06 August 2014

Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta, a Piemontese Treat

What a funny summer we have had here in the Alps. I don't know about you, but I am just a tad disappointed in the lack of hot glistening days so far this summer. However, there is one Italian dessert that I am certain will lift your spirits or top off a perfect hot summer day and that would be the crown jewel of Piemontese desserts that is panna cotta. This simple ending to a meal is perfection on a plate. It's light and yet indulgent. The name "panna cotta" literally translates as "cooked cream". Piedmont, one of Italy's northern regions in which I live, and that borders France, is famous for it's dairy rich cuisine and oftentimes overlap of  French culinary influence. Piedmont was once the kingdom of Savoy, whose royal house spawned many a tradition both culinary and culturally that have passed down through the ages and households of its loyal subjects.  This dessert will win your heart with its simplicity, versatility and easy preparation.  

Poued into cups before they have been refrigerated
The most traditional way of eating this dessert is just plain relying on the goodness and quality of the cream, however it certainly lends itself to many variations of sauces to accompany it or various liqueurs, or herbal infusions that if done with a light hand, adds layers of intrigue. 
I love this version of infusing the cream with a small amount of fresh lemon verbena leaves for the summer as a lighter version from my winter version that utilizes my homemade walnut liqueur called nocino. Both are winners and only a steeping off point to vary this lucious creamy dessert that you can whip up in the morning and enjoy for dinner that evening or the next. I have noticed that a few restaurants are starting to serve their panna cotta in a clear glass jar that insures that they don't have to worry about the dessert setting up on time or being anxious that the delightful little wiggle that a well made panna cotta has when turned out onto your plate and carried to the table, that insures a few oohs and aahs from your adoring dinner guests.  
I have added a subtle amount of lemon verbena and so you made find you want to add more or less, it could depend on how large your leaves are or whether or not they are fresh or dried. When infusing the cream, just make sure to taste your cream a while after it has sat in order to insure you have as much flavor as you want. If not strong enough, add more crushed leaves and reheat if it has cooled took much. It's up to you.
Colle di pesce geletin and lemon verbena leaves

Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta

with a Blueberry Compote

5 servings
  • 2 long gelatin sheets, long sheets or 4 short sheets (place in bowl of cold water)
  • 400 g of heavy cream (2 cups)
  • 120 g whole milk (½ cup)
  • 70 g sugar (6 T vanilla sugar is nice)
  • 8 or so lemon verbena leaves, fresh (approximately 2 T  or so)

  1. In a saucepan add heavy cream and milk along with the lemon verbena leaves
  2. Heat till it is hot to the touch and turn off heat and let the milk cream mixture infuse with the lemon verbena for about 1/2 hour. Test the mixture after about 10 minutes to see how the flavor is coming along and perhaps adjust by adding a few leaves if needed. 
  3. Place your gelatin sheets in cold water to soften while your cream mix infuses. 
  4. Strain out the leaves once your cream is flavored to a good strength but not too strong. Remove leaves earlier if you think it is getting to strong for your taste. I prefer a more subtle flavor but still to be strong enough to know it is there. 
  5. Once the mixture has cooled some and flavor has developed, I usually strain the leaves out into a bowl and clean out the bottom of the pan to make sure it won't stick when warming up the cream and sugar.
  6. Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of the pan and pour the infused milk and cream mixture back into the pan.
  7. Gently squeeze the sheets of gelatin dry and add sheets to the cream mixture.

  8. Stir until sheet of gelatin has dissolved, reheating if necessary to dissolve the gelatin if the cream has cooled too much..Pour into cups and let set at room temperature until cool to touch. Refrigerate  or several hours until gelain has set and ready to serve.  (at least a couple of hours or overnight is good)
Suggestions: Any liquor or flavoring(vanilla, amend extract, Amaretto, Frangelico, Gran Marnier, Nocino, you get the idea) may be substituted for variety or taste preference.

Blueberry or other berry Compote

2 c.  fresh blueberries (200g)
4-5 T sugar (50 - 70 g) (can a bit more or less depending how sweet you want it to be)

Combine berries and sugar in a sauce pan and cook gently till the berries pop and make a soft creamy  compote for the panna cotta.

To Serve:
Unmold the pannacotta by running a small blunt knife around the edge of the cup.  Place a plate over the panna cotta and flip over. Tap gently on the bottom of the cups. (I have used plastic yogurt cups before and they have a little give when you are tapping that helps) The panna cotta should come right out. If not you can let gravity help you or place your plans over as the heat of your hands will help encourage the panna cotta to come out. Spoon your room temperature berries on the plate by the panna cotta.
Panna cotta with fresh cherry compote


Unknown said...

Wow wow wow! This looks incredible! I am going to the italian Alps at the end of August ANd your blog has inspired and excited me for All the delicious food to come :-)

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thank you Anneka. Have a fantastic time and enjoy the whole Italian package. Come see us if you ever get over our way in the Italian alps!

Unknown said...

I absolutely will! Thanks Marla :-)

Rambling Tart said...

Caramel panna cotta in the Piedmont is one of my favorite Italian memories. :-) This sounds every bit as good and I will try it as soon as Spring arrives here in Australia and my lemon verbena perks up again. :-)

Bella Baita Marla said...

Rambling Tart, hello and thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree Panna cotta is a wonderful memory of Piedmont. I hope you will enjoy this one when your lemon verbena returns!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I used to grow lemon verbena in my garden back in he day.Now that I live in a condo it is decidedly harder to find but worth the search.

Jenny P said...

I didn't realise that panna cotta was particularly Piemontese. Next time we visit I'll make sure I have one. Thank you for the delicious recipte!

lisa | renovating italy said...

Sounds like even I could manage this one, you and Krista from Rambling Tart are my cooking inspirations xxx

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I haven't thought of Panna Cotta in ages, and I love it. Can't wait to try your recipe - we have a Huge erba Luisa (lemon verbena) bush by the front steps; it will be fun to use the leaves in something other than herb tea or liquor. Thanks!

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thanks Jenny P, Lisa and Farfalle1. Yes panna cotta is a product of northern Italy's abundance and affinity to all things dairy. We have some very contented cows up here. Do give it a whirl. You won't regret it,

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