Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Matcha Caviar

>>  Monday, May 07, 2012

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This post is part of a larger series devoted to a Molecular Gastronomy focused meal I made: Molecular Gastronomy with an Asian Twist. Other posts in this series include Spherification (making "caviar"Pho Inspired Grilled Steak with Mint, Cilantro, and LimeSweet Basil Pesto with Rice Noodles, and Bok Choy Agar Noodles

I'll never forget the first panna cotta I ever had.

Bryan and I were celebrating some sort of special occasion at Craigie Street Bistro (now Craigie on Main). It was one of the first multi-course tasting menus we had ever tried, so everything was new and exciting.

Near the end of the meal, the server brought us out two little cups of panna cotta. Mine was infused with Rooibos and it was fantastic. Creamy, fragrant, and oh-so-rich, I fell in love with this Italian version of custard.

For years I thought it was a fancy dessert, sophisticated and smart, difficult to make well.

I finally tried making panna cotta this past weekend and was floored by how easy it was.
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It's really nothing more than a cream-based "jello". Despite the simplicity, I love the flexibility that you have in designing new flavors.

This is all you have to do. Heat up cream in a saucepan. If you want to infuse another flavor into the cream, this is the time to do it. I added vanilla beans, but you can add anything, such as tea leaves, matcha powder, or even spices!
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In a separate bowl, heat up gelatin in water and then pour the gelatin mixture into the cream mixture. Pour the combined mixture into little bowls, refrigerate, and serve!

So easy!

Panna Cotta
3 cups cream (mixture of heavy cream and half & half)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, halved
1 package (2 tsp) gelatin

Heat cream and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.  Remove pan from heat and scrape in vanilla beans. Steep the bean pods for about 15-20 minutes before removing the pods. While steeping, add about 3 tablespoons of water to the gelatin and let sit, agitating slightly until it dissolves. You can optionally add a bit of heat to quicken this process. Combine the two pots, stir, and pour into little cups. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Serve! (optionally with matcha spheres)
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