Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Brandied Apricots ~ this cool eggless custard with a silky texture is easy to make and always popular.
I have two big bags of apricots and peaches fresh from the farmer’s market this weekend. The only problem is, you don’t get the luxury of time with ripe fruit like this. You have to be on your toes, pick a plan of action and get right to it. He who hesitates is lost. I know because I’ve hesitated, and lost, many times before.
This panna cotta seemed like a good first plan, one, because I’ve never made it before and two, it only required sacrificing a few of my apricots. I stewed them in a little sugar, water, brandy, and vanilla and that alone turned out to be worth the price of admission. I even spooned a little of the hot apricots over a small mound of vanilla ice cream so I could report back to you. It was possibly the best topping for ice cream I’ve ever tasted and I seriously could have stopped right there.
Panna Cotta is Italian for baked cream. It’s related to custard, flan, crème brûlée, coeur de crème,
pot de crème, and mousses, but it’s probably the simplest of all of them. There is no tricky cooking with eggs involved—the gelatin thickens the cream and is practically foolproof. It’s a good one to make for guests because practically everyone likes it. It’s cool silky light texture makes it a perfect hot weather dessert.
Sometimes you’ll see panna cotta served little jars or bowls, like I’ve done, and other times you’ll see it turned out onto bowls or plates. It can be plain, or made along with a sauce of some sort, either under it or over it. Usually it’s served in fairly small sized portions, mine are a little on the large side. I could have portioned out 6 or even 8 smaller servings. I based my panna cotta on this recipe.
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- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/2 cup sugar
- one 1/4 oz packet (2 1/2 tsp) powdered gelatin
- 5 apricots, pitted and sliced
- 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup brandy or Cognac
- squeeze of lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Put the apricots, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer the apricots for about 3 minutes, just until they soften but haven't broken down. Remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and layer them at the bottom of your serving dishes or jars.
- Add the brandy and lemon juice and boil the sauce for another 10 minutes or so, until it is reduced to a thick syrup. Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the syrup evenly over the apricots, about a tablespoon or so over each jar, don't drown the apricots.
- Meanwhile make the panna cotta---Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan, and add the vanilla bean seeds and the bean itself. Bring it up to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let it steep for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the vanilla bean pod, and add the sugar to the pan. Reheat the mixture and stir, just until the sugar is completely dissolved. Takeoff the heat.
- Put 2 tablespoons of boiling water in a small glass and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it sit for a few minutes while the gelatin softens.
- Stir the gelatin into the water until it is completely dissolved. Whisk it into the hot milk and cream mixture and blend it well.
- Carefully pour the mixture into the serving jars, filling to the top. Try not to disturb the apricots too much.
- Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.