Vanilla Panna Cotta with Burnt Orange Caramel Sauce

28 May

This last week, three things happened to bring this dish together. I was in Bali for a wedding and over the dinner table I spent some time debating with the groom’s Nanna Val and cousin Kate, the ever important question of whether burnt caramel is better than sweet caramel. Before I left for Bali, my friend Karen (the uber wonderful cook you may remember from our ‘day of cooking’) made me panna cotta. Her panna cotta is like no other and I may have, once or a hundred times, expressed to her how much I love it when she makes it. I am subtle. Then B posts this incredible looking dessert with cumquats.  This is how things collided in my mind for me to start thinking about… burnt caramel with citrus alongside panna cotta.

Fortunately Karen was happy to come over and show me how she makes the panna cotta. And she does make it differently to the traditional method, mainly in that she doesn’t heat the cream. She thinks this keeps the taste cleaner and fresher. I made the sauce before she arrived.

The sauce…

is just freshly squeezed orange juice, sugar and some slices of orange.

I heated the sugar in a pan over medium heat. As I stirred, it melted, and then rapidly changed colour and frothed up. Perhaps my heat was too high, as it should take around seven minutes. I think it took me about 90 seconds.


Once it had reached a darkness I thought looked burnt enough, I took it off the heat and added the orange juice. It does spit a bit, so be careful. Also stir as you go. Because I was taking a photo, I got a few lumps so warmed it up slightly to melt them again.

I removed the pith and rind from the orange and then sliced the orange up finely. If you put the slices in to the warm sauce on low heat for a few minutes to allow them to macerate for a while, they will lose their acidic edge. Then I allowed the sauce and orange slices to cool.

And the panna cotta….

is cream (a little more than this one container), whole milk, caster sugar (superfine sugar), titanium grade gelatine leaf and vanilla bean.

We began by splitting a vanilla bean down the centre and scraping out the seeds. Both the seeds and the pod were added to the milk, and then heated until it just began to boil. Watch it the whole time as you don’t want it to over boil. The picture below shows when we took it off, just starting to bubble around the edge. We then set it aside to rest.

We soaked the gelatine leaf in cold water for around five minutes.

We then removed the vanilla pod from the warm milk, and added in the sugar, and then the gelatine leaves, which were squeezed out.

We warmed the milk mixture and stirred until the sugar and gelatine dissolved.

We put the cream in a bowl, and then we added a ladle full of the plain cream to the milk mixture and mixed to slightly reduce the temperature, then strained the milk mixture directly in to the bowl of cream. The straining made sure there are no gelatine lumps, or clumps of vanilla seeds.

We then stirred the mixture well. We were speeding the process, so we continued to stir the creamy mix until it began to thicken with our bowl of cream set over a bowl of ice. You do not need to do this if you make the panna cotta the day before and set it overnight, but if you make it only a couple of hours before you plan to eat it…

The mix was then ladled in to Dariole moulds on a tray, ready to slide in to the fridge. Dariole moulds in plastic like these ones are under a dollar apiece, and Karen likes them best for panna cotta as they slide out (relatively) easily.

When they had set, we ran a warmed knife around the inside of the moulds and inverted them on our plates. Then ladled on a little of the now cooled burnt orange caramel sauce and a slice of the orange.

Well hello there, deliciousness!

So now we have her secret recipe! And although the caramel debate will most likely continue, I am well and truly on the dark side.

Thank you, B, for your part in the inspiration.

I wonder where we are off to now?


Burnt Orange Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 orange, pith and rind removed, thinly sliced crossways

Stir the sugar in a pan over medium heat until it dissolves, and then cook until it turns a dark caramel colour. Remove from the heat. Carefully, as it spits, add the orange juice and stir until well blended. If you have lumps warm the pan up on low heat. Add the orange slices and allow to warm in the sauce on low heat for a few minutes before setting aside to cool and macerate further in the sauce.

Karen’s Vanilla Panna Cotta

750ml 35% fat cream (25.3 fluid oz)
270ml milk (9 fluid oz)
3.5 titanium grade gelatine leaves
160 grams sugar (5.6 oz)
1 vanilla bean, split in two and the seeds scraped.
Add milk and vanilla bean, along with the scraped seeds into a pan and bring *just* to the boil, then set aside to cool.
Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for five minutes.
Remove the vanilla beans from milk.
Return to the milk to a low heat and add the sugar. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and add to the milk and sugar.
Continue heating and stirring until sugar and gelatine have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add a little of the cream and mix through, this cools the mix a little and means the gelatine will have less of a shock when it is poured in to the full bowl of cream. Then strain the milk mixture with a sieve into the rest of the cream and stir until combined. Ladle the mix into moulds and allow to set overnight in the fridge.

To serve, run a heated knife around the edge of the mould and invert on your plate. We heated our knife by waving it quickly through a gas flame, but you could also dunk it in a jug of hot water and then dry.

Lift the mould up and let the panna cotta slide on to the plate.

Spoon over a little of the sauce and add a slice of the macerated orange.

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