Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Yogurt Panna Cotta

As much as Valentine's Day is know for its decadent and indulgent desserts, I still like something light after a delicious meal. Heck, I'm not averse to a light dessert at any time, since I am much more likely to have room to fit it in. Panna cotta is often regarded as a light dessert, in the sense that it is incredibly delicate and really melts away in your mouth, leaving you without feeling overly full or as though you have eaten something heavy. It is a lightly cooked cream, sometimes with added flavorings, that is set with gelatin. As you might imagine, this literally light-weight dessert is not very “light” on fat or calories. A good panna cotta is definitely worth the indulgence from time to time, but the dessert is so simple to make that it seems a shame to have to limit its appearance at the table.
I have tried a few times before to make yogurt panna cottas with only limited success. I like to use the thick, Greek-style yogurt and while every effort was tasty, they did not always have the light mouth feel and delicate consistency of the cream version. Adding buttermilk to thin the yogurt kept a delicious tang in the panna cotta even after sweetening it slightly with sugar. The resulting panna cotta was smooth, slightly tangy and incredibly good. It was still a bit thicker than an ordinary panna cotta, but that isn’t surprising since I was working with a thicker medium. I really loved this dessert.My panna cotta is pictured with a blood orange sauce that came about after experimenting with different types of fruit curds. Since it was actually a mistake, I don’t really have a recipe for it. I recommend serving the panna cotta with a raspberry puree or simply with some fresh fruit. Happy Valentine's Day!

Yogurt Panna Cotta
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 tsp gelatin
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt and buttermilk.
In a small bowl, combine gelatin and water. Microwave gelatin and water for about 30-45 seconds, until gelatin is melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla.
Whisk gelatin mixture thoroughly into yogurt. Divide into four very lightly greased ramekins and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.
To unmold, dip ramekins in very hot water for a few seconds and invert on to plates.
Serves 4.