The first strawberries of the year are coming in! These berries a small, alpine variety that are jewels of summer sweetness. Pop one in your mouth and you’ll hear the sound of an ice cream truck and feel the cool of your neighborhood pool on a hot July day.
I wanted to do something special with these delicacies and I wanted to make sure that I highlighted them as the star of the show, rather than muddling their flavor. To that end, I went out of the box to create a fresh, colorful summer dessert that shows off the berries and compliments them with other sweets from the earth.
- ½ envelope gelatin
- ½ cup half and half or whole milk
- 1/6 cup sugar (about 8 teaspoons)
- 6 teaspoons honey plus a bit more to drizzle on top
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean pod, and its seeds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Rind of one orange, shaved (I would recommend a navel orange-lots of rind to work with)
- As many pretty little strawberries as you can find. Blueberries would be delicious too!
- Lightly grease 2 large ramekins or 4 small ramekins with cooking spray.
- Pour half and half or whole milk into a medium size saucepan. Don’t turn the heat on yet. Sprinkle gelatin on top of milk and allow to bloom, aka rest there, for 5 minutes.
- Turn heat to medium-low under the milk and slowly mix in the gelatin. Don’t let the milk boil! This process should take another 5 minutes.
- Once gelatin is dissolved, add sugar and honey to warm milk and continue to occasionally slowly stir mixture for another 5 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Remove milk from heat and add the cream, vanilla bean pod, its seeds, the vanilla extract, cream and orange rind.
- Allow mixture to cool as the flavors come together for 15 minutes.
- Remove vanilla bean pod from mixture. At this point you can choose to strain the mixture to remove the orange rind or leave it in as a textural element. Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins and chill, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
- To remove panna cotta from the ramekins, place a small plate upside-down over the top of the ramekins and, holding the ramekin and plate, flip the entire ensemble over together.
- Top your beautiful panna cotta with drizzled honey and freshly sliced berries.