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Dinner Tonight! | LEARNING TO COOK

How to Cook a Cream

February 28, 2001|MARION CUNNINGHAM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Italian panna cotta (cooked cream) is just the type of recipe that we home cooks look for, a recipe that is versatile, very simple and, of course, very good. This delicate, silky cream is a perfect example of what I mean; it's as easy to make as a piece of toast.

I have tested this recipe several times to get the right texture, flavor and sweetness. You can change these amounts to suit your palate; that is what's great about cooking at home.

Serve it with sliced fruit, berries, a little caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or alone with a crisp cookie.

Panna Cotta

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes plus 4 hours chilling

1/3 cup cold water

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

2/3 cup milk

2 cups whipping cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour the cold water into a small cup and stir in the gelatin. Let it stand for 5 minutes. It will become firm.

Place the milk, cream, salt and sugar in a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and stir often. Heat the mixture until a small ring of bubbles appears around the inside edge of the pan. You need to stand right there and watch carefully. This process takes only a couple of minutes, and sometimes you will notice a little steam rising from the milk mixture. Don't let it boil.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the gelatin mixture and vanilla, and stir until the gelatin completely dissolves. Pour the custard into serving cups. I like to use 1-cup glass containers; each holds 2/3 cup custard. Let the custard cool a little, then cover each cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours before unmolding to serve.

5 servings. Each serving: 385 calories; 114 mg sodium; 135 mg cholesterol; 36 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0 fiber.

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* Tracy Porter plates from Saks Fifth Avenue.

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