Textural Dreams: Lemon Panna Cotta with Lemon Marmalade

Multicourse meals make beautiful feasts, but they can be audacious undertakings both in preparation and consumption. When we do grandiose feasts at my house, as we did this past mother’s day, they can last for hours and by the end, your teeth are exhausted, your stomach is about ready to give up, and all you want to do is probably pass out on the nearest couch. Therefore, I look to custards and their relatives when I want to wrap up a feast. They are smooth, silky, and very easy on the mouth.

Panna Cotta, as I have probably explained before, is Italian for cooked cream. A classical dessert that can be made with a variety of flavorings, I chose to use fresh lemon zest with its bright and citrusy flavor, alongside hints of fruity and woodsy vanilla bean. The beauty of Panna cotta is that you can get the same velvety texture of a custard without messing with egg yolks, tempering, or water-baths. Set with gelatin, this panna cotta has a flavor and texture reminiscent of lusty crème brûlée. Yet the bottom of this dish contains the grittiness of the sunken lemon zest and vanilla bean caviar which adds a pleasing textural contrast.

Perhaps the best part of the whole desert, is probably the homemade lemon marmalade. Made with boiled lemon peels that are then candied in a simple sugar syrup, this topping combines the best of tart and sweet flavors and the texture of the lemon peel plays well with that of panna cotta. Hence, this desert is great addition to the symphony of textures which you are bound to experience during an extravagant meal. Featuring a dream worthy triple-threat of textures on its own, this panna cotta hits all the right notes.

Recipe: Lemon Panna Cotta with Lemon Marmalade

Recipe by Jimmy Bannos, Jr. featured in May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit 


  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 3 large lemons
  • 3/4 cup sugar
For the marmalade: Cut the peel and white pith from the lemons. Juice enough of the lemon flesh to make 1/2 cup lemon juice. Set it aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the lemon peels for 5 minutes. Remove the peels from the water and repeat the boiling process two more times. Let the peel cool and then slice it lengthwise into thin strips. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, 1/3 cup of lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of water until the sugar dissolves. Then add the lemon peel and bring the mixture to a simmer until it has reduced to 2/3 cup ,and a thermometer reads 225 degrees farenheit. Cover and chill in the fridge.
For the panna cotta: Pour 1/2 cup of the milk into a small bowl and soften the gelatin in it for about 15 minutes. Combine the other 1/2 cup of milk, cream, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and whisk the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to steep for about 10 minutes. Then bring the cream mixture back to a simmer and add the gelatin mixture, stirring until the mixture is nice and smooth. Pour into 3/4 cup ramekins and refrigerate until the panna cottas are set, about 6 hours.
For serving: Remove the panna cottas from the fridge and place a spoon of marmalade on top. Enjoy! 


Lavender-Vanilla Panna Cottas with Red Berry Coulis

Happy Birthday Dad! Lavender-Vanilla Panna Cottas with Red Berry Coulis.


Well… my dad’s birthday was actually three weeks ago, but as is usual with most of my blogging, posts tend to get a bit delayed, and its quite odd actually because being a second-semester senior, you would think that the workload would decrease. HA, no, no, no. I feel that the teachers have only been pilling it all on now. Anyways, the point of this post here is to elaborate upon this glorious desert that I made for my father as he made the move from one age to the next. It is a fabulous Panna Cotta, which is Italian for “cooked cream” and quite frankly is what the name suggests. However, this cooked cream is little more than just that. I have flavoured it with lovely Provencal Lavender that I bought from the Cours Saleya, the open-air market in Nice, from my recent France trip. Playing a supporting role in this production is a pungent Madagascar Vanilla bean, also from the aforementioned location, which adds a great, almost-smoky, sweetness. The lavender who is our leading lady, speaks with great floral tones. Yes, lavender can be used for a lot more than soaps and perfumes, it makes a great dish any day.

To complete this lovely ensemble is my red berry fruit couli, this part of the dish was inspired from a panna cotta with red-fruit couli that I had in Nice earlier. The panna cotta was simple and sweet and the fruit couli added a sweet fizziness to the whole deal. For my interpretation, I stewed some strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries in a generous dousing of pomegranate liquor and some sugar for sweetness. Let the whole thing boil about and you have a gorgeous red sauce that will coat the bottom of your serving plates, serving as the perfect liquid on which our floating island of cream shall sit upon. O! Que Magnifique! This Panna Cotta not only had myself smiling but my Dad as well because sometimes when you turn over another year, you don’t always want the same old slice of cake greeting you. Sometimes it is just awesome to have yourself a nice cold plate of Panna Cotta!

Recipe: Lavender-Vanilla Panna Cotta with Red-Berry Couli
Serves: 6
Cooking Time: 5 Minutes
Panna Cotta (Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa):
  • 1/2 packet (1 teaspoon) unflavoured gelatin
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1 cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, spilt and seeds scraped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of culinary lavender
  • 1/3 cup of sugar plus 1 tablespoon
Red Berry Couli (A Kooking Fever Original)
  • 1 16 0z bag frozen strawberries
  • 1 12 oz bag frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate liquor
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
Panna Cotta: In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 3/4 cup of the cream, and the vanilla extract. Meanwhile in a small pot, heat the remaining 3/4 cup of cream, sugar, lavender, and the vanilla bean seeds and pod. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Then strain the hot cream mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and add the softened gelatin. Pour the panna cotta into 6 small ramekins or 4 large ones and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 6-8 hours and possibly overnight.
Fruit Couli: In medium saucepan heat the berries, sugar, liquor, and cornstarch and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Then using an immersion blender, blend the mixture till smooth. Cook the blended mixture over a low heat for another 15 minutes.
Serving: Place a layer of couli on the bottom of the plate. Then run a knife around the ramekin and dip the bottom of each ramekin quickly in a bowl of hot tap water. Invert the panna cotta into the plate and serve. Bon Appetit!

Daring Bakers: Chocolate-Chili Panna Cotta with Earthy Mango Puree and Florentine Cookies with Chocolate-Chili-Citrus Filling