She walked into the car and casually handed me a sheet of lined paper with some scribbled words. What’s this, pumpkin? I ask. Normally she just throws her backpack in the back seat and pecks me on the cheek when I pick her up from school.
‘Just a poem I wrote today.’
Oh yeah? That’s great, honey! What’s it about?
What???? I immediately looked down…and this is what I read:
On the outside you look like whipped cream
You feel like jello
When I dip my spoon into you, you sound like a splash of water after you jump into it
When I lick you, you are as soft as pudding
Inside you look like fresh milk
You feel like water that I can hold
You smell like vanilla
You taste like pleasure
Tell me, do you know that you are Pana Cota?
I felt a tear inch down my nose as I hugged her tight. I had made panna cotta the previous weekend and apparently it was still on her mind.
Feel like heading to Publix for some heavy cream? I asked her, thinking we needed some panna cotta for dessert that night. My dear, sweet, creative Alexia smiled as I turned the key to the ignition.
making vanilla panna cotta
Pour 1 cup of whole milk into a medium saucepan and sprinkle the surface evenly with the 2 3/4 teaspoons of gelatin. Let stand 10 minutes to hydrate gelatin. Meanwhile, add 4 cups of cold water and 4 cups of ice cubes in a large bowl. (You will use it to cool off the cooked panna cotta.) Set 8 4-ounce ramekins on a baking sheet or pan.
Heat the milk and gelatin mixture over high heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved, which should take about 1½ minutes or so. The mixture should register 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, if you have one. I don’t. Take the saucepan off the heat and add 6 tablespoons of sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Stir for about 1 minute until completely dissolved.
Stirring constantly, slowly pour the cream into the saucepan containing the milk, stirring constantly. Immediately add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Transfer the saucepan into the bowl of ice water. Stir frequently until the milk/cream has thickened to the consistency of eggnog. This should take about 10 minutes. (At this point it should register 50 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.)
Transfer the mixture into a large measuring cup and then distribute evenly among the ramekins. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, making sure that plastic does not touch the surface of the milk/cream mixture. Refrigerate until the panna cotta has set (you’ll know because the mixture will wobble when shaken gently). This should take around 4 hours or so.
To unmold the panna cotta from the ramekins, follow these steps.
Pour 1 cup of boiling water into a small bowl and dip each ramekin, individually, into the water.
Count to five (yes, the one-one thousand, two-one thousand way). Then lift the ramekin out of the water.
With a moistened finger, press lightly around the periphery of the cream to loosen the edges.
Dip the ramekin back into the water for another three-count.
Place a serving dish over the ramekin. Looks like a bizarre mushroom, eh?
Flip it over so that the panna cotta can gently ‘fall’ onto the plate. You’ll actually hear a ‘flump’ when the panna cotta hits the plate! Do this with all ramekins. Garnish each dish with the optional raspberries. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.