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

  • Mike

    What’s wrong with boozy, jellied desserts all of a sudden? Why you gotta cut me off like that?

  • Tina

    Nothing wrong with boozy & jellied desserts at all! The thing is, the weather is unseasonably cold right now and I’m getting over chilled desserts in favour of using the oven….and making boozy BAKED desserts…

  • Tara

    Holy shit, that looks incredible. Well done.

  • claudia (cook et FRET)

    i love this if only because it’s lighter. i hate super heavy panna cotta’s – always have. i think the nature of this dessert is for it to BE lighter… the most authentic oners i think have more milk than cream… so great recipe…


  • Kristie

    Whoa, nelly. I followed your comment on my blog to YOUR blog, and have a few observations.

    1-You are much smaller than I was lead to believe from your pole dancing description.
    2-I like the layout of your blog much better than mine, but my fiance insists that I can’t switch my blog over to my webhosting service that he’s ALREADY PAID FOR because blogger gets more traffic. Why this matters, I’ve yet to figure out. I think he’s convinced someday someone somewhere will pay to read me bitch about things. Probably so he won’t have to.
    3-Don’t feel bad for Cat Cora. She looks smug, and kind of like a scrapper. There have been various bets made as to how quickly she and I would get in a fist fight if we ever met and who would win. I always bet on myself. And on “about 7 minutes.” She just looks pushy and like the kind of girl who would pretend to be helpless-yet-tough to get guys to like her, except that in real life she’s actually a lesbian.
    4-I love your blog. I spent AGES searching for an appropriately low-cal panna cotta recipe, I shit you not, like a month ago. I found NOTHING. I am going to try to make yours this weekend with some raspberry puree I froze a while back. Thank you!

  • Tina

    Tara & Claudia: thank you so much! I get so nervous about showing these things to people, because I’m quite certain that at some point I’ll get a comment saying, “Wow, that looks like arse. Did the wolves who raised you teach you to cook as well?” So…thank you….

    1 – it’s a flattering photo taken from a suspiciously good angle on a day when the stars aligned, Saggitarius was rising, and the plague of frogs stopped raining from the sky.
    2 – I am a Luddite of the highest degree, and I have no idea what the difference would be between blogger and a webhosting service. Thank god I have Mike for that…although when he starts talking about codes I glaze over like a Krispy Kreme.
    3 – I won’t tell Cat that you said that.
    4 – I’m so glad you like it! You can also omit the cream altogether (and use all buttermilk) if you like, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice ALL the flavour. Oh, and this sets up quite firmly. If you want it to be a bit looser you can use 1.5 packages of gelatin instead of 2. Please let me know how it goes!!!

  • Astra Libris

    Tina, thank you so much for your wonderful comment on my blog! I’m so glad you led me, in turn, to your exceptionally beautiful blog! I completely agree with you about the heavy cream – I just can’t bring myself to fix anything with all cream either! It just feels, well, wrong… 🙂 So I am incredibly excited about your glorious panna cotta!! I can’t wait to try your recipe!

  • Margie

    I don’t like the mouth-feel of heavy cream.

    Don’t you feel like moving to Texas and living over here by the lake? Why can’t I have GOOD neighbors? You know, the kind that cook!

  • Tina

    Astra – thank you so much for your comment! I love that you do a lot of lower fat cooking on your blog, so I hope that you enjoy the recipe!!

    Margie – I’ve never been to Texas, but I’d love to. Also, we’re breathing down the neck of another Canadian winter up here…ask me again in January if I want to move and you might have yourself a new neighbor!

  • anna

    I love the contrast of black and white in those…mmm, blackberries. I haven’t tried making panna cotta before but I am definitely with you on being scared by tons of heavy cream in recipes. That, an accompanying fear of cholesterol-y egg yolks and a lack of butane (for the torch) are the source of my procrastination in making the creme brulee I’ve promised my boyfriend (and blog) for a month now. I’ll have to try this out sometime.

  • eri

    maybe i just keep missing it, but when do you add the extra 2/3 cup sugar?