For the panna cotta
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 4 oz sugar
- 4 gelatin sheets
- ½ stick vanilla
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
25 minutes preparation + 10 minutes cooking
Soak the gelatin in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, butterfly the vanilla bean using a pairing knife. Use the blade of the knife to remove the seeds.
Place the cream, sugar and vanilla seeds in a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring with a whisk.
After the cream has come to a boil, leave it on the heat for 2 or 3 seconds, then remove from the heat and add the gelatin sheets, drained and squeezed. Stir to allow the gelatin to melt into the cream.
Pour the mixture into small panna cotta molds. If you prefer, you can first transfer the mixture into a pitcher to make the process easier. Then, place the molds in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
Just before serving, prepare the caramel:
Pour the sugar and 1 tbsp water in a saucepan and place it over medium heat. Bring to a boil, but do not stir. Once the caramel has browned to the desired color, add the remaining tbsp of water. Let boil for a minute, shaking the saucepan so that the caramel mixes together well and takes on a nice, creamy consistency.
Remove the panna cotta from the fridge and demold it by placing the molds in a pot of hot water for a second. Remove the panna cotta from the mold and place on a plate.
Garnish the panna cotta with the caramel and serve immediately.
If you want to make a low-fat panna cotta, try substituting half of the cream with an equal amount of milk, baring in mind that the consistency and flavor of the dessert will be slightly different.
Vanilla has always been used to give desserts a unique flavor. Its history in Europe, in fact, is closely tied to that of chocolate.
When Hernán Cortés arrived at the court of Emperor Monctezuma II, the explorers believed that the Emperor was the incarnation of the god Quetzalcoatl and was offered him a chocolate drink flavored with vanilla.
The conquistador, having fallen in love with the unique, intense aroma of vanilla, immediately tried to figure out where it came from. Although the Aztecs did not want to reveal the secret, the Spaniards quickly discovered that the flavor came from a black pod called "tlixochill" whose consumption among the Indians, was reserved for dignitaries and priests.
Following this discovery, vanilla was introduced in Europe for the first time around 1520 along with cocoa, and its consumption was initially limited to Spain. Vanilla spred to the rest of Europe in the beginning of the seventeenth century and become especially popular at the court of King Louis XIV, where it was added to chocolate or coffee.
For a long time, however, vanilla was a luxury reserved for very few, since it could only grow it in Mexico, where it was exported in the "Old Continent" at a very high price.
It was only in 1841, in fact, a clever, twelve-year-old slave named Edmund Albius, who lived on the island of Reunion, was able to discover the method to manually pollinate the vanilla plant with the help of small sticks of bamboo.
The island became the world's largest producer of vanilla, until began to be cultivated near Madagascar, which today has become the world's largest producer of vanilla,now used mainly as a flavoring for chocolate confectionery, ice cream , creams, liqueurs, and more.
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