The texture of panna cotta is a matter of taste, but to my mind, the very best examples are just barely solid enough to stand up. This recipe makes a firmer version than that, because it's a bit safer if you'd like to serve it unmolded onto a plate. If you like a softer texture, though, feel free to decrease the amount of gelatin in ¼ teaspoon increments.
- ½ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons (7 grams or ¼ ounce envelope) powdered, unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces sugar by weight (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon; I'd drop the tablespoon if using O.J. below)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon AND/OR 1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
- 2 cups buttermilk (light is OK)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Anisette or Pernod, to taste, optional but very classy
- Gently sprinkle gelatin over milk so it doesn't clump up. Whisk or stir it to combine, and let it hydrate for 5 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, heat cream, sugar, salt and lemon zest/orange juice concentrate (seriously; I hate drinking it, but it's kind of magic when used as a flavoring) over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the gelatin-milk mixture, and continue to heat, stirring constantly. Keep a close eye on it; don't let it come up to a simmer. When you see wisps of steam and tiny bubbles on the edge of the pan that don't go away with a stir, take it off heat and pour into a large bowl. (If you're using zest and want a perfectly smooth texture, strain out the zest now.)
- Let cream cool a few minutes until it's just warm. Add the buttermilk, vanilla and Pernod, if using. Let cool, if need be, to room temperature. Pour carefully into 6 glasses or ramekins, wrap tightly with plastic wrap. (If you get any on the sides of the glass, the mixture will set there and give a blurry appearance.) Gently tap the filled containers on the table to pop any bubbles on the surface, being careful not to splash, and chill a few hours until fully set.
Either serve directly in the glass or ramekin, or unmold -- slip a thin knife around the edge and invert onto a plate. Alternately, quickly dip the ramekin or glass in hot water for a second and invert to a plate, putting back in the fridge to re-set the edges.
Serve straight-up, with fresh fruit, or with gently cooked berries.