Farmers Market Finds II: Passion Fruit Panna Cotta

A sunny Saturday spent wandering the Ferry Building farmers market in SF yielded a fantastic discovery: fresh passion fruit! It's rare to find them in their fresh form, especially in the cities I've lived in; they often show up in tropical juice blends and in frozen form. California's fresh produce really is second to none. It was a nice surprise and exactly the inspiration I'd been missing for the past few months.

Passion fruit has a syrupy, tropical aroma-- it's hard to describe. While the pulp smells sweet, it's very sour, so it works best in creamy applications. It also has many hard black seeds which are edible, but not pleasant to chew on. Passion fruit is typically used in desserts (mousses, ganache, and panna cotta), but I recently had passion fruit-browned butter carrots at the newly opened TBD restaurant; I didn't know carrots could taste so good. 

The last time I made panna cotta, the recipe called for gelatin sheets. This one uses powdered gelatin which is much easier to find. I think passion fruit is my new favourite panna cotta flavour. The tropical fruitiness balances the smooth and creamy dessert perfectly. I wish passion fruit were easier to find, but I guess the rarity makes it a special treat.

Recipe after the jump!

Passion Fruit Panna Cotta

Serves 8

2 tbsp cold water
1 envelope (1 tbsp) powdered gelatin
2 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
1/3 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Pulp from 12 fresh passion fruit, strained through a fine mesh strainer (can substitute with thawed puree)

In a very small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand about 1 minute to soften. Heat gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin is dissolved and remove pan from heat.
In a large saucepan bring cream, milk, and sugar just to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring. Remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture, vanilla, and passion fruit juice. Divide cream mixture among eight 1/2-cup ramekins and cool to room temperature. Chill ramekins, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Dip ramekins, 1 at a time, into a bowl of hot water 3 seconds. Run a thin knife around edge of each ramekin and invert ramekin onto center of a small plate.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet magazine

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