A panna cotta version of strawberries and cream, this Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce is a treat that refreshes the palate!
Everything in this world has a beginning, and for me, the beginning of my infatuation with panna cotta-making came in the form of this recipe. Ever since I made this Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce, I became enamored by the idea of panna cotta pairings. I actually had a month-long phase where I obsessively researched panna cotta base recipes, switched them up to include toppings that worked, then figured out what small bite would go well with them.
I ended up with quite a handful of recipes in a notebook, some already made and shot with satisfaction, some still waiting for their time to be created in the kitchen. Funnily enough, I already posted one of them ahead of this first recipe, if you remember this beautiful Triple Layer Panna Cotta.
I attempted the triple layer after the success of this vanilla one, and I was so pleased about getting all those asymmetrical colored lines I ended up posting about them first. (They looked impressive, and I was also impressed with myself for having the patience to wait for each layer to set lol. Patience is not my strength!)
Before that, I also wrote about this fancy shmancy Champagne Panna Cotta. Equally pretty, but seems a bit more celebratory in nature considering one would need to pop open a bottle of champagne just to make the recipe. (You only need a certain amount for the panna cotta. You will have to be in the mood to drink the rest of it.)
Meanwhile, this Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce is a good any day, any time dessert. It’s a good recipe to try for first-time panna cotta makers as well, because it’s simple yet incredibly satisfying. (Both to eat and to succeed in making!)
The base is a normal silky smooth vanilla panna cotta, but once topped with the sweet, slightly tart, refreshing strawberry sauce, it automatically gets a memorable oomph. This is one delightful finisher for whatever kind of meal.
I also love the pop of color the strawberry topping gives. The contrast between the pink sauce and the creamy white base has a way of catching the eye. If I made that topping a little redder with food color, it would probably look more festive, but that natural pink is pretty too isn’t it?
Speaking of festive, I feel like this is the first time in my entire life I didn’t quite feel the Philippine Christmas swing begin in September. I mean, sure we started to get more Jose Mari Chan memes on Facebook, (and I don’t know if I’m merely projecting my own feelings) but there seems to be a half-heartedness to it.
All I know is, outside on the streets and among the people, there’s this vibe that gives me an impression that the Christmas cheer is far from most minds this year. I totally get it. I just can’t help noting how it’s yet another new experience in a year that already feels utterly surreal. But I haven’t given up hope that 2020 will end on a better note, because that’s all we can do given the situation right?
In any case, let’s make this Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce and try to get a little more cheer (and good dessert) in us, yes?
Every panna cotta recipe starts with blooming gelatin. That is to say, we sprinkle the gelatin evenly over liquid, in this case the milk, and leave it alone for 5 minutes to absorb. Some people like to mix the gelatin powder into the liquid but I usually like to leave it be since it will be heated and dissolved later on anyway.
In a saucepan, heat together your cream, sugar, honey, and vanilla over medium heat. I’m not a vanilla snob but for a dessert like this where the vanilla is the only dominant flavor, I think it’s worth it to invest in a good quality vanilla extract. I’m saying this now in hindsight because when I made this, I didn’t think to source better quality vanilla. I wish I did. Not that the resulting panna cotta was bad, it just could’ve been better you know?
You want to bring this mixture to a near simmer, wherein you begin to see bubbles around the pan. You don’t want to actually simmer it though, and absolutely do not let it boil or it’ll be too hot for the gelatin. Turn off the heat and add in your milk with the bloomed gelatin. Make sure to mix until the gelatin is completely dissolved. The gelatin should dissolve easily if your mixture is hot enough.
You might’ve noticed all we really do when making panna cotta is to mix things around, and you’re right lol. I like to use a small spatula rather than a small whisk so I don’t get too much air bubbles into my mixture.
Now we just leave this mixture to cool down until nearly room temperature, and then we divide it among 6 small 4-oz serving cups. I always strain my panna cotta mixture just in case I have any stubborn undissolved gelatin or whatever solid object in there that will affect the smoothness of my panna cotta. Try to keep this part neat!
Pop these in the fridge for about 4 hours to set, or the freezer for 45 minutes to 1 hour if you’re in a hurry. I always go with the freezer because I’m impatient. Meanwhile, you can actually get started with the strawberry sauce.
Cut your fresh strawberries into quarters and place into a saucepan. You can use frozen but thaw and discard the liquid before using. Add in the rest of the sauce ingredients and mix together until sugar is dissolved.
I like to smush the strawberries as I do this but you don’t have to. The sugar will dissolve into a syrup and come to a simmer after a while, and the strawberries will soften. At this point, you can transfer the mixture to a blender.
Whiz everything until you get your desired consistency. If you like it a bit chunky, that’s fine; if you like it extra silky, then run it through a strainer. Store in the fridge to cool down completely until your vanilla panna cotta is ready. Do not top your panna cotta with hot sauce! It will melt down!
To serve, just scoop as much cooled strawberry sauce as you want over your set panna cotta. I purposefully used these serving glasses because that partition on the upper part of the glass serves as a perfect marker for how I should portion this dessert.
Garnish with fresh strawberries and voila! This silky Vanilla Panna Cotta with its punchy-sweet Strawberry Sauce is ready to be enjoyed! Serve with a fancy teaspoon.
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce
For the panna cotta
- ½ cup 120 mL whole milk
- 1½ teaspoons 4.5 grams unflavored gelatin powder
- 1½ cups 350 mL heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons 42.5 grams honey
- 1 Tablespoon 13 grams sugar
- Pinch of salt
For the strawberry sauce
- 450 grams strawberries
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1/3 cup 70 grams sugar
Make the panna cotta
- In a bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the milk in an even layer. Leave to bloom for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together cream, vanilla, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir until everything is well mixed, and bring to a near simmer.
- Once bubbles begin to form around the pan, turn off the heat. Mix in the milk-gelatin mixture until dissolved.
- Strain mixture into a spouted jug then allow to cool to room temperature. Divide among serving glasses and freeze for 45 minutes to 1 hour, just until set, then move to the fridge to set the rest of the way. You can also refrigerate them for at least 4 hours if not in a hurry to eat.
Make the strawberry sauce
- Wash the strawberries well. Remove the leaves and cut into quarters. Place into a small saucepan with water and sugar. Over medium heat, mix to melt the sugar. Bring to a simmer then remove from heat.
- Transfer strawberry mixture to a blender and whiz until a smooth sauce forms. (You can leave it a bit chunky if you want.) Refrigerate to cool completely. Do not top the panna cotta with hot strawberry sauce!
- Once panna cotta is set, top it with as much or as little of the strawberry sauce as you want. Garnish with sliced strawberries and enjoy.
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