I like to deceive people. But don’t think badly of me. I’m not talking about deception in the serious way, like crying game style but in the I like to cook things that look impressive and difficult but are really dead easy kinda way. Panna cotta is one of those desserts. I love it, you can infuse it with a million different flavours and best of all you can make it ahead of time, pop it in the fridge and bibbidi bobbed boo you have a super impressive dessert that will wow the pants off your guests.
The other night the Dr and I had some friends over to celebrate the release of our friend’s brilliant book (it’s called Band-aid for a broken leg available at all good bookshops – plug over) and for dessert I cooked this panna cotta and paired it with some beautiful in-season roasted quince and for some crunch a bit of honeycomb. If you wanted to make just a simple vanilla panna cotta you could easily just replace the honey with a vanilla bean and voila vanilla panna cotta, with some berries – amazing.
This should be ridiculously easy if you follow the recipe and if it isn’t then you’ve probably not done it right, just saying… Just bring the ingredients to a boil, add the gelatine leaves and pour into moulds. You could even make it easier by pouring it into the vessels you’re going to serve from so you don’t have the stress of turning them out, but I do love the wobble of the panna cotta sitting on a plate, there is something kinda sexy about it. I have heard that the panna cotta should wobble a like a woman’s ta ta’s and I’m assuming of the real variety, so that’s what you’re aiming for…
You can make all the elements of this dish ahead of time even the day before so all you have to do is plate it up…see, totally stress free!
Honey panna cotta with roasted quince and honeycomb
What you need:
For the panna cotta (adapted from Lake House by Alla Wolf-Tasker)
- 560 ml (19 fl oz) thickened/heavy cream
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) milk
- 150 g (5 oz) honey
- 90 g (3 1/4 oz) sugar
- 4 1/2 leaves gelatine (gold strength)
For the roasted quince (adapted from Maggie’s kitchen by Maggie Beer)
- 1.5 kg (3 1/3 lb) quinces, peel and cored and cut into quarters and then cut each quarter into thirds (reserve cores and skin)
- juice of 2 lemons
- 600 ml (20 1/3 fl oz) water
- 1 orange, juice and zest, removed in wide strips with a vegetable peeler
- 400 g (14 oz) caster sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
For the honeycomb
- 200 g (7 oz) caster sugar
- 40 g (1 1/2 oz) honey
- 75 g (2 1/2 oz) liquid glucose
- 35 ml (1 1/2 fl oz) water
- 10 g (1/2 oz) bicarb of soda
What to do:
FOR THE QUINCE
Start with the quince by preheating the oven to 90C/194F.
Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the pieces of quince to stop them from browning.
Wrap the quince peel and cores in a square of muslin and pop it into a stainless steel saucepan with the orange juice, zest, sugar and cinnamon. Bring it to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 15 mins. It should look syrupy. Remove the muslin bag.
Place the quince pieces into a baking dish that is big enough for the quince pieces to sit in a single layer. Add the syrup, zest and cinnamon stick to the baking dish. You may not need all of the syrup, you just want it to come 3/4 up the quince pieces. Cover with baking paper that sits directly on the quinces to avoid too much of the syrup evaporating.
Roast for 8 hours. Every now and then turn the quince pieces in the syrup. The quince will become soft and change colour between an orangey to a deep red. Let it cool
FOR THE PANNA COTTA
Put the gelatine in a bowl filled with cold water to soften.
Get yourself a medium-sized saucepan and bring the cream, milk, honey and sugar to the boil. Take out the gelatine from the water and give it a bit of a squeeze to remove excess water and pop it into the saucepan with the cream mixture. Bring back to the simmer and then take it off the heat. Let the mixture slightly cool and then pour into moulds, cover with cling film and put it into the fridge for at least 3 hours to set.
When you’re ready to serve, if you’re unmoulding your panna cotta, dip the mould into a bowl of boiling water for a few seconds to slightly melt the edge, this should help it come out easily. If you need some extra help you can also run a small knife around the edge.
FOR THE HONEYCOMB
Have a baking tray ready lined with parchment/baking paper.
This is much easier if you have sugar thermometer. Place all ingredients except for the bicarb of soda into a medium heavy-based saucepan. On low heat, bring to boil. Crank the heat up and when the temperature reaches 155C/310F take it off the heat and whisk in the bicarb of soda. You want to whisk it in quickly and as soon as it is incorporated and bubbling, pour it onto the baking tray and leave it to set for around 15-20 mins. Break it up with your hands or with a knife.