Panna cotta is quite possibly one of the most versatile desserts to make, at home or in a restaurant. With a simple base, you can steep the cream with a myriad of different flavors and top the panna cotta with compotes or fresh fruit—Fern Bar had a lavender panna cotta on the menu before our current iteration. Although panna cotta may fall into the same family as pot de crèmes, mousse, and flan, the key difference is that panna cotta doesn’t contain any eggs and is set with gelatin instead. Its firm shape means the dessert can be served in a container or it can be served unmolded on a plate.
Fern Bar’s panna cotta with crème fraîche is light and creamy. At the restaurant we serve it topped with hazelnuts, peach ice, fresh stonefruit, and lavender sugar. For this recipe, it’s best to measure more precisely by weight rather than volume. A kitchen scale is an affordable and highly useful tool for any home kitchen, especially if you’re a baker.
Yield: Depending on mold size, this recipe makes 10-20 small panna cottas.
350 grams evaporated cane sugar*
700 grams heavy cream, separated
1 vanilla bean, scraped
5 gelatin sheets
500 grams crème fraîche
Simmer the evaporated cane sugar and 200 grams of the cream until the sugar has dissolved, then add the vanilla. Bloom** the gelatin and add to the sugar and cream mixture. Separately, combine the crème fraîche and 300 grams of the cream. Whip the remaining 200 grams of cream until peaks form and fold into the crème fraîche mixture.
When the gelatin mixture has cooled to room temperature, mix everything together and pour into desired molds. Then let set in the fridge until firm. At the restaurant we use silicone molds that we freeze the panna cotta in so we can remove them easily. Garnish with seasonal fruits, nuts, or peach ice (recipe below).
*Evaporated cane sugar is a less-processed form of cane sugar and can be substituted with white sugar if that’s what you have on hand.
**To bloom gelatin, submerge the gelatin sheets in ice cold water and soak for 5-10 minutes until soft. Once soft, remove the sheets and squeegee the water from the sheets with your fingers.
Optional Peach Ice
5 lbs. very ripe peaches
Apple cider vinegar, to taste
Crush the peaches into a large, non-reactive metal bowl, pits and all. Wrap the whole bowl—top and bottom—very tightly in plastic wrap. Place on top of a simmering pot of water over medium low heat and let cook for six hours. Refrigerate, still wrapped in plastic, overnight.
Strain through a cheesecloth with a weight on top for 4-5 hours or until the peach mash has given up all its liquid. Season the liquid with the apple cider vinegar; taste the liquid first before seasoning, as peaches will vary in sweetness and tartness.
Pour into a flat pan that will easily fit into your freezer without spilling, then let freeze overnight. Scrape with a fork and serve.
Want more dessert recipes from Fern Bar? Check out out Churros recipe here!