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44) Make pana cotta 28 Feb 2012

I am a simple things kind of girl. I am not into frills or pretty dresses or purple nail polish or pricey purses or fancy cupcakes. I like things simple and basic. Wood and rock. Clean and tidy. Black and white. Sometimes I wear yellow if I am feeling cheeky.

I like simple people. Not simple-minded, just simple. The kind of people that know who they are (or at least think they do), cause let’s be honest – no one really does. The kind of people who are comfortable just being themselves. Just being what they are.

I tend to believe that the simplest types of deserts, much like the simplest songs, are often the greatest. Just cream, sugar and vanilla. Just a guitar and a sweet voice. Sometimes all it takes is some basic ingredients to create monumental goodness.

Last night we made a Tuscan delicacy – Pana Cotta – which from Italian simply translates to cooked cream. Pana Cotta is probably one of the most straightforward deserts, and yet, when you taste it you can’t help but feel luxurious. I’ve been dreaming about making my own creamy version since our trip to Northern Italy last year.

The contents are simple; just some cream, sugar, and gelatin to pull it all together. You can garnish Pana Cotta in a myriad of ways: chocolate, espresso, caramel, fruit glazes. We went with 100% real, Canadian maple syrup. The maple served as a perfect balance to the vanilla. Here’s the recipe. We’ve modified it from a few others we found online.

Simple & Divine Killa Vanilla Pana Cotta

(makes 4 servings)

2 cups of half-and-half (or heavy cream)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 packet of powdered gelatin
1/4 of half-half (to set the gelatin)

Preparing Gelatin
1. Sprinkle the gelatin powder over 1/4 cup of half-half in a bowl.
2. Let stand 10 minutes. Do not mix.
3. Lightly oil or butter four custard cups. Set aside.

Preparing Dish
1. Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan on low heat.
2. Add the vanilla bean by scrapping the seeds from the bean into the cream. Throw the bean pod into the cream as well.
3. Heat the liquid on low heat, making sure to stir often so that the sugar dissolves.
4. Once the liquid begins to simmer, remove from heat right away.
5. Add the gelatin mixture into the hot Panna Cotta mixture and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Strain.
6. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into your prepared cups, then chill them until firm (2-4 hours). But overnight is best.
7. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate. Garnish as desired.