panna cotta with poached fig sauce


Another fig recipe so soon, I know, I know. I've been pretty fortunate for the past few weeks to get fresh ripe figs on a weekly basis. They are perfect! Figs are ripe and ready to eat when they feel like soft swollen balloons that are almost ready to burst. Sometimes when entertaining, I like to serve up simple desserts. The ones that are no fuss and easy to make. You dump everything together and literally forget about them till you are ready to eat. You let the ingredients do all the work and talking for you. This is one such dessert to woo your guests over in a single delicious bite.


Of all the puddings that I have tried, panna cotta is probably one of the most delicate and yet so simplistically elegant desserts. In my mind it invokes all sorts of culinary praise. You scoop a little pudding and once it enters your mouth it melts. The cool buttermilk and vanilla pervade your taste buds and delight them in every possible way. This how I feel about my panna cotta consumption experience. 


The fig sauce compliments the panna cotta not only visually but also provides a surprising burst of complex fruity flavors. The fig sauce can be served with almost any other dessert as a topping. It makes a delicious accompaniment to bread pudding, ice creams, cakes, etc. You can also serve the fig sauce by itself with a little bit of whipped creme fraiche or mascarpone. I adapted these recipes from one of my favorite dessert chefs Alice Medrich from her Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts Cookbook.


panna cotta

ingredients

1/4 cup water
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups 1% or skim buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1. Lightly spray six individual dessert dishes with a neutral and flavorless vegetable oil spray.
2.  Pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on the surface. Set aside, without stirring. The gelatin will absorb water and begin to swell.
3. Heat the cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over a medium flame. Stir continuously till the sugar is dissolved. Do not bring to a boil. 
4. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the vanilla and water-gelatin mixture. Stir well at this stage with a whisk to disperse the gelatin. Cool the mixture till lukewarm. 
5. Gently whisk in the buttermilk and stir thoroughly. Let this custard sit for about 10 minutes. It will begin to thicken as it keeps cooling down. Keep mixing it every 2 minutes or so with a rubber spatula. This will ensure a tender panna cotta. 
6. Once the mixture is cool to touch and thickens, divide and pour equally into the dessert dishes. Cover each with a piece of cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight to set.
7. The pudding is ready when the surface is firm to finger touch. You can serve them in the dessert dishes or remove them from the dishes onto a dessert plate using a sharp paring knife to loosen them from the sides of the dish. Top the surface of the dish with a dessert plate and invert the dish to release the panna cotta. 

poached fig sauce

ingredients

2 cups of strong coffee 
1 cup sugar (you can add a little more if you want it sweeter)
1 vanilla bean pod 
2 pounds ripe fresh brown turkey figs
1 cup red wine (I used a Shiraz)

1. Chop the figs in half. You can keep the stems if you want or trim them off.
2. Slice the vanilla bean in half across its length. Remove the seeds with the knife. Combine the vanilla bean, the seeds with the rest of the ingredients in the saucepan. Do not add the figs yet. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium flame. Reduce the flame and continue to cook the sauce to a gentle simmer till the volume reduces to half. 
3. Add the sliced figs and cook them for further 10 minutes. Stir gently. 
4. Remove the sauce from the stove and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 hours before using. 

Note: If the sauce is warm or too hot it will melt the panna cotta. Gelatin gelled food begin to melt at higher temperatures.