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Black-Pepper Panna Cotta and Red Wine Strawberries

November 1, 2013


Did you think that just because there’s been radio silence, we haven’t been cooking?  Okay, that’s kind of true, we’ve both been cooking a lot less, because we’ve both been incredibly busy over the last several months.  However, in September, Em came to stay with us for a weekend, and we had an awesome SK cooking day(s).

Em suggested trying out panna cotta, and although our previous experiences with gelatin left me a bit wary (man that stuff smells bad), I agreed.  And I’m so glad I did.  I told Em and still believe that this is one of the best things we have ever made.  So simple and yet so satisfying.  I took a bite when it was done and said, “it tastes like cream.”  Em looked at me and said, “Wait, is that a good thing?  I couldn’t tell if that means it’s tasty or you’re annoyed that you put in that much effort and it still tastes just like cream.”  Definitely meant it was tasty.  

Black Pepper Panna Cotta

Tweaked from David Lebovitz via 17 and Baking; makes 8 servings

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper (it’s important that it’s finely ground) 
  • 2 packets powdered gelatin (approximately 4 1/2 tsp)
  • 6 TBSP cold water
  • neutral oil (e.g., canola oil) for greasing

In a large saucepan, mix the cream, sugar, and black pepper.  Put the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.  Remove from heat immediately – here’s why I LOVE gas stoves, because you just have to turn off the burner.   Add the vanilla extract and the vanilla bean – scrape the vanilla seeds out of the pod and throw the split pod in, too.  Cover the saucepan and let the mixture cool and infuse for half-an-hour.

While the mixture is coolin’ and infusin’, use the neutral oil to grease eight custard cups.  If you don’t want to bother with custard cups, set out eight wine glasses or other rounded glasses.   

After the half-hour has passed, remove the empty vanilla pod, and return the mixture to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it is hot again.  While it is reheating, pour the cold water into a medium bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over.  Stir, and let the gelatin mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

After the cream mixture is hot again, pour it over the gelatin.  Stir the cream & gelatin mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved (stirring with a fork helps).  Pour into the greased custard cups or into wine glasses.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-4 hours, until set – place at the back of the fridge, if you can, to speed up the setting process.  

To get the panna cottas out of the custard cups, dip the cups into warm water, being careful not to let any of the water get onto the panna cotta itself.  Then run a knife along the inside of the cup, turn the cup over onto a plate, and tap-tap-tap until the panna cotta releases.  


If you want to add a delicious topping, or you want to cover up any damage to the panna cotta you did while unmolding them, make these red wine strawberries:

Red Wine Strawberries

Also tweaked from David Lebovitz via 17 and Baking; makes more than enough to serve with panna cotta

  • 1 cup (1/3 bottle) red wine (cheap is fine)
  • 6 TBSP granulated sugar 
  • Small package of strawberries (8 oz)

Mix the red wine and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Stir well, then put the saucepan over medium heat, and stir occasionally. Mixture will bubble and then reduce.  After the mixture has reduced into a syrup and only half of it remains, remove from the heat and let cool completely.  

While the mixture is cooling, wash the strawberries.  Hull them and slice them or dice them, whichever your preference – slicing makes them prettier, but dicing allows them to mix better with the syrup.   Put them in a colander and sprinkle a little salt over them, to let a little of the excess moisture drain out.

Once the sugar/wine mixture is completely cooled, stir in the strawberries.  


Refrigerate until ready to use.  

Top the panna cotta with the strawberries just before serving (so the panna cotta doesn’t get soggy).



The wine glass option makes things much easier/neater.


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