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Panna Cotta, which translates to "cooked cream" in Italian, is by far one of my favorite desserts. It's super light and creamy, yet satisfying at the same time. When made with just the right amount of gelatin, it has an amazingly soft and smooth texture.
Much like custards, the base of panna cotta can lend itself to any flavor with the quick infusion of a dried spice or herb or the addition of chocolate chips or citrus zest, making it one of my first choices in recipes to pair with the best of the season's fruit.
This panna cotta takes a bit of advance planning—you can't serve it right away as the gelatin needs to set for several hours—but it's actually pretty easy to prep using ingredients you probably already have on hand. And when you don't have heavy cream around, you can substitute with plain yogurt or sour cream for a tangy version of this dessert.
This variation is one of the fanciest of my panna cotta recipes. It pairs the tropical flavor of coconut (which is my go-to at the end of winter when I'm so tired of apples, pears, and citrus fruits) with a bright fuschia-colored layer of hibiscus gelee and little gems of pomegranate seeds. Make it for your next dinner party, when you are in the mood to impress, or when you just want to pretend you're on a tropical island and not trapped under weeks of snow.
About the author: Pastry Chef Jenny McCoy has worked in Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City for some of America's most beloved chefs. She is the author of Desserts for Every Season and currently teaches at ICE.edu. When she's not counting her lucky stars that she no longer works in restaurant kitchens, she's busy trying to convince home cooks that baking is easy and fun. Or she's running around working on a new line of baking mixes, shooting classes for Craftsy.com or a new show for the Food Network. Stay tuned @Jenny_McCoy for updates.