Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Mixed Berry Sauce

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta | Pinky's Pantry
Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert that’s become very popular all over the United States. It’s a custard-like confection made of cream sweetened with sugar and thickened with gelatin. Though it’s made with rich cream, it’s surprisingly light, and the ease of making it belies how fancy it looks.

To serve, I like to loosen the panna cottas from the ramekins and turn them out onto dessert plates, then pour some sauce carefully around each panna cotta. You could also just pour the sauce on top of the panna cottas in their ramekins and serve them that way. Mint leaves and fresh raspberries make a pretty garnish.

VANILLA BEAN PANNA COTTA WITH MIXED BERRY SAUCE

  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped (can substitute 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
  1. In a small bowl, soften gelatin in cold water; set aside.
  2. Place whipping cream, sugar and vanilla bean in a saucepan.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture comes to a simmer.
  4. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  5. Pick out and discard the vanilla bean pod.
  6. Add gelatin to hot cream mixture, stirring until gelatin dissolves completely.
  7. Pour into 6 lightly oiled 1/2-cup ramekins or other small cylindrical molds and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.

MIXED BERRY SAUCE

  • 1 bag (10 ozs.) frozen mixed berries, thawed (can substitute fresh berries)
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar (taste and add more if you want it sweeter)
  • 2 Tbsp. brandy
  1. Combine berries and sugar in bowl of a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend until berries are completely crushed.
  3. Pour through a strainer into a bowl, pushing mixture back and forth with a rubber spatula. Discard the solids.
  4. Stir the brandy into the sauce.
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Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee | Pinky's Pantry
So I was lying in bed watching TV with my Old Goat Honey dozing next to me when a slight movement off the side of my eye caught my attention. Looking over, I gasped! A huge, horrible, monstrous, leggy, brown bug was crawling up the wall towards the ceiling! Anyone who knows me knows I have a deep-seated, inexplicable fear of creepy crawlies. Anything with more than four legs strikes the fear of God into my quivering heart. This thing had like a million legs! I kid you not! With a shriek, I recognized it as a house centipede.

I shook my Old Goat and in a nervous whisper said that there was a gigantic monster house centipede crawling up the wall and I needed him to take it away….. immediately! In typical heroic fashion, my knight in shining armor drowsily said, “Just leave it alone. They eat spiders.” Gah! Really? Is there anything more gag-inducing than the thought of an ugly leggy bug happily munching on another ugly leggy bug? Unable to tear my eyes away from the terrifying sight of the beast crawling up the wall, I watched in helpless fascination as he reached the part where the wall meets the ceiling and stopped. I swear he stood there looking right at me as if trying to decide whether I would make a tasty meal or not. Surely he wouldn’t walk across the ceiling towards me! He would be upside down if he did! How would he stay up there? Do they have like little dots of double-sided sticky tape at the ends of their legs? No….. he couldn’t walk upside down across the ceiling. He wouldn’t. He……… Ahhhhhhhhhh!

To my absolute horror, he started across the ceiling towards our bed! My mind filled with visions of him getting right above our bed, imagining how suddenly the double-sided sticky tape at the ends of his legs would lose its stickiness and he would drop right onto me in a full-on, ravenous attack. I quickly shook Old Goat again and in a panic-stricken voice yelled, “He’s coming this way! You’ve got to get him before he gets us!” to which my fearless knight sleepily responded, “Have No. 1 do it.”  O_O

By this time, I had already leaped out of our bed and made it across to the safety of the other side of the room. I watched from the doorway mesmerized as it crawled right above Old Goat, then suddenly veered towards the center of the ceiling where it crawled up onto the base of the ceiling fan. My powers of deduction obviously impaired by this point, I hit on the idea that if I turned on the fan, those big wooden blades would somehow chop up that little body with the million little legs into tiny flecks of dust that would poof away into nothingness. So I hit the ON button and to my utter shock, the fan sucked him right into its body! I always knew fans blew air out front. Never thought of them sucking air in on the back side but that’s just what this one did. Now what? I stood there waiting indecisively, but he never dragged himself out of the swiftly-whirring fan.

So, brave soul that I am, I hightailed it downstairs to the kitchen as fast as my shaky legs could take me, and feeling in dire need of some comfort, debated on whether to pour myself a stiff drink or make some Crème Brûlée for dessert tonight. The Crème Brûlée won.

VANILLA BEAN CRÈME BRÛLÉE

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • turbinado sugar for caramelizing
  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Place 8 small ramekins or custard cups in a roasting pan and set aside until ready to use.
  2. In a saucepan, stir together the cream, sugar, and salt.
  3. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife.
  4. Stir the seeds into the cream and drop the vanilla bean halves in.
  5. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes.
  7. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk the egg yolks lightly just to break them up.
  8. Remove and discard the vanilla bean halves.
  9. Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
  10. Fill each ramekin with the custard mixture.
  11. Carefully place the roasting pan with the filled ramekins into the oven.
  12. Slowly pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come at least halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  13. Bake until the custards are just set but still a little jiggly, about 30-35 minutes.
  14. Remove custards from the water bath and place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
  15. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of each custard to prevent them from forming a skin.
  16. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  17. Just before serving, preheat your broiler.
  18. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of turbinado sugar evenly in a thin layer over the top of each custard.
  19. Place in broiler, about 3 inches away from the heat source, until the sugar melts and caramelizes. You may have to rotate your pan so it caramelizes evenly. Watch carefully and don’t let the sugar burn. If you have a kitchen torch, use it! It’s much easier to control the caramelization with a torch.
  20. Set the custards aside to let the caramel cool and harden.

NOTE:  If you can’t find vanilla beans, you can substitute 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract.