For my birthday last weekend, I knew most of my friends would be out of town (either because they were travelling or because so many of my friends these days live far, far away from me) so I wasn’t about to make a cake or batch of cupcakes, but I still wanted something sweet.
Last year for a joint mustache-themed birthday party with my roommate, I made amazing Old Fashioned Cupcakes spiked with enough whisky and bitters to make any Mad Men character swoon. This year, I settled for what David Lebovitz calls the perfect Panna Cotta, topped with homemade Peach Jelly and served in four half-pint mason jars.
I love a small batch recipe that can be served (and saved) in single portion dishes. They’re convenient, eloquent and stack nicely in the depths of my refrigerator. What I’m trying to say here is that mason jars are amazing and I can’t get enough of them right now! I currently have about a half dozen different things stored in my refrigerator in mason jars right now and am completely unapologetic about it. They rock!
This panna cotta is incredibly easy to make – so much so, that I can’t believe I haven’t made it before now.
Panna Cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”) is a simple Italian dessert made by heating cream, milk and sugar together, mixing it with gelatin, and letting it cool until it sets. The finished texture is like a creamy gel and serves as a great base to any fruit compote or topping. I chose a peach jelly topping to use up my farmers’ market spoils before they spoiled.
I had just two tiny peaches left over from my last trip to the farmers' market – the rest were quickly devoured on their own or sliced up over my morning yogurt, so I adapted the peach jelly recipe accordingly to work with what I had.
Vanilla Panna Cotta (adapted from David Lebovitz, originally adapted from Secrets From My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 packet powdered gelatin
- 3-4 tablespoons cold water
- Heat heavy cream and sugar over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved and remove from heat
- Scrape out vanilla seeds, add both seeds and pod to cream mixture and allow to sit for 30 minutes
- Pour gelatin over cold water (I started with 3 tablespoons, but thought the mixture was too thick so added one more) and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes
- Remove vanilla pod from cream and heat again
- Pour very warm cream over gelatin and mix well
- Evenly distribute mixture among 4 small mason jars or glasses
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set (I allowed them to set for about 3 hours before topping with peach mixture and returning to refrigerator for another 2 hours)
Peach Jelly (adapted from Spicy Ice Cream)
Makes enough to top 2-4 servings of Panna Cotta, depending on how thick you want it
- 2 small ripe peaches
- 1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon gelatin
- Blanch peaches by scoring an x into the bottom of each and dropping them into boiling water for about 40 seconds
- Remove from boiling water with a slotted spoon and drop immediately into cold water to stop the cooking process
- With the back of a spoon or your fingers, gently peel the skin off and discard
- Cut the fruit away from the pit and puree with 1/8 cup water until smooth
- Pour gelatin over 1 tablespoon and stir until dissolved, letting sit for about 5 minutes
- Over low heat, stir together peach puree, sugar, honey and lime juice
- Once peach mixture is uniformly warm, remove from heat and mix in gelatin
- Evenly distribute peach jelly among prepared and set cups of panna cotta
- Return to the refrigerator for at least 2 more hours
Let me know if you have another idea of dessert I can make in a mason jar! I want to hear them all!