Panna Cotta Is So Much More Than Just Cooked Cream
Panna cotta is one of those foods that is always better tasted than explained. The literal translation of this popular Italian dessert is 'cooked cream'. Not so appealing, right? The standard description of panna cotta doesn't fare much better — cream and sugar thickened with gelatin. Creamy Jello? Enough said!
But what this dessert lacks in descriptive appeal, it most definitely makes up for in flavor. This is a prime example of a product being so much more than just the sum of its parts. Most panna cottas contain a short list of ingredients and take almost no time to prepare, but when done right, the result is a luscious, velvety dessert with a light, pudding-like consistency.
I tried my first, and what I thought would be my last, panna cotta in Italy, years ago. It was presented alone on a clear, glass plate. At first glance, it was obvious that the dessert had been unmolded from one of those disposable, aluminum dessert cups — not only did the imprint from the pleats of the mold vertically cascade down the sides of my panna cotta, but the writing from the bottom of the cup had also been embossed onto what was now the top of my dessert. I first gently poked it with my spoon, to find it only slightly yield as one rubbery mass, and then immediately spring back to where it had started. My first bite was chewy and more reminiscent of calimari, than pudding. My second, and final bite, was like gnawing a white, opaque SuperBall, and about as flavorful.
I returned from Italy understanding why it was that I had never tried panna cotta before and why I would never try it again. But a few years later, I had a total change of heart. I was in New York City, dining at Gramercy Tavern with a group of friends, and we had decided to order some desserts to share. When a few people insisted upon the buttermilk panna cotta with huckleberries, I reluctantly agreed, but was ultimately really glad that they had ordered it. This panna cotta sat low on the plate and jiggled wildly, seemingly on the verge of collapsing into a gush of white liquid. I slid a bite of it onto my spoon and swiftly lifted it to my mouth. It was cool and creamy and dissolved on my tongue, slipping down my throat, before I had time to exhale. The flavor was delicately sweet with the subtle, tart zing of the buttermilk hitting at the end. The accompanying huckleberries, deep in color and beautifully fragrant, were the perfect balance to the tanginess of the panna cotta.
Today, panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts. I find that its simple, neutral flavor lends itself to numerous variations. Sometimes I like to fold something into the mixture, like lemon zest, melted chocolate or pureed fruit, before it is put into the refrigerator to set. At other times, I like to let the panna cotta stand on its own, and simply accent it with fresh or poached fruit, toasted nuts or a melted chocolate drizzle.
The key to making a great panna cotta lies with getting the consistency right and this entirely depends on the amount of gelatin used — the less the better. Typically, I like to slightly decrease the amount of gelatin called for in most recipes to ensure that I never end up with a rubbery, chewy blob like the one I had in Italy.
Featured Culinary Schools
- Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
- Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
- Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
- Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
- Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
- Flexible Scheduling
- Financial Aid
- Transferable Credits
- Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
- Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
- Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
- Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
- Online Courses
- Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
- Teaches students by having them spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
- Provide hands-on training from instructors who are certified, master chefs.
- Offer flexible schedules and online programs.
- Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
- Flexible Scheduling
- Financial Aid
- A private, accredited distance learning college based in Norcross, Georgia founded in 1987.
- Ensures that service members, their spouses and veterans can maximize their military education benefits.
- Gives students the option to customize monthly payments to fit their budgets and lifestyle.
- Offers all-inclusive tuition: textbooks, learning materials, and academic support are covered in the cost.
- Allows alumni to enroll in any future program at a reduced rate.
- Online Courses