If you’re staying in this Valentines Day, don’t let it get you down. Whether you’re spending the evening with parents, or celebrating single-hood with friends, or quietly getting some Me-Time with a good book and affection from your dog, Valentines Day is the celebration of Love. So I guess it doesn’t matter where the love comes from, but rather that it does, giving every one of us cause to celebrate. Of course you well know by now, a celebration, especially on the day of Love, would be unconsummated without a pleasurable dessert to lift the mood. So I urge you to have dessert on your list of must-do’s this Valentines Day and show yourself a little love.
Panna Cotta is the dessert I chose to bring the table for this occasion because it’s painless satisfaction, served around the world in some exceptional restaurants it’s hard to imagine it could be this simple. Great chefs understand the value of simplicity and I believe this is the reason Panna Cotta has risen to its current esteem in the restaurant industry. I thought about it for a while and I came to the conclusion that Panna Cotta was just Italy’s unconventional take on enjoying fruit and cream for dessert at a time when fresh fruit and fresh cream were widely appreciated. Literally translated “panna cotta” means cooked cream, and all this dessert really is, is heated cream and sugar set with gelatine, quintessentially served in elegant measures and accompanied with fresh fruit. Delicate, simple, beautiful to eat.
Over the years as it rose up the ranks this petite dessert continued to re-invent itself again and again with different flavours and presentations, yet another reason why Panna Cotta has become one of the greats, because you can recreate it over and over with fresh new ideas. This day and age has seen untold variations with a more sophisticated approach of flavoured creams while the fruit element has changed from fresh to cooked and served by way of a compote, glaze or a coulis. So basically, to make a contemporary Panna Cotta all you really need is a feel for what flavours pair well together and you are on your way to creating an iconic dessert.
For this I’ve paired lemon with blueberry, a classic combination, only here I’ve added a splash of Limoncello Cream for an adult celebration. Limoncello is the prize of Italy’s accomplishments in the aperitif category and as the name suggests, it is lemony-beautiful. Limoncello Cream is sweet and and just as pleasurable to our sense of smell as to our taste. If you don’t have some lying around, you could use any other lemon infused alcohol or simply omit the alcohol and replace it with a drop or two of lemon extract, for a PG rendition. I’ve changed the conventional presentation of setting the dessert in moulds, saving myself time from having to turn them out later, opting rather to set them in narrow-bowled tulip wine glasses which still keep the servings petite. Combined with the sweet yet tart Blueberry Compote, this Limoncello Panna Cotta in a glass, crested with Lemon Chocolate Shards is fit for a fine restaurant giving you an excellent reason to chin up if you haven’t made plans to dine out on restaurants busiest night of the year.
- 300ml fresh cream
- 2tbs castor sugar
- 2 gelatine leaves
- 60ml Limoncello Cream
- zest of 1 lemon
For the Blueberry Compote
- 125g fresh blueberries
- 3tsp castor sugar
- 30ml water
For the Lemon Chocolate Shards
- 50g white chocolate
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- In a small saucepan heat fresh cream with lemon zest and sugar on low heat until sugar dissolves.
- Meanwhile hydrate gelatine leaves by soaking in cold water.
- After ten minutes the gelatine should be well hydrated and the cream, sugar mixture heated well.
- Squeeze out the water from the gelatine and add to the hot cream.
- Whisk until gelatine has dissolved in hot cream.
- Add liqueur and stir till combined.
- Pour the mixture into prepared glasses, that’s been rinsed and dried and free of water spots.
- Place in the fridge to set for 4 hours minimum or up to 24 hours. The longer it sets the better the taste.
- For the blueberry compote place berries in a saucepan with sugar and water and heat on medium heat until it reaches a thick saucy consistency. Switch off the heat and leave to cool at room temperature.
- For the lemon chocolate, create a double boiler by bringing a small amount of water to the simmer in a small pot. Place a larger bowl of chocolate pieces over the simmering water and allow the steam to melt the chocolate, mixing the chocolate with a spatula to help it along. Add lemon zest and mix it in. Once the chocolate has melted, spread it out (not too thinly) on a sheet of parchment paper. Leave the sheet in the fridge to set the chocolate. Once set, break into shards.
- After 4 hours dish the cooled compote over the cold panna cotta.
- Garnish with chocolate and serve.
Maestros Need to Know *Always taste the cream and compote mixture to ensure that the sweetness is to your satisfaction before removing from the heat. *Remember that the sugar is going to help the cream to not boil over so add it in early which also ensures that the sugar is well dissolved. *Make sure that the cream is well heated in order to melt the gelatine sufficiently. If the cream gets too cold before the addition of the gelatine, the gelatine will not melt and assimilate into the cream. *You will find that sometimes cornflour is added to compotes to thicken them but when working with small quantities of fruit and less water it is not necessary because fruit has a natural thickening agent pectin. The pectin in the fruit will thicken the compote without altering the natural colour. Cornflour has a tendency to lighten the natural colour of the fruit. *Remember if you add freshly made hot compote over the panna cotta, it will melt. Do not neglect to cool the compote completely. *When melting the chocolate, ensure that it does not go beyond melting point because you will not be able to restore it by adding butter or milk like for chocolate ganache. Any addition of butter or milk will prevent the chocolate from hardening again to its former capacity. Smaller amounts of chocolate will melt fairly quickly, so keep the heat low or you may even switch it off to finish the process. A good way to tell that the chocolate has not gone beyond the melting stage is it's shine. Chocolate that has been melted correctly should have a good lustre to it.