If you read my post about the Fancy Food Show in January, you might recall the story of the stupid women who had no clue what a vanilla bean was and promptly put them in their mouth and chewed on them like Twizzlers. Turns out it was at the Rodelle Vanilla booth and after the rep read my story he offered to send me some vanilla.
I've been so busy with all sorts of things and other cooking projects that I couldn't get around to testing it in a vanilla focused recipe. I knew that I wanted to use it in panna cotta because that way I would be able to really get a good taste of the vanilla. Also, I'd never made a panna cotta before. So easy! Sadly, it's so easy that I may be too tempted to make it on a regular basis - which is not a good idea for anybody watching their weight. Sigh.
I was right with the vanilla. Your tastebuds are able to focus on the flavor of the vanilla alone, without competition from anything else. The Rodelle vanilla was mild with a bit of sweetness to it. It was light enough not to overpower the delicate cream of the panna cotta.
Panna Cotta (taken from whatscookingamerica.net)
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups heavy cream*
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup milk; let stand until the gelatin is softened, about 5 minutes.
In a large saucepan, combine heavy cream and sugar. Add vanilla extract or vanilla bean. If using a vanilla bean, slice the bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds into cream (add whole bean to cream for additional flavor). Bring cream just to a simmer (do not let it boil), whisking occasionally until sugar has completely dissolved; remove from heat and remove vanilla bean pod. Add the softened gelatin mixture and whisk to completely dissolve the gelatin.
Strain hot cream mixture into a large glass measuring cup with a pouring spout; pour into ramekins or custard cups. NOTE: Don't skip the straining step as it removes any bits of undissolved gelatin and insures a nice smooth dessert. Also, don't let the cream mixture cool before straining. If using a vanilla bean, lightly swirl the cream to distribute the seeds evenly. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
To unmold and serve, carefully dip bottom of each ramekin in a baking pan of hot water briefly. Run a thin knife around edge of each ramekin to loosen it from the inside of the bowl. Wipe the outside of the mold dry and place on individual chilled serving plate (topside down). Invert the custard onto the plate and carefully lift off ramekin (shake gently to release). Garnish with berries or fruit of your choice.