“You take two cups of milk and two cups of cream and warm it on the stove,” Tim’s saying to me from the dining room. I place our medium Le Creuset saucepan, the cream one with the handle, on the back burner.
“OK, then what?” I call back to him.
“Add ½ cup of Sucanat and stir until it dissolves.”
While the sugar combines with the milk and cream, I set out a bowl and fill it with six tablespoons of water, then toss five teaspoons of gelatin over the top.
I return to the stove. A couple minutes and a few stirs later, the sugar’s totally dissolved, and I remove the saucepan from the heat. I add vanilla extract and almond extract, stir, and pour the saucepan’s contents into the gelatin-water bowl. Stir. Let it all dissolve.
“Then I just pour it into the cups?” I say to Tim, thinking aloud that this has been too simple, wondering if we’ve somehow skipped a step. He’s in the kitchen next to me now, right beside me while I divvy up the mixture, pour it into oiled ramekins and set them in the fridge.
“I told you it was easy,” he responds, his back to me now while he begins washing dishes and setting them to dry.
This is not the first time I’ve made panna cotta, nor Tim’s, but it is the first time we’ve made it together. Also, more notably, it’s the first time the process has been so easy that as soon as we’re done, I’ve got it memorized, repeating the whole process back to Tim minutes later when we settle in on the sofa, and I take out a piece of paper and write it down.
Tim made this exact same recipe for me, minus the almond extract, I think, a few weeks ago, when one or the other of us heard someone say “panna cotta,” developed a craving and quickly passed the obsession along to the other so that pretty soon, both of us, regularly, were saying out loud, “Doesn’t that sound so good?” “I wish we had some some right now!” and “Let’s get some cream at the store so we can make panna cotta.”
But it wasn’t until late one night, when the sky had already grown dark, that we finally made good on the daydreams – and side by side with a Netflix movie, ate rich, luxurious, creamy bowl after bowl of it, alongside raspberries, licking our lips as we went.
This panna cotta isn’t the kind of craving that abates when you feed it, the kind where you, one night, make yourselves a batch and then for months thereafter give it nary a thought: no, sir. This panna cotta is the chocolate chip cookie of the magical custardy world: with every bite you take, you just want more.
So that’s how we’ve found ourselves in the kitchen tonight, a batch chilling in the fridge while we clean the kitchen and return to our laptops, long work projects calling our names. It’ll be past 10 p.m. when the desserts are finally set enough to warrant sharing one, and the next morning when we finally get to turn two out onto plates and top them with sliced figs and honey.
But even after we do, after, between the two of us, we’ve consumed dish after dish after dish after giant wine glass filled with panna cotta, the rich cream cut by the sweet and caramel-like milk layer, and it’s all gone, every last bit, less than one day after it’s made, we look at each other and still think the same thing:
Let’s make more!
Panna Cotta with Figs and Honey
Serves four (or, if you’re us, eager for bowl and bowl, two)
Our panna cotta looks layered because we use milk and cream – we’re told half-and-half (or all cream) will give you a more unified look, but that does make one wonder what exactly is done to half-and-half to make it no longer just milk and cream. Personally, I adore the layers because of the way they counterbalance each other and change up the look, but what you choose is entirely up to you.
2 cups of milk
2 cups of cream
1/2 cup of unrefined cane sugar (Sucanat)
6 tablespoons water
5 teaspoons gelatin
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Sliced figs and drizzled honey, for topping
Grease (we used olive oil) a few ramekins or glasses and set aside. In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, warm two cups of milk, two cups of cream and 1/2 cup of Sucanat, stirring here and there until the sugar is totally dissolved. Meanwhile, place water in a medium bowl and toss gelatin on top, letting it sit. Once sugar is dissolved in milk-cream mixture, add vanilla and almond extracts, stir; then, pour liquid atop the gelatin and stir until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Pour mixture into the ramekins and chill for at least four hours, until fully set.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.