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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Cream a little dream

Velvety smooth with a bit of a wobble - that is my idea of the perfect pannacotta, the classic Italian cooked cream dessert
The Straits Times - March 4, 2012
By: Tan Hsueh Yun
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Cream a little dream

There are times when I like nothing better than cracking a ball of chocolate to get at what's inside, or navigating a beautifully plated dessert, tasting each element separately and then together.

Then there are times when what I want is simple and comforting and easy to make.

A bread pudding, say, crispy at the edges. Or an ice cream sundae with good chocolate sauce. I also like pannacotta, a classic Italian dessert that means cooked cream.

It is, essentially, a cream jelly held together by gelatine.

Garnished with berries, the snowy white puddings look beautiful and are delicious to boot. The biggest plus is that they are easy to make too.

But most pannacotta I have had in restaurants tend to be a little harder than I'd like them to be.

My idea of a perfect pannacotta is that it should wobble and be velvety and smooth. A hard-set jelly just doesn't have the same appeal.

Last week, at Osteria La Luna Rossa, a Japanese-Italian restaurant at Scotts Square, my friend opted for pannacotta in the set meal we had.

It was so wobbly it was almost like soybean curd. I decided to live dangerously and use less gelatine than I usually do.

So I've gone for 2 teaspoons of unflavoured powdered gelatine instead of the usual 2 1/4.

Go ahead and use 2 1/4 or 2 1/2 teaspoons if you want a firmer pudding. Anything more and you'll be making cream concrete.

I was holding my breath as I unmoulded the puddings and what slid out made me very pleased indeed. The pannacotta was wobbly and soft, and if you looked at it hard, it would just collapse, I am sure.

Berries are everywhere in supermarkets now, so I got a punnet each of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries to scatter around the puddings.

However, there are many other ways to serve this dessert.

One is to drizzle the puddings with gula melaka syrup and spoon some slices of bananas browned in butter on the plate.

Continuing on the local theme, you could make pandan pannacotta by shredding the fragrant leaves, blitzing them in a food processor and then squeezing out the juice and adding it to the cream mixture. Just keep the total amount of liquids to 750ml.

Chocolate pannacotta is great too, and is easily made by melting dark chocolate together with the cream. If you prefer your puddings a pristine white, you could add coffee or other extracts to it.

A runny jam or honey would also make fine toppings for the puddings.

Or you could just eat them plain, and appreciate the sweet flavour of the cream.

MAKE IT YOURSELF: PANNACOTTA

INGREDIENTS

750ml whipping cream

2 tsp unflavoured powdered gelatine (left)

80g sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract (right)

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination of all three, for serving

METHOD

1. Measure out 250ml of the cream into a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatine over the surface and let sit 5 minutes.

2. Place pot over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to break up the gelatine. You need to do this until the gelatine dissolves, at least 5 minutes.

3. Add the rest of the cream, the sugar and vanilla extract. Continue cooking until the sugar has dissolved.

4. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a pouring jug.

5. Divide the mixture among four cups or glasses. Let cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Cover the tops with clingwrap and refrigerate at least six hours or overnight.

6. Before serving, rinse the berries under running water, pat dry with paper towels. Halve or quarter the strawberries if using, leave the other berries whole.

 

7. Pour boiling water into a medium mixing bowl or saucepan.

8. Dip each cup of pannacotta into the hot water for 5 to 6 seconds, remove, place the serving plate over the cup and invert. The pudding should slide out easily. Scatter berries around the pannacotta and serve. Or pile the berries on top of the pannacotta in the cup or glass and serve immediately.

Serves four.

 

 

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