For the first time in a long time, I didn’t go out of town over the weekend, and it was amazing. Not only did we make time for dinners with friends, a great Yom Kippur service at Hill Havurah (if you’re looking for a DC synagogue, I’ve found their services to be extremely welcoming to Hebrew illiterates like myself), and boring but crucial things like dry cleaning and chores, I actually had time to make something for the blog (!). It’d been too long.
Now, with that said, I didn’t have that much time and still needed something simple and low-key to take to our friends who had so graciously invited us over for dinner. I knew we were having short ribs (so good! and so not healthy), and figured a dessert on the lighter side would do us all a favor. That ruled out cupcakes and cheesecake, but left the door wide open for panna cotta with fresh berries and berry sauce, and I walked right through it. Join me, please.
Now, if we’re going to be completely honest with ourselves, the panna cotta is really just a vehicle for raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. As I’ve said before, berries and cream are my favorite dessert, but showing up on our friends’ doorstep with a tub of whipped cream, albeit homemade, didn’t seem appropriate. Instead, I decided to do things one better and took a more elevated, “italian” approach to my favorite dessert. The best part, panna cotta is surprisingly easy to make. If you can make jello, you can make panna cotta.
Also, for me, it made great use of the small plastic wine cups that I bought way too many of back in the day. I always feel such a great sense of accomplishment whenever I can find new uses for old things.
While the cream is definitely the star here (you can read all about how to make it in the recipe instructions down below), the berry sauce plays a crucial supporting role tying everything together.
Making the sauce is easy. All it is is melting some unsalted butter on the stove and cooking it with a little bit of light brown sugar, lemon juice and a cup of mixed berries of your choice. Let that warm for just a little and the berry juices will cook out and reduce into a nice sauce.
What you do next is up to you. You can either scoop the sauce and cooked berries (berry compote) right into each cup, or do what I do and use only the sauce and top with fresh berries, whatever floats your boat. I prefer the fresh berries route, because the sweetness cooks out of the compote berries, and believe you me, I like my desserts and my berries sweet.
And just like that you can create a crowd-pleasing, easy, make-ahead dessert in individual servings perfect for dinner parties, or yourself. I could easily eat ten of these things all on my own. I hope you feel the same way. Enjoy!
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
- 3 cups whipping cream
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1½ cups mixed berries (I used raspberries, blueberries & blackberries)
- fresh berries for topping, optional
- Place the milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
- Pour milk mixture into a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves not letting the milk boil, about 5 minutes.
- Add the cream, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Remove from heat and pour into 8 clear plastic wine cups or wine glasses.
- Cool slightly and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved.
- Add berries and cook, tossing gently, until berries are warm and juices are released, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Once panna cotta cups are set, top with berry sauce and fresh berries.
- Makes 8 individual servings