It’s official: My Sundays are now “Sweet Sundays.” I mentioned last month that I was having a hard time committing to making a dessert a week, so I thought having a dessert feature on the blog would help jump-start my efforts. I may post some dessert outside of Sundays (I doubt Dr. O would complain about more treats!), but look for Sweet Sundays every week at least through the end of summer.
There are few things I love more than a gorgeous, decadent dessert, but my goal this week was something light and easy that would be the perfect end to a weeknight meal. Everyday Food has published multiple variations on Italian panna cotta – a cold Italian dessert that literally means “cooked cream” – throughout the years, but I’ve never tried one. I had some extra buttermilk on hand from making chicken salad (post coming soon!), so I decided to try the Buttermilk Custard with Raspberry Sauce recipe from the May/June 2003 issue of Everyday Food.
To start, I sprinkled 1 1/2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin over 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl. I let the mixture stand until softened (5 minutes).
In a medium saucepan, I heated 1/2 cup of half-and-half and 1/2 cup of sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolved and the mixture was hot but not boiling (5 minutes). I removed the pan from the heat, stirred in the softened gelatin (2 minutes, just to make sure it dissolved), and then added 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk and 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract. I stirred the mixture together and poured it into 4 6-ounce custard cups. I chilled the custards until they were set (3 hours).
To make the sauce, I pureed 1 1/4 cups of raspberries (you can use fresh or frozen) with 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice in a blender. I strained the sauce through a sieve into a bowl, pressing it with a spatula. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, adjust the consistency by stirring in a bit of water.
Here comes the part I was worried about – actually removing the custards from the molds. In pictures, it seems like panna cotta always comes from these rounded, shallow molds, but the custard cups I was able to find were more dome-like than oval. The instructions made it sound so easy: Dip each ramekin in hot water, invert it onto a serving plate, and shake gently until the custard releases. In reality, it was more like dip each ramekin in hot water for 20 seconds (maybe my hot tap water isn’t that hot?), invert just over a serving plate, and shake gently for 2 to 3 MINUTES until the custard releases. I never thought the sound of a gelatinous custard releasing from the side of a dish could be a beautiful thing, but it is. Really.
Once I released the custards from the molds, I spooned the raspberry sauce around them and added a raspberry garnish.
I mentioned that I was a bit disappointed by my last “light” dessert – Lemon Custard Cakes – but these custards exceeded my expectations. The mini workout it took to get them out of the molds was worth it. They were creamy with great vanilla flavor, and the raspberry sauce was divine. Great flavor + no guilt = a keeper!
TIPS: If you decide to use frozen raspberries for the sauce, be sure to thaw them on paper towels at room temperature for 30 minutes first. I was impatient and mine were still a bit frozen, so I had to add 2 tablespoons of water in the blender (before I strained the sauce) to get a good consistency.
Recipe link: Buttermilk Custard with Raspberry Sauce