I love making panna cotta. It’s my go-to dessert. It’s simple to put together, and leaves you free to make your other dishes without a lot of fuss and mess. Make sure to give yourself enough time to let it set thoroughly. I have found that two and a half hours is about right.
I want to stress that the best panna cotta is never boiled. Boiling the cream changes the nature of the fat in the cream and can make it gritty, so don’t walk away when you are heating it up. I have made that mistake. Cream will boil over in a flash and be all over the place before you know it. Check for a slightly foamy surface and foam on your spoon, then turn it right down or take it off heat for a few seconds.
For this version, I infused the cream with chai tea spices. You can use a purchased chai in a tea strainer, or you can easily make your own with the spices I’ve put together. You can also substitute the honey for 1/3 cup of sugar and use any flavourings you would like. The classic Italian panna cotta has stems of fresh basil and vanilla added to the hot cream, then it’s strained. I’ve done this and it’s gorgeous. too.
Chai Tea Panna Cotta with Ginger Apricot Purée
A south Asian take on a favourite Italian cooked cream dessert.
- 1 package powdered gelatin (approx. 2 1/2 tbsp)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tbsp creamed honey
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Chai Tea Infusion
- 1 4 inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
- 4 whole star anise
- 4 whole cloves
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into pieces
- 1 dried red Indian or Chinese chili
- 3 tsp black tea
Ginger Apricot Purée
- 10 dried apricot, chopped
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into pieces
- 1 tbsp creamed honey
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
Add milk to a shallow bowl and sprinkle gelatin powder on the surface to soften. Set aside.
Add cream to a saucepan and set on medium high heat. Stir frequently and bring to just under the boil. The surface will become slightly foamy and the cream on your spoon will have many tiny bubbles. Turn heat down to minimum.
Add all of the Chai Tea Infusion ingredients to a tea strainer or wrap in a muslin cloth. Place in the hot cream and allow to infuse for about 10 mins. The cream will turn a rich beige. Taste test to make sure that enough flavour has been infused into the cream. Let the chai tea mixture sit in the cream a little longer, if desired.
Add the honey, gelatin and vanilla and stir well until all are dissolved.
Pour the mixture into molds and let cool a little before setting in the fridge for 2 and a half hours.
Ginger Apricot Purée
Bring water to boil in a saucepan set on high.
Add apricots and ginger to the boiling water and let reduce by half.
Add honey and almond extract and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
Blend until smooth.
Demolding and Assembly
Test the panna cottas to make sure they are set. They should giggle, but not ripple in the centre.
Set the molds in a pan of warm water for about 30 seconds. Run a knife around the sides of each mold then invert onto a serving plate. Clamp the mold onto the plate using your hands and give one big, firm, vertical shake. You will feel the panna cotta release from the mold. Slowly and carefully lift the mold straight up.
Spoon the puree over the top of each panna cotta and serve.
- Don’t let the cream come to a boil. This makes for a gritty panna cotta and it will boil over in a flash, making a monstrous mess.
- Make sure your panna cottas are set. If in doubt, leave them alone!