It’s February in the Bay area, but it feels like Spring. The plum trees are covered in fluffy pink and white blossoms. I wanted a dessert to fit the season, and created this delicate version of the classic northern Italian dessert, Panna cotta. Though usually flavored with vanilla, this version is infused with two different flowers — rose and saffron.
Panna cotta is cool, gentle, and delicious. It is very easy to make — as in it takes about 10 minutes to put together, 2 hours to chill, and then it just waits patiently in your fridge until you serve it. No oven required. And though it’s often made with cream, feel free to substitute half and half or milk for a lighter, fresher version.
Panna cotta with saffron and rose
serves 6 – 8
Pour the half and half into a microwave safe bowl or 1 quart glass measuring cup. Heat on high for 2 – 3 minutes, or until very warm but not boiling. Add saffron threads and sugar. Stir for a minute to allow the saffron to suffuse through the liquid. It should turn a delicate yellow.
Meanwhile, place the 3 TB water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over the top of the water. The gelatin will quickly absorb the water (this will take about 2 minutes) Add the softened gelatin to the warm half & half mixture and stir until the gelatin is completely melted into the liquid. Add the rose water. Strain out the saffron threads, if desired, and pour into small serving containers. Chill until set, about two hours.
Note: For the classic version of Panna cotta, omit saffron and rose water and add 2 tsp vanilla extract instead. Serve with lightly sweetened slices strawberries.
* Here is a close up of the warm half and half just after I put in the saffron threads: ** Be sure to use rose water that’s made for culinary use. Don’t confuse it with rose water made for cosmetic purposes.