
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
7 oz plain greek style yogurt (low-fat/ non-fat is fine)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
2 TB cold water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1) Add the 2TB water to a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over top and let stand until bloomed, about 5 minutes.
2) In a bowl (preferbaly with a spout), whisk together the buttermilk, yogurt, 1/4 cup cream, salt & vanilla.
3) In a small saucepan heat the remaining 1/2 cup cream with the sugar. Heat until sugar is dissolved and cream is very hot, but not boiling. Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatin, using a silicone spatula to make sure you scrape all the gelatin into the pan. Whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolve, which might take up to 1 minute. Pour the cream/sugar/gelatin into the yogurt mixture and divide between the ramekins. Work quickly here because once the gelatin mixture hits the cold yogurt, it will start to set up.
4) Chill (uncovered) at least 4 hours or overnight. Once the panna cotta is fully chilled, you can cover tightly with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you cover before the custard is fully chilled, you'll increase the likelihood of condensation forming on top.
5) To unmold, run a sharp, warm knife around the outside of the ramekin. Invert onto a serving plate. If it doesn't release right away, give it a firm tap on the bottom. It should slip right out onto the plate. If it still doesn't pop out, dip the bottom of the ramekin in a small bowl of hot water for a couple of seconds and then try inverting it again.