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~ Panna from Heaven: A Divine Mango Panna Cotta ~

IMG_2687Pretty as a picture and impressive indeed, "panna cotta" (Italian for "cooked cream") is, perhaps, the easiest of all the sweetened-cream-based, ramekin-molded type desserts.  That said, unlike recipes for puddings, pastry creams, custards and egg-custards, (like creme caramel or creme brûlée), in the case of panna cotta, a bakeless sweet treat, the cream is thickened with gelatine, rather than eggs.  Like all the aforementioned sweetened-cream desserts, every occasion, from blue-jean casual to high-heel upscale, is the right occasion to serve this dessert.

Panna cotta is a delicate, softly-set dessert containing three ingredients:  cream, sugar and galatine. A fourth ingredient, flavoring, isn't necessary to achieve panna cotta perfection, but, a splash of vanilla (or any other flavoring) takes it over-the-top.  There's some technique involved (while the name implies 'cooked cream', the ingredients are only warmed, just enough to dissolve the gelatine and sugar), but it is quickly learned and requires knowing just a bit about gelatine.

Things to know about gelatine packets & troubleshooting too:

IMG_2552I'm using granulated gelatine, the kind that comes in a box of four gelatine packets.  Gelatine sheets, which I am a big fan of, can be substituted, but, in the case of panna cotta,  I've been making it for over 40 years using the packets, and, in my kitchen, if the recipe ain't broke, don't fix it.  Here's a few things to know about the packets:  

1 packet (about 1/4 ounce) = 1 scant tablespoon (3 teaspoons).  

If a recipe calls for a specific number of gelatine packets, use the contents from the specified number of packets.  If a recipe calls for a specific measurement, open the packet(s) and measure the contents with a measuring spoon. One packet will firmly set 2 cups of liquid that, if desired, can be unmolded at serving time. One packet will softly set 3 cups of liquid that cannot be unmolded at serving time. Troubleshooting:  If a gelatine-based dish doesn't set properly, the gelatine didn't melt all the way or the gelatine mixture boiled. If boiled, it loses its thickening power and won't set correctly.

For the oh-so-divine mango-fruit layer:

IMG_25554 ripe mangos, split, pitted and fruit 1/2" diced*, then puréed

6  tablespoons mango juice from the mangos, or store-bought mango nectar, or, water

3  teaspoons granulated gelatine, 1 teaspoon for every 1 cup purée

*Note:  All fruit is not created equal. You'll need 3 cups of puréed mango fruit for this recipe.  In order to insure you'll have it, you'll need 4 mangos.  Yes, you might have a bit of leftover purée.  Deal with it.

There's more. Any fruit that purées well can be substituted to make today's panna cotta dessert. That said, keep in mind that certain fruits (figs, guava, kiwi, papaya and pineapple) contain an enzyme (bromelain) that prevents gelatine from thickening or thickening properly.  In order to use them, the puree must be simmered, as cooking (or the canning process) destroys the enzyme.

IMG_2571 IMG_2571 IMG_2571 IMG_2571 IMG_2571~Step 1.  Prepping the glasses and the pans.  I am using 12, 6-ounce (3/4-cup-size) glass punch-type cups.  I am fitting them into the cups of 12, standard-sized muffin cups.  I am tipping /angling each one against the side of the muffin cup.  To do this without them moving or slipping throughout the process, I am propping them up with, believe it or not, with 24 sour-cherry sour-ball candies -- two per muffin cup.  Old-fashioned cat's-eye marbles work well too.  Feel free to use some wadded up paper or paper towels, but, it won't be quite so precise.

IMG_2722 IMG_2722 IMG_2722 IMG_2722~Step 2.  With the aid of an Oxo mango splitter-pitter, split and pit the mango.  Use a tablespoon to scoop the fruit from the flesh of each half.  Don't have a mango splitter?  Get one ($12.00). 

IMG_2559 IMG_2559 IMG_2559 IMG_2559~Step 3.  With the aid of a sharp knife and a cutting board, 1/2" dice the mango fruit as directed, placing the fruit in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade as you work. With motor running, process to a smooth purée, about 20-30 seconds.  You will have 3+ cups purée.  Be sure to measure it precisely.  Transfer purée to a medium bowl and set aside.

IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2591 IMG_2618~Step 4.  Place 6 tablespoons mango juice, nectar or water in a 1-cup container.  Sprinkle gelatine granules over the top of the liquid and set aside to "bloom" for 10 minutes.  Do not stir.  Place gelatine, which is now thick, in the microwave.  Melt it, without allowing it to simmer or boil, 10-15 seconds (do not stir), then a second round of 10-15 seconds (do not stir).  Add the melted gelatine to the fruit purée. Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly (I mean thoroughly) stir the gelatine into the purée.  If you have a large squeeze bottle with a twist-on cap, the kind used to shake and distribute salad dressing, now is the time to use it.  Transfer the purée to the container -- it works great.

IMG_2620 IMG_2620 IMG_2620~Step 5.  Dispense the purée, through the squeeze bottle into the cups, dividing it equally between the cups.  This is 100% stress free and mess free, so much better than trying to spoon or ladle it in.  Place the pans of mango-purée filled cups in the refrigerator to chill until well set, six hours to overnight.

For the traditional panna-from-heaven panna cotta layer:

IMG_2697Panna cotta, said to hail from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, is, to say the least, delicate -- so fragile it can barely support itself (although it does). It has a silky-smooth mouthfeel and melt-in-the-mouth texture.  It's dependent on gelatine.  Too little and the mixture won't set.  Too much and the mixture won't have it's signature "wobbly-jiggly" texture -- it will be gummy.  I use cream (no milk or half-and-half), and a cream-to-gelatin ratio of 1 teaspoon gelatin for every 1 cup cream -- if you choose to substitute milk, or half-and-half for a lower-fat version, it can cause complications with the amount of gelatine to add.  As for sugar, I use 2 tablespoons for every 1 cup cream.  It's foolproof perfection and I've got my creamy recipe committed to memory.

IMG_26333  cups heavy or whipping cream (divided into two parts, 1 1/2 cups and 1 1/2 cups, throughout recipe)

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  teaspoon pure mango extract*

1/4  teaspoon salt

3  teaspoons granulated gelatine

6  tablespoons sugar

*Note:  If using another fruit purée (peaches, strawberries or bananas for example) substitute another flavor.  Butter rum is always yum.

IMG_2635 IMG_2635 IMG_2635 IMG_2635 IMG_2644 IMG_2644 IMG_2644~Step 1.  Place a 3-4-quart saucier or saucepan on the unheated stovetop. Add 1 1/2 cups of the cream (one-half of the cream). Add and thoroughly stir in the vanilla extract, mango extract and salt.  Sprinkle the gelatine granules over the top.  Do not stir.  Set aside 10 minutes.  Gelatin will swell and appear wrinkly.

IMG_2651 IMG_2651 IMG_2651 IMG_2651 IMG_2659 IMG_2659 IMG_2659~Step 2.  Turn the heat under the saucier to medium-low. Sprinkle the sugar atop the gelatin. Using a large spoon, begin stirring, and continue to stir for 3 full minutes, keeping the heat low to prevent the mixture from steaming or boiling.  Put the fingertip of your index finger and thumb into the tepid mixture to see if you can feel any grit.  If you feel any grit, the sugar is not completely dissolved -- stir for another minute.  Remove from heat and set aside, to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Transfer cream mixture to a 1-quart measuring container with pourer spout (a big measuring cup).

IMG_2670 IMG_2670 IMG_2670 IMG_2670 IMG_2678 IMG_2678 IMG_2678~Step 3.  Remove the pans of mango-purée gelatine from the refrigerator.  Remove the candies or marbles from the bottom and sit the cups upright.  Carefully, in a thin steady stream, pour the panna cotta mix into the empty side of each cup, until the purée gelatine is completely covered.  Return the pans to the refrigerator and keep them there until the panna cotta is set, 4-6 hours or overnight.

Oh my panna cotta.  You bring out the perfectionist in me: 

IMG_2690Oh my panna cotta perfection in every bite:

IMG_2711Pan From Heaven:  A Divine Mango Panna Cotta:  Recipe yields 12, 3/4 cup servings.

Special Equipment List:  mango splitter-pitter; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 1-quart measuring container; large squeeze condiment container with twist-on cap; 3-4-quart saucier w/rounded sides or a 3-4-quart saucepan; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07fed657970dCook's Note:  Other fruits can be substituted for mangos to make today's panna cotta dessert (peaches, strawberries and bananas are three of my favorites).  That said, any fruit that purées well, can be used to make a mousse too (a similar technique in that gelatine is used to set the fruit purée, but, instead of cooking the cream with gelatine, freshly whipped cream is carefully folded into the mixture to make it light and airy.  By all means, give my ~ Pretty in Pink:  Easy, Elegant Strawberry Mousse ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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