Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Sour Cherry Gelee
Toni's smooth vanilla panna cotta is sandwiched between layers of sour cherry gelatin and finished with a brandied cherry and chocolate baton. Don't be scared off by the "sour" in the title, any sourness is completely offset by the addition of simple syrup and the sweet panna cotta, a slightly firmer version of pudding.
You might think that because of the shop's tourist-centric location, out-of-towners are the primary customers, but Toni said they actually serve an equal mix of locals on their lunch break and tourists from nearby hotels who get tipped off by in-the-know concierges.
Mise en Place
As any classicaly trained chef would, Toni had her mise en place in place when I arrived—that is she had all of her ingredients out and at the ready.
The first step for the bottom layer of the panna cotta is to "bloom" sheets of gelatin in warm water.
Adding the Cherry Purée
Once the gelatin has softened, Toni adds sour cherry purée she buys from a European supplier.
Adding the Simple Syrup
Simple syrup is the last ingredient to go into the cherry gelatin. Toni called panna cotta the perfect dinner party dessert because it's simple to make and can be prepared ahead of time so that you can enjoy dinner with your guests and just pull dessert out of the fridge all set and ready to be eaten.
Toni pours a thin layer of the cherry gelatin into glasses and pops them into the fridge to set.
Milk and Gelatin
The panna cotta itself starts similarly to the cherry layer: gelatin sheets are left to bloom in some cream.
Cream, Sugar, and Vanilla Bean
While the gelatin blooms, the scrapings from a few vanilla beans as well as the beans themselves are combined with white sugar and cream. The mixture is heated until just boiling.
Cream and Gelatin
Toni pours the cream and gelatin mixture into the hot vanilla cream to soften further.
Cooling the Cream
Toni cools the steaming vanilla cream in an ice bath before adding it to the bottom layer of cherry gelatin in the glasses.
Once the cream is cool, it can be added to the glasses already containing the set cherry gelatin. If the cream is too warm, it can melt the bottom layer of gelatin and that glass would have to be scrapped. The glasses get another breather in the fridge so the panna cotta sets before the final layer is added.
Once the panna cotta is set, the third and final layer of cherry gelatin is added.
The tri-layered panna cotta gets another vacation in the fridge so the top layer sets before the final garnishes are added.
Toni garnishes the panna cotta with potent but delicious brandied cherries and a chocolate baton.