Saffron Panna Cotta (From one of my favorite new books!)

Saffron Panna Cotta Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

My husband is going to have a fit when he realizes that I’m talking about his diet on my website. It really does have some relevance to this post, so I hope he will forgive me! He went to the doctor recently and was basically told he needed to cut back on butter, cream and puff pastry. Hahaha. Can you imagine how a request like that goes over in my house. We both stared at the contents of our refrigerator and sighed. After the shock wore off we decided to approach his doctor’s advice as a challenge. How can we continue to satisfy our love of eating and cooking, but do it in a way that fits his new diet. I immediately saw it as an opportunity to buy more cookbooks.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift from the Splendid Table just came out with a fantastic book How to Eat Supper. It has encouraged us to try new things and rethink some of our classic recipes. Much like the philosophy Jeff and I have written about in our book about bread, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, they use for cooking. The food we cook should be fresh, made with great ingredients, fit into our busy schedules and above all else taste great! They deliver on all fronts and I just love this book!

One of the desserts I’ve tried from it is Lynne’s saffron panna cotta recipe. It sounded absolutely luscious, with lots of heavy cream, sour cream and delicately flavored with orange zest and saffron. They had me at the saffron, something you just don’t see in desserts that often and yet the rest of the ingredients were forbidden for my husband.  Panna cotta is a custard that is set with gelatin and not eggs. It seemed to me you could greatly reduce the fat and still have the wonderful smooth texture, as long as the recipe had just the right ratio of dairy to gelatin and Lynne’s does. I monkeyed with a few ingredients and ended up with a sublime dessert that tastes too good to be on his diet, but thankfully is.

Saffron-Orange Panna Cotta from How to Eat Supper (with a few changes for a lower fat diet)

makes about 12 small (3-ounce) servings

2 tablespoons cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

3 cups heavy cream or (2 cups 1/2&1/2 + 1 cup whole milk)

1/2 cup sugar

pinch salt

1/2 vanilla bean, cut and scraped

Generous pinch of saffron threads

1 teaspoon orange zest (I used a clementine)

1 cup (8-ounce container) sour cream or (1 cup nonfat Greek style yogurt. This yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt and works beautifully in this recipe. Regular yogurt would be too thin and you are better off with sour cream.)

Adding gelatin to cold water | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a small bowl sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Make sure the gelatin is completely covered by the water and none of it remains dry powder. Set aside for at least 5 minutes.

Warm cream with sugar, vanilla, orange and saffron | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a medium sized saucepan, warm the cream with the sugar, salt, vanilla bean, saffron and orange zest. Do not bring to a boil.

Adding gelatin to cream mixture for panna cotta | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Straining panna cotta mixture | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Place the Greek yogurt in a large bowl. Strain the warm cream mixture over the yogurt in small batches and whisk to combine after each addition. Lynne suggested tasting it at this point for sweetness. You can add a bit more sugar and stir to dissolve if it isn’t sweet enough. I found it to be just right!

Saffron Panna Cotta Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pour the panna cotta into serving cups. Refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes. Once the panna cotta is cool, cover and continue to refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.

You can either serve it in the cup (see below) or invert it onto a plate as I did in the picture above.

Saffron Panna Cotta Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To invert the panna cotta you will need to submerge the cup in hot water, about half way up the side of the cup, for a minute or so. Best to do this one at a time to get the hang of it. If you leave it in the water too long you will melt the custard. If this happens don’t panic, just throw it back in the refrigerator for several minutes and it will set back up. Run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of the cup.  Hold a plate over the cup and flip it upside down. It may take a few seconds for the panna cotta to free itself.

Saffron Panna Cotta Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I served it with a clementine champagne marmalade and edible flowers! A little goes a long way so my husband can have a small cup and feel satisfied. Despite the diet we will continue to eat well, it just takes a bit of playing in the kitchen! The Chocolate Poached Pears are another dessert to try if you want a decadence without a lot of calories.