Panna cotta amara con caramello
Or 'bitter cream pudding with caramel sauce' although the pudding's not bitter but the caramel syrup is, slightly, but you won't taste it. Anyway, that's the translation of the popular Italian dessert in a cooking class I attended given by Chef Oscar Pasinato at Tanjung Aru Beach Resort in, er, 1999. Gosh, time flies.
I loved this dessert immediately because I love cream. This is a truly super delicious dessert that anyone can make. If I had a dinner party coming up and I'm too hassled with the cooking to bother with an elaborate dessert, this is it. This is the easiest dessert you can ever make without compromising on taste. Just make the cream pudding a night or half a day ahead, do the caramel syrup hours before and assemble just before serving and your guests will be awed but only you know how little work went into the creation. You don't tell, I won't either.
I recommend (okay, it was Chef Oscar who first recommended. I heartily agree) using a tartish fruit in season, such as starfruits or even oranges (as he did), or berries. There's the cream, giving you a smooth silky texture, there's the caramelly sweet syrup and then there's the tartish fruits to temper the richness of the cream and sugar. If you don't want the slight bitter taste, just don't overcook the caramel. I've tried splashing Bailey's (not good) on the pudding but prefer rum although it is not necessary. We're having Korean sam gyub sal tonight instead of finissima di bue con parmigiano e sedano and gamberoni in guazetto di cannelini al porfumo di balsamico with the panna cotta. Chef Oscar would faint if he knows. But this is the way I like to mix my food--not the muddle of today's fusion dishes, but different cuisines in one meal.
Oh, another thing. There are dozens of panna cotta recipes out there but I haven't seen any that uses gelatine leaves. I have tried using gelatine powder, and somehow the panna cotta texture is not as smooth and satiny.
Panna Cotta Amara Con Caramello (4 medium servings)
500 ml* fresh dairy cream
3 pieces gelatine leaves**
* I have reduced this from 700 ml because of our hot weather.
** from cake ingredients shops.
--Put the cream into a small pot, add the gelatine leaves which have been briefly soaked in cold water (15 sec or until just turning soft). Heat and stir the cream until the gelatine is thoroughly melted and pour into individual molds, preferably metal molds which are easier to ease out. For big parties, I make a huge mold for guests to help themselves with.
25 ml water (edited!)
--Put water and sugar into a small pot and heat it (do not stir!) until it becomes golden brown (too brown and it will be bitter) and bubbly-thick. Very carefully, using a long ladle and gloved hand (because the hot syrup will sputter), add about 50 ml of cold water dripping onto the inside of the pot. This is supposed to prevent the syrup from hardening. Let it cool.
poppy seeds & mint leaves (optional)
--Sit the panna cotta mold in very warm water briefly and it can be turned out easily. I've found that thick glass molds are not suitable because it's hard to get the pudding out. Decorate with the fresh fruits, poppy seeds and mint leaves.