Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Saffron and Cardamom Panna Cotta

Several posts ago, I alluded to a dinner party in which the theme was spices.  As the dessert course, I made pate a choux swans with vanilla bean and cardamom creme patissiere and a Saffron and Cardamom Panna Cotta.  To be honest, I wasn't sure if the swans would turn out, and I wanted something else to serve just in case.  Plus, when I saw this recipe it seemed to scream to me that it was the right thing to make for the dinner party.  Can you go wrong with two desserts?  I think not!

It just so happened that I had checked out Alice Medrich's cookbook Pure Dessert from the library just prior to planning this dinner party, in which she has an entire chapter on herbs and spices!  Honestly, it is an amazing book and I will have to purchase it for my shelf.

As it turns out, panna cotta is a perfect thing to make for a dinner party, because you can do it ahead of time and just pull it out of the refrigerator and top it with garnishes when it is time to serve!  Fantastic!

To start, you heat cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan until it is steaming hot and the sugar is dissolved, then take it off the heat.

Add the cardamom pods and saffron and let it steep for 25 minutes.

In the mean time, sprinkle gelatin over a small bowl of milk and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  Once all of that time has passed, add the gelatin into the cardamom mixture and reheat it to steaming.  Make sure the gelatin all dissolves.  

Strain the mixture into a bowl.  You don't want your guests to choke on a cardamom pod or get saffron stuck in their teeth!

Place the strained mixture into a bowl of ice and water and stir frequently until the mixture cools to 50F.
Pour the cooled mixture into dessert dishes.  I used the teacups from my grandmother's china.

Have an adorable sous chef cover each dessert dish with plastic wrap and stick them in the refrigerator.  You are done!  It really is that simple!  Why haven't I made panna cotta before?

It needs to refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Mine refrigerated overnight.  When it came time to serve them, I topped each teacup with some chopped toasted pistachios and some freshly grated cinnamon.  The pistachios gave the right crunch that I think a panna cotta tends to need, and the cinnamon brings a nice extra scent while you are tasting the saffron and cardamom.  Mmmm.

Saffron and Cardamom Panna Cotta
adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich
3 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 cardamom pods
slightly rounded 1/8 teaspoon of crushed saffron threads
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cinnamon stick
finely chopped or grated pistachios for garnish

In a small saucepan, heat the cream, sugar and salt until steaming hot, stirring periodically to dissolve the sugar.  Off the heat, add the cardamom pods and saffron.  Cover and allow to steep for 25 minutes.  While steeping, pour the milk into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top.  Set aside, without stirring, for 5-10 minutes to let the gelatin soften.

Add the milk/gelatin to the cardamom mixture and reheat to steaming, stirring well to dissolve the gelatin.  Strain the mixture into a bowl, preferably stainless steel, and discard the cardamom pods and saffron threads.  Set the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice and water and stir frequently until the mixture thickens and registers 50F on an instant-read thermometer.

Divide the mixture among 6 6-ounce dessert dishes.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours but preferably 12.   Serve the individual panna cottas in their dishes, or unmold them by srapping each one briefly in a wrung-out hot, wet towel and unmold them onto dessert plates.  Grate a little cinnamon stick over each panna cotta and sprinkle with chopped pistachios, if desired.

I made 1 1/2 times the recipe and it worked great!  I used 8 teacups and had enough for a small bowl for the clever girl!
Printable Recipe

Seriously, this is a pretty simple recipe with a big result!  Perfect for a dinner party or if you want to make an impression!  It was creamy and light and aromatic and delicious.  Just what you want at the end of a nice meal.  Give it a try!


  1. Love this dessert. It is so nice to have young helpers in the kitchen.


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