Blackberry Cassis Panna Cotta
Oh, panna cotta. What do I have to say about panna cotta. Well, for starters, I really enjoy it….but I kind of have this problem. See, the thing is, I am actually INCAPABLE of making a dessert that is composed almost entirely of heavy cream. I don’t know if that’s shameful or valiant, but it’s me. I was a chubby child, an obese adolescent, and still I find that every day is a struggle to stave off looking like Jabba. And there we have it. I love to eat, I love dessert, but if I can make a slightly lower calorie or healthier option I’m usually game. Also, I’ll eat anything that’s booze soaked. So, here is my attempt at a panna cotta which is (significantly) lower calorie but still flavourful and….booze soaked.
Blackberry Cassis Panna Cotta
- 5 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen) + more to garnish *
- 1/2 cup + 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup Creme de Cassis **
- 3 packages/tbsp gelatin
- 1 cup half and half cream
- 3 cups fat free buttermilk
- zest of 1/3 lemon
* I would recommend using frozen blackberries. In my supermarket the price of a pint of fresh blackberries is roughly on par with a tankard of oil, and the (significantly cheaper) frozen ones will actually break down much better. The only reason that mine are fresh is that I sneak into my parents’ backyard under the cover of darkness and steal their fruit.
** Maybe you don’t drink! Maybe you’re pregnant! Maybe this is going to be served to children! There is actually not very much liquor in this if you consider that a 1/2 cup is being divided into 10 portions. In fact, now I’m wishing I had used more….However, if you are adamantly against imbibing the hooch then why not use Rybena or a black currant syrup instead?
Before you say that this is panna cotta and it must be way too much work, look at the scanty cast of characters. How hard can it possibly be?
In a medium pot add 5 cups of blackberries, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 cups water. Put this on medium high heat so that it can boil.
And when it does, let it boil for a good 20 – 30 minutes until you have what looks like very loose blackberry jam in the pot. Don’t forget to stir occasionally so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot.
Pour the mixture into a large sieve over a mixing bowl. Squeeze the juices through the mesh using a circular motion to keep pushing the juice outward and extract as much as possible from the berries.
Scrape down the sides of your sieve as you do this to maximize your blackberry yield. Try to be fairly brisk as you will need to juice to be hot when you add the gelatin. Mind you, it is very, very hot and unlikely to cool for a good amount of time, so there’s no need to panic – just be efficient. And hey, if the phone rings and you get distracted that’s okay too. You can reheat the juice when you’re ready to use it.
Pour 1 cup of the hot blackberry juice into a medium size mixing bowl. Add 1 package (1 tbsp) or gelatin and whisk it quickly and well until it is fully incorporated.
When the gelatin is well mixed in and the berry juice is starting to cool, add 1/2 cup of Creme de Cassis. Give it another stir.
Lightly oil 10 ramekins, each one to hold 1/2 cup (4 oz). Drop a blackberry into the bottom of each one, if you like. Aim for the center, but don’t have any illusions – it won’t be in the center when you’re all done. And hey, if you just don’t want to do that, well, it won’t make too much difference in the greater scheme of things.
Pour 2 tbsp of the Creme de Cassis/blackberry mixture into the bottom of each ramekin. Tuck these into the freezer for a half hour as you work on the panna cotta. There will be left over juice, which is great. Pour this back into the original blackberry juice mixture. It’s all going to the same place, after all.
In a medium heavy bottomed pot, gently start to heat 1 cup of half and half cream. When steam is just starting to come off and it feels hot to the touch, sprinkle over the remaining 2 packages (2 tbsp) of gelatin. Whisk this well until it is fully dissolved and incorporated. If your cream is too hot or (god forbid!) boiling, the gelatin will seize and you’ll have useless little tapioca like pearls. We don’t like that. Aim for cream that is just hot enough to dissolve the gelatin, not scalding.
Add the zest of 1/3 lemon. This will be just over 1 tsp, but I suggest letting the lemon tell you when it’s done, and it should look like this.
Add three (3) cups of fat free buttermilk and continue whisking. Please take the mixture off the heat and let it cool just slightly for about 5 – 10 minutes.
Take the ramekins out of the freezer. The blackberry cassis jelly should be set and firm to the touch, even if they aren’t 100% set. As long as they have a thick skin on top it will be fine. Pour in the cream mixture until it almost meets the rim. Let these chill for 5-6 hours or overnight.
The panna cottas are done! Now let’s make the pretty sauce to serve them on. Pour the rest of the blackberry juice mixture into a medium size pot over medium-high heat.
Let this boil down until it is reduced by half. This should be cool before you’re ready to serve the dessert, so might as well tuck it into the fridge as the panna cottas chill.
Take the panna cotta out of the fridge 1/2 hour before you intend to serve them. Bringing them slightly closer to room temperature will help when you’re ready to unmold and also intensifies the flavours. To serve them, run a sharp knife around the outside of the dish.
Place your serving plate on top of the ramekin. Holding firmly, lift it up…
….and flip it over. And I despise that picture. My hands don’t actually look like that, people….well, I guess that they must because cameras don’t just make things up, but I don’t think it’s a particularly representative photo. Sigh.
If the panna cotta does not unmold easily, fill a medium size bowl half full with very warm water. “Very warm” means much hotter than body temperature, but not hot enough that you couldn’t keep your hand in there for 20 seconds. Think of a really, really hot bath. Dip the stubborn ramekin almost all of the way in there for 5 seconds, being sure not to let water get on top of the panna cotta. It will unmold easily now, I promise.
Garnish with your reserved blackberry syrup, fresh blackberries, and fresh mint if you feel the yen.
This is just such a pretty dessert, and quite cool and light. It’s so pretty that even if you don’t like it (and I sincerely hope that you will) you will still nod your head and say, “Yep. That there panny cotty shore looked DANG good…..” Also, you can feel somewhat virtuous knowing that the fat content has been dropped exponentially and the portion size is relatively small. See? You’re practically doing yourself a favour!!
I do enjoy my pretty little things.
And I also solemnly swear that this is the last pretty, boozy, jellied dessert that I’ll do for a while. At least a month. Or so.
What’s playing? Waltz # 2 by Elliott Smith