Citrus-scented panna cotta


Sweet Alchemy: Dessert MagicPanna cotta is an Italian delight with a creamy, soft feel in the mouth. Its texture shouldn’t be bouncy; rather, it should hold its form when spooned just so. Once the spoon makes it into your mouth, the panna cotta should gently melt. This is a simple recipe that can make 5 or 50 desserts, quickly and in advance.

I like to say this is citrus “scented” because that’s exactly how the citrus imparts flavor into the custard. The fruity tartness of the citrus is the perfect pairing for the rich flavor of the cream; but when mixed together, citrus juice and cream tend to curdle. By infusing the flavors of orange and lemon zests into the body of the cream, you get a delightful, delicate flavor profile that is truly simple and elegant. I imagine that if I had an Italian grandmother, this is the sort of dessert she would approve of.

  • Yield: 3 ½ CUPS (1 KG)


  • 3 Cups (700 g) heavy cream
  • 1 Orange grated zest
  • 1 Lemon grated zest
  • 1 tbsp (12 g)  1 vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste
  • ¾ Cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp (30 g) plus 1 tsp powdered gelatin or 10 gelatin leaves
  • ½ cup (140 g) plus 1 tbsp buttermilk
How to Make It
  1. In a medium stainless-steel or enamel-coated saucepan, bring 350 g 1½ cups of the heavy cream to a boil over medium-high heat; reserve the other half in the refrigerator to keep it cold. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the orange zest and lemon zest to the hot cream. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with a paring knife and then use the knife to scrape the seeds from the pod. Add the seeds and pod or the vanilla bean paste to the hot cream. Whisk everything together and cover the saucepan, allowing the vanilla bean and citrus zests to infuse into the cream for 1 hour.
  2. Remove the vanilla pod and return the cream infusion to the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and bring the cream back to a boil, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula and scraping the bottom so that the cream does not burn.
  3. Meanwhile, if using powdered gelatin, sprinkle it over a small saucepan containing 1/3 cup (75 ml) water and allow to sit for 5 minutes to hydrate the gelatin. Place over medium-low heat for another 5 minutes to completely dissolve the gelatin into the water. If using gelatin leaves, bloom them by placing them in a clean bowl of cold water for 5 minutes, then drain and squeeze out all excess water. Add the gelatin-water or bloomed gelatin to the hot cream mixture and whisk until the gelatin dissolves.
  4. Pour the reserved 350 g 1 ½cups cold heavy cream into the saucepan and whisk to combine (cooling the cream down will keep the buttermilk from separating when it is added). Add the buttermilk to the cooled cream mixture and whisk to combine thoroughly.
  5. Pour the panna cotta into your desired glass-ware of dish and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours, allowing it to set to a beautiful soft, jiggle texture. You can pour the panna cottas up to 5 days before serving. If not serving immediately, cover the tops with plastic wrap so they do not dry out.

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