Lemon Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce

I bring odd souvenirs home with me when I travel. A tube of curry ketchup and a box of coconut "sheets" studded with raisins (to be eaten on toast) from Amsterdam. A little bottle of pandan extract from Singapore. Pearl sugar from Belgium. And, amongst other things, sheet gelatine from Barcelona. This last one is a bit strange, because sheet gelatine isn't even unique to Barcelonan cuisine. It's a little hard to find in North America and I'd never worked with it before, so I thought why not?

I finally used this gelatin to make a simple but sophisticated Italian dessert: panna cotta (or "cooked cream"). It's important to add just enough gelatin to make it set, but not so much that it's bouncy and flubber-like. Heavy cream is used to lend a silky, luxurious texture to the finished dessert. There are dozens of ways to flavour panna cotta, from simple vanilla to earl grey to rosewater. Since I had plenty of great blueberries to make a sauce with, I thought of the classic pairing with lemon. 

Tips and recipe after the jump...

Panna Cotta Pointers:

-Sheet gelatin is a little tricky to measure. Oftentimes they come in different sizes and recipes won't tell you what size to use. The 10g package I used had 6 sheets. These are the newer "half sized sheets" and are about the size of a hand. I used double the amount called for in the recipe, which was designed for older "full size" sheets. 

-Liquid that has gelatin in it cannot be boiled, or it will not set properly.

-Gradually cool the panna cotta mixture to room temperature before adding to molds and refrigerating. This prevents uneven cooling which can lead to layers separating in the panna cotta.

-To unmold, dip the molds in warm water to loosen the sides of the panna cotta. Press down gently on the surface of the panna cotta to break the suction from the side. It should spin easily inside the mold before you flip it onto the plate.

-Use molds that are an even thickness on all sides for easy unmolding. If the bottom is thicker than the sides (like on a teacup), the edges will be ready to unmold while the bottom is still cold and stuck.

-Put a drop of water on the plate surface before placing the panna cotta on it so that it can be easily repositioned.

Lemon Panna Cotta
Yields 6

3 leaves gelatine (full size)
600mL heavy cream
150mL milk
200g sugar
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lime

Soak the gelatine in a bowl of very cold water (iced, if necessary) and set aside.

Put the cream, milk and sugar into a large pan and bring slowly to a boil. When the cream is boiling, add the lemon juice, zest, and lime zest. Whisk well and simmer for a few minutes until reduced slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly (5-10 minutes).

Scoop softened gelatine out of the water and squeeze off any excess water. Stir into hot cream mixture. Allow to cool to lukewarm, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Pour into six 120mL molds. Refrigerate at least 5 hours until completely set (overnight preferable). 

Fresh Blueberry Sauce
1 pound fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 4 (1/2-inch-wide) strips lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
Combine blueberries, lemon peel, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring berry mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids to release as much liquid as possible. Discard solids and return sauce to a clean saucepan. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water, stirring until smooth. Add the cornstarch mixture to the blueberry sauce, stirring until the sauce comes to a boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool sauce to room temperature. 
Yield: 1 1/4 cups

Recipe credit: Gordon Ramsay
Images property of beetsandbites

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