Organic sour cream was 2 for $5 the other day when I went to pick up a tub for the anti-bechamel mac & cheese. I decided I'd go for it and make panna cotta today. This recipe will work with most things that are creamy and a touch sour- sour cream, creme friache (make your own! it's so cheap!), chevre, and plain yogurt. All full fat, of course. I wouldn't add more than 8 ounces chevre because of it's density, but you can certainly play around with the ratio of sour cream or creme fraiche to cream to get a more tangy panna cotta. And if you are a vegetarian, swap out the gelatin for agar agar in equal amounts.
Lately I've been thinking about how much I hate pretentious food and the notion that food must be "elevated" (my least favorite word in the culinary world) in order to have value. My friend Rebekah Turshen and her forever non-pretentious desserts came to mind. She often serves panna cotta, un-molded, topped with jam or jelly and a cookie on the side or crumbled on top. It has an air of finesse and makes your mouth reverberate with happiness. So that's the basic formula I'm following today: un-molded sour cream panna cotta, raspberry jam, soft ginger cookie. A good transition into Fall if you don't live in the devil's butthole where Fall won't come until October, like I do.
How many this recipe serves is based on what size container your serve it in. Personally, I think a 4 ounces ramekin is more than enough, but some people prefer 6. Pick a good looking container should you care about appearances when serving- this panna cotta just barely sets and is not designed to be turned out or hold a shape. It is designed to be ultra delicate. Since there are very few ingredients and main measurement is cups, do a little math before to decide to make a half batch, a double batch, etc.
Pour 1 1/2 cups half & half into a small pot and sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin over it. Let bloom for 5-10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup raw cane sugar and 1 teaspoon good vanilla or 1/2 a vanilla bean, then heat over medium until the sugar is dissolved- do not boil or the gelatin will lose thickening power. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place 8 ounces sour cream in a blender and stream in another 1 1/2 cups half and half on the lowest setting until very smooth. Whisk that mixture into the pot (this is the point at which you can strain out teeny lumps if you are some kind of fairy who has granted herself endless patience and a partner who always does the dishes) and transfer into your serving containers. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. You could make these about five days in advance, no problem. Jam too.
Gah, I love jam, I didn't know I loved jam until I was at the Burlington farmer's market last summer and this lady handed me a sample of strawberry rhubarb conserve and then another lady handed me a sample of black currant jam. I kept walking in circles, coming back for more and ended up buying both. I just learned to make jam this Spring and the basic formula is very easy: 2 pounds of fruit, 1 1/4 to 2 pounds of raw cane sugar, and one lemon. For raspberries, I use closer to 2 pounds sugar to offset their natural bite. You can watch the process on my Instagram highlights. I like to heat the fruit and sugar in a pot over medium until the sugar is liquid. I squeeze the juice of them lemon in, followed by the whole rind. Then I let it simmer for 15 minutes, or until it looks thickened. It's hard to explain, but the more times you make jam, the easier you will be able to recognize this change in texture signifying doneness. Until then, you can put a small plate in the freezer while the jam is simmering. After 15 minutes, place a spoonful of the jam on the plate and return it to the freezer for 5 minutes. Nudge it with your finger and if it wrinkles, it's jam. If it doesn't, keep simmering. Skim off any foam. You'll need about a cup of jam for one recipe of panna cotta.
You can use whatever cookie you like. I'm using my recipe for gingersnaps, which you can find in the very first issue of FoodieCrush on page 54 (that's 56 on Issuu for some reason), alongside the most hilarious "headshot" of me. As you can probably see, I've come a long way in my styling abilities and I've started rolling my cookies in crunchy, twinkling turbinado sugar for extra texture.
A couple notes: make sure your ground ginger is not expired! It happens to the best of us. I'll also say: 2 teaspoons sounds a little small to me now. I rolled the cookies in this photo into .7 ounce balls. OH OH and don't rule out mixing finely chopped candied ginger into the turbinado sugar if you happnen to have some on hand.