Many moons ago, I bought five silicone molds at the market. The main reason I did this was to get my hands on these gorgeous little jewel molds. I could just imagine the elegant canapes and sophisticated dessert bites I would make, you know, for all those black-tie cocktail parties I host. Since that is actually someone else’s life, the jewel molds languished on the shelf, passed over in favor of the domes or the muffin cups. And then strawberry season rolled around.
And I was seized with the desire to make panna cotta. I had some gelatin leaves in the cupboard, just waiting for me to come up with a reason for purchasing them. And that reason came along when I bought too many strawberries one morning at the market – they were bright red, super fragrant, grown in France, and only 5 euros a kilo! So I was faced with the challenge of how to eat a kilo of ultra-ripe strawberries before they went bad. If only all challenges in life were this delicious.
Panna cotta seemed like a good spring dessert – minimal effort, infinitely adaptable, and I could finally use my jewel molds! Panna cotta is oddly named, in that it literally means “cooked cream” in Italian, though you can make it without doing any cooking at all. For mine, I just blended some of those gorgeous strawberries with some lait ribot (a new favorite ingredient around here) because I love the way the milky tang of buttermilk acts in desserts, and I thought it would keep the whole thing very fresh and light on the palate. Then I blended in some melted gelatin sheets, which immediately coagulated in the cold liquid. No problem, a few short shots in the microwave and it was ready to pour into my molds.
Now what to serve them on?
Lime and strawberry always play nice together, so I thought a buttery lime shortbread would be just the thing. For such a classically French cookie I turned to Clotilde and ever so slightly modified her recipe for lemon shortbread (as in I swapped out the lemon zest for lime, and didn’t bother glazing them), although now that I have Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, I will be making up my own shortbread recipes.
All of a sudden, there they were: the gorgeous, mouthwatering little bites of my fantasies. Almost makes me want to throw a fancy cocktail party.
Strawberry-Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Sweet strawberries and tangy buttermilk are a natural pairing in this silky-smooth panna cotta. The prep time on this one is about 5 minutes, but it needs to be done several hours ahead to give the panna cotta time to set up. I freeze it in silicone molds in order to get clean edges, but this is not strictly necessary. It would be just as delicious served in a pretty glass or cute ramekin – no unmolding required! The texture will be the most luscious if you serve this at cool room temperature… think proper wine-serving temperature… so be sure to take it out of the freezer at least an hour before serving (15-20 minutes for the fridge).
188 g / 6.6 oz. washed and hulled strawberries (about 1 basket, minus a few snacks)
235 ml / 1 cup lait ribot, buttermilk, or plain yogurt thinned with milk
2-4 Tbsp. sugar (depends entirely on your palate– put those taste buds to work!)
1 Tbsp. water
13 g / .45 oz. leaf gelatin, soaked in cold water (should be approximately equivalent to 1 packet / 2¼ tsp. of powdered gelatin, which needs to be bloomed in 3 Tbsp. / 45 ml of cold water)
- Combine the strawberries, buttermilk, sugar, and water in a measuring jug or blender. Puree with an immersion blender (or just the blender). Taste and adjust the sugar level if necessary.
- Remove the leaf gelatin from the soaking water and melt over low heat or in the microwave. (If you’re using powdered gelatin, melt it with the blooming water.)
- Whisk the gelatin into the strawberry mixture. This will go most smoothly if the liquid isn’t too cold, but if the gelatin clumps, just heat the whole mess in 20-second intervals in the microwave until it smoothes out.
- Pour the panna cotta mixture into desired molds. Freeze if you plan on cleanly unmolding them from silicone molds, otherwise refrigerate. Allow to set completely, which will take several hours. This can be done days ahead of time (even a couple weeks in the freezer).
- Serve at cool room temperature with crispy cookies.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.