Buttermilk panna cotta
Friday was Knit Night. Tote bags overflowed with yarn and needles, food was served, general merriment was had. It's really just an excuse to get together with friends, but I find Knit Night inspirational — my knitting always gets a boost.
As hostess for this most recent event, I was in charge of the menu, and I knew exactly what to serve for dessert: buttermilk panna cotta. I recently celebrated a friend's birthday at Ben and Karen Barker's much acclaimed Magnolia Grill in Durham, and though everything was tasty, this dessert was my hands-down favorite. Soft and creamy, the smooth taste of vanilla was followed by the slightest tang of buttermilk, accentuated by a buttery cornmeal shortbread cookie and the oomph of cherry compote. It satisfied my desire for something sinful-tasting without weighing me down.
I raced to my bookshelf after dinner that night and was thrilled to find the recipe in Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts, a book I've owned for years but never baked from. What was I waiting for? If the rest of the recipes are anything like this one, it's a book I'll be using for years to come.
In lieu of cherries, I tossed fresh strawberries and blueberries with a few tablespoons of sugar and a squeeze of lemon. Left to macerate for 20 minutes, the berries' juices formed a perfect sauce.
And just in case you're interested, I completed a waffle knit dishcloth Friday night. It looks like this:
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Adapted from Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts
Makes 6 8-ounce servings
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 tablespoon gelatin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups buttermilk
Pour 1/2 cup of heavy cream into a bowl and sprinkle with gelatin. Set aside for 5 minutes allowing the gelatin to soften.
Place the sugar in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sugar. Whisk in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cream. Add the vanilla pod and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally; cream should remain just under a simmer. Add the gelatin and cream mixture and sugar until dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk.
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher (I used a liquid measuring cup). Divide the mixture among 6 8-ounce ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours (or up to 2 days) until set.
To serve, loosen the panna cotta by dip the ramekins into hot water. Turn out onto dessert plates, garnish and serve.