Most people want cake for their birthdays, but not me. I almost always ask for custard. Any liquid thickened by some sort of protein is the most basic definition of a custard. Although that description doesn’t sound glamorous, I assure you that the luxurious mouthfeel achieved from a properly set panna cotta is a thing of beauty. Custards are usually thickened by cooked eggs in everything from crème anglaise to crème brûlée and flan. Italian for cooked cream, panna cotta is special in that gelatin is used instead of eggs.
Many recipes call for enough gelatin so that you can unmold the dessert onto a plate, but I love the soft texture of a lighter gel, requiring a pretty serving vessel like small teacups, wine glasses or small Mason jars. This simple dessert is quick to make, will keep in the refrigerator for several days and can be flavored any way you like. I’ve combined Earl Grey tea with milk and a twice-baked Italian cookie. Not your cup of tea? Try vanilla bean, fresh herbs, citrus or toasted nuts to infuse the cream.
Christy Augustin has had a lifelong love affair with all things sweet. After working as a pastry chef in New Orleans and St. Louis, she opened Pint Size Bakery & Coffee in St. Louis’ Lindenwood Park in 2012. She calls herself the baker of all things good and evil. Learn more at pintsizebakery.com.
Earl Grey Panna Cotta with Lemon-Almond Biscotti
Serves | 6 |
Earl Grey Panna Cotta
- 1 envelope powdered, unflavored gelatin (2¼ tsp per envelope)
- ¼ cup cold water
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 3 bags Earl Grey tea
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- orange marmalade (to serve)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1⁄8 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- pinch kosher salt
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup almonds (whole, slivered or sliced)
| Preparation – Earl Grey Panna Cotta | In a small, microwaveable bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and stir. Set aside to bloom, at least 5 minutes.
In a medium pot over medium-low heat, combine sugar and dairy. Heat while stirring to melt sugar, being careful not to boil. Empty tea leaves from bags into dairy mixture and let steep, off heat, for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Set aside.
In the microwave in 30-second intervals, gently warm bloomed gelatin, stirring in between, until completely melted. Whisk gelatin into dairy mix and add vanilla. Pour into 6 small vessels and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.
| Preparation – Lemon-Almond Biscotti | Preheat oven to 300°F.
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients and lemon zest. Make a well in the center, add egg and stir until evenly moistened. Mixture should be crumbly but hold together when squeezed. Add almonds and gently mix. Turn dough out onto parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Form into a log, 2 inches wide, 12 inches long and ¾-inch thick. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Turn oven down to 250°F. Remove biscotti and, once cooled, make ½-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Toast for 20 minutes (flipping at 10 minutes). Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.
| To Serve | Top panna cotta with orange marmalade and serve with biscotti and a petite glass of white dessert wine.