Before a dessert finds its way onto my Christmas menu it must meet two very important criteria, yes it has to be unbelievably delicious but it also has to be prepared and happy to nestle in the fridge at least a day prior to Christmas day. You see, a dessert for me must evoke joy, excited anticipation and splendour not only for the guests but more importantly for the cook! Last minute prinking and fussing over a dessert is the very last thing I feel like doing when the big day has arrived.
I mean by the time Christmas lunch is devoured I am more than ready to put my feet up, enjoy a glass of vino and only move from my heavenly position in order to retrieve stand by desserts nestled in the fridge. Desserts that I consider to fall into this category are trifle, berry cheesecake, mangomisu, pavlova with fresh summer fruit and my new favourite...panna cotta.
Panna cotta, if you don’t know by now is an Italian dessert that simply translates to cooked cream. Although I feel the literal translation does nothing to evoke the true meaning and gorgeousness that panna cotta exudes. Panna cotta is luscious, smooth, creamy, and velvety, spiked with vanilla and truly makes for a magical summer time Christmas dessert.
Panna cotta’s creamy and luscious nature makes it the perfect canvas to an array of seasonal fruits. With Christmas almost here I couldn’t help but take the plethora of cherries on offer and ply them into a sweet cherry sauce to rest upon my set panna cotta’s. Cherries are the ultimate Christmas fruit, their ruby red hue exudes the seasonal spirit and I felt they worked so well with the panna cotta.
To prepare panna cotta it’s as simple as placing cream, sugar and a scraped out vanilla pod into a saucepan and stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is about to reach boiling point. You then take the cream and vanilla infused mixture and allow it to cool ever so slightly. Meanwhile you dissolve gelatine in a little water. You then place the squeezed out gelatine into the slightly cooled cream mixture and whisk until dissolved. Finally, you whisk in the creamy Greek yoghurt and voila your panna cotta is ready to be poured into the vessel of your choice. Most people opt for moulds so they can serve the panna cotta on a plate drizzled with fruit, however, I am completely and utterly obsessed with my teeny tiny jars at the moment so I decided that they would be my vessel of choice.
Whilst the panna cottas were resting and setting serenely in the fridge I set my attention to my cherry sauce. But please don’t let the word sauce conjure up thoughts of effort or stress, no this ‘sauce’ is simple and by that I mean adding pitted cherries, sugar and a little water to a saucepan and allowing it to simmer until thickened. I promise ten minutes of work max!
Once the panna cotta’s were set and the cherry sauce had cooled I took tiny spoonfuls of the deliciously red cherry sauce and drizzled it over the top of each creamy and lusciously set panna cotta. Dessert is done. No more effort. No more prinking. I can sleep serenely with a slight sense of smug satisfaction knowing Christmas dessert is nestled in the fridge awaiting Christmas day. Enjoy, K x
Yoghurt Panna Cotta with Cherry Sauce
Delicious Magazine Issue 11
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1 ½ cups (375 ml) thickened cream
185 gm caster sugar
2 titanium-strength gelatine leaves
500g thick Greek-style yoghurt
400g cherries, pitted, sliced, plus whole cherries to serve
Place vanilla pod and seeds, cream and ½ cup sugar in saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to just below boiling point, then remove from heat and stand for 5 minutes to infuse.
Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Remove vanilla pod from the cream mixture and discard, then squeeze excess water from gelatine and whisk gelatine into warm cream mixture, stirring until dissolved. Whisk in yoghurt, and then strain mixture through a fine sieve. Divide among vessels (jars, moulds, small bowls, tea cups) of your choice, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours or until set.
Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 water and cherries in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until cherries are slightly broken down and mixture has thickened. Allow to cool completely. Drizzle cherry sauce over set panna cottas and serve.