My lemon tree is bursting with so much fruit it’s begging for me to start baking with lemons. Or feed the whole neighborhood some freshly squeezed lemon juice. (Not that they’re asking for it…)
Last year we squeezed the whole tree worth of lemons for some hard lemonade at our housewarming party. So. Many. Lemons. On a related note, I found out very quickly I had a small cut in my hand. Aie! Consequently, I’m taking a break from lemon juice this year.
I was running through some ideas of what to make this weekend for the Super Bowl in the hopes of using up some lemons. Sure you could do the usual cookies, spicy hot wings, or the like, but how about something a bit different. A bit…easier, dare I say? I already set myself up to fry umpteen pounds of chicken wings this Sunday and get this, my birthday is the day before. Soooo, I won’t have much time on my hands.
Enter: panna cotta.
I’m actually surprised more people don’t make panna cotta. At the restaurant I worked at, it was a regular addition. It’s relatively cheap, really easy to flavor and customize (seriously), and takes very little time to put together. Actually, if you pour the panna cotta into individual portions, it only takes a few hours to set. (You’d probably spend that much time trying to find the right ingredients if you choose a different type of recipe..)
If you’re vegan, you can substitute in equal amounts of agar instead of gelatin and choose your favorite non-dairy product over milk and cream.
If you want to make it lower calorie, you can substitute reduced fat milk or lower the sugar.
And if you’re totally jonesing for a sweet fix right now, you can pop a small serving in the freezer to speed up the setting process (but don’t let it freeze!) or in an ice bath for a quick treat.
Do I need any more reasons?
It doesn’t have chocolate? Whisk in some melted chocolate.
Alright, I’m out of reasons. It’s certifiably awesome. Now for the juicy details.
This panna cotta has the perfect amount of gelatin to result in a creamy, smooth consistency. Panna cotta that’s firm enough to turn out on a plate and stand on its own will be closer to the consistency of a soft cheese . That’s not quite what I’m going for. (If you do want to turn the panna cotta out onto a plate, double the amount of gelatin.)
Fat content wise, this recipe isn’t lacking but it’s not going overboard either. Fat is a nice vehicle for flavor, especially fat soluble flavor like the lemon oil and oils in the lemon zest! For that reason, we’ll use a mixture that’s roughly 2/3rds cream and 1/3rd milk. Note: If you want to make it lower calorie, you certainly can, however, you may want to add other flavorings like berry compote.
Lemon Panna Cotta with Raspberry Anise Gelée
Lemon Panna Cotta
- 2 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 and 1/2 c whole milk
- 5 T sugar
- 4 T unflavored powdered gelatin
- 6 T lemon zest, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp lemon oil
- 1 T Grand Marnier
- 1 ea whole vanilla bean, scraped
Raspberry Anise Gelée
- 12 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen (optional: reserving some fresh ones for garnishing, if possible)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- ½ c sugar
- 2 ea star anise
- 6 T water
- 1 T or 7 g unflavored powdered gelatin
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 T powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Yield: 4 large (8-oz) servings or 8 small (4-oz) servings
Use clear disposable cups if you’re preparing this for a large group or party!
Heat the whole milk in a small sauce pot or in a bowl in the microwave until steaming, but not boiling. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top, cover, and let it sit until the gelatin blooms. To speed the process up, you can put the bowl or pot in a hot water bath or over low heat to dissolve the gelatin faster.
A lot of recipes don’t say to heat the liquid up before blooming the gelatin. This. Will. Take. Forever.
Heat the cream, sugar, vanilla bean, lemon zest, and lemon oil in a sauce pot over medium heat until lightly simmering. Turn off the heat, cover, and let set for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, strain the lemon bean and zest out because the texture of the lemon zest is a bit distracting when you eat it. Don’t worry, you have added enough lemon flavor by now.
Stir the milk and cream mixture together with the Grand Marnier.
If possible, put your empty glasses in the fridge first then pour the panna cotta into the glasses or containers you want to use. You’re less likely to splash it on the sides of the glass.
Cover the tops of the glasses with plastic wrap without touching the panna cotta. If the mixture is still steaming, wait until it stops first. Chill until the top has set, at least 1 hour. After an hour, you can move the plastic wrap down to touch the surface of the panna cotta. This prevents a tough, rubbery skin from forming on the top.
Can I put it in the freezer to make it set faster? Yes! However, you want to move the panna cotta to the refrigerator once the surface has cooled down to ~41 degrees or roughly the temperature of your refrigerator to avoid ice crystals.
Combine the raspberries, star anise, lemon juice, and sugar in a sauce pot on medium/low heat. Use a spatula or spoon to crush the whole raspberries, then lightly simmer for 10 minutes.
While the raspberries are cooking, heat the 6 T of water in a small dish in the microwave until steaming, but not boiling. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and stir until it dissolves.
After the raspberries are done cooking, remove from the heat and take out the star anise. At this point, you should be able to easily push the mixture through a fine strainer to remove the seeds. Set aside to cool slightly.
Mix the gelatin and water with the raspberry sauce. Let the mixture cool down until it stops steaming. Letting it cool is important because hot gelée will melt the top of the panna cotta, mixing the two layers. However, you don’t want it to cool too much or it will be too thick to pour.
Using a spoon or ladle, carefully pour a thin layer on top of the panna cotta. Cover the tops of the glass with plastic wrap, then chill until it sets, about 1 hour.
Once the top has set, add whipped cream and top with a garnish like fresh berries or a caramel tuile.