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Fig Leaf Panna Cotta

Yield: 8 servings

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream (OR substitute buttermilk for half of the cream to make it a bit less rich)
  • 1 large fresh fig leaf, washed, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • optional: 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 8 pretty dessert bowls (or small wine glasses); or use custard cups, lightly oiling them before adding the mix; refrigerate overnight, and unmold carefully

For the fruit garnish

(note: this can vary, seasonally—if there are figs, by all means, use them!)

  • 1 cup trimmed, sweet-ripe fruit of your choice
  • 1-2 Tbs. sugar
  • Lemon juice to taste

Start the Panna Cotta first so it has time to set (2 hours or more). Put the milk in a medium-large bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let stand to 'bloom.'  Combine cream, sugar and fig leaf in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently (note: if you're using half buttermilk, don't add it to the pan yet). Let stand for 15 minutes, then bring back to a simmer. Remove from the heat and strain into the gelatin and milk mixture, stirring until it is dissolved. If you're using buttermilk, add it after the gelatin is fully dissolved in the hot cream. Taste, and if you think it needs a bit of a flavor boost, stir in the vanilla. Strain. Portion into the 8 serving bowls/glasses, and chill until set, at least an hour.

To prepare the fruit, combine with the sugar in a glass bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir, then let stand until room temperature and the fruit has juiced out a bit. Garnish the panna cotta with the fruit before serving.

Note: if you prepare the panna cotta in custard cups to unmold, sit the cups in a  pan of hot tap water for about 3 seconds, then break the seal with the sharp end of a paring knife, and invert onto a plate.