Monday, April 17, 2006

Creamy Desserts

I love custard in all its forms - creme brulee, creme anglaise, flan, quiche. Custards are liquids that have been set or thickened by the coagulation of egg proteins. But there are other desserts that are quite creamy and rich and very custard-like...but that contain no eggs. Blancmange is one, and Panna Cotta is another.

Panna Cotta is originally from the Piedmont region of Italy, and the term literally means "cooked cream." I ate it for the first time at Della Notte, and thought it was one of the finest things one could do with gelatin. It was creamy and sweet, but not too too, and the cool slippery texture was a real treat after a heavy meal. I decided this would be a fine thing to concoct for Easter dinner.

Unfortunately, the recipe I used, from the Joy of Cooking, turned out a pudding that was far too rich and sweet for my taste. It called for 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, 1 cup of whole milk, and 1/2 cup of sugar. When garnished with fresh berries and a drizzle of lemongrass honey, it was delicious, but did not have the lightness I was looking for. With that much heavy cream, how could it?

So I've done a little investigating on the Web, and have so far only found super-rich versions of panna cotta with oodles of cream. I sent an e-mail to Della Notte, requesting the recipe, but I'm afraid what they'll send back will feed an army. So...it's time to experiment. First, I'll cut the amount of cream and sugar by half. I'll keep you posted as to my progress.

The rest of Easter dinner was a big success - roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary, potato pierogies with butter and onions (a nod to my Polish upbringing), braised radishes, and a medley of peas--sugar snap, snow, and English. What to do with all the leftover lamb now?