february 6, 2019
If you search for Valentine’s Day desserts, you’ll likely come up with either chocolate or fruits, and preferably red fruits. With this recipe you have both : dark sweet cherries, buttermilk panna cotta tinted with cherry juice and topped with dark chocolate ganache. The panna cotta is tart-sweet, a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the ganache. The dark cherries need no added sugar, as they are tender and sweet all by themselves.
A while back the recipe for Chocolate Cherry Parfaits was published, as was the recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Mascarpone Tarts—both for this chocolate-and-red fruit time of year, and my favorite thing about the recipe testing, was, well, the testing. Of course, there were other testers gifted with samples, but one of the perks of writing recipes is the enjoyment of the end result. Someone’s gotta do it.
Panna cotta is surprisingly easy to make—it just looks labor intensive. Dairy is heated with sugar and softened gelatin is added for thickening. Chill and it’s ready to serve. The extra step here is a creamy roof of chocolate ganache. There is twice the amount of cream compared to the chocolate to render a soft, smooth, spoonable confection. Normally you might make a 1:1 ganache. Trial and error led me to this ratio (earlier efforts yielded a tasty but hard shell in the chilled state). Frozen cherries are defrosted overnight and the juice is saved for use in the recipe. If you can find full fat buttermilk, go for the extra calories because your set will be more firm and creamy. I like plating this dessert in small clear glasses to better view the tempting dark cherries.
For spring, fresh local strawberries would be an apt seasonal substitute, with blueberries and blackberries making an appearance in summer. We can call this a Valentine’s Day dessert, but it’s delicious any time of the year and your guests will swoon with that first bite.
Chocolate Cherry Panna Cotta
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes six servings
16 ounce bag of frozen dark sweet cherries, defrosted overnight in bag
1 envelope gelatin (0.25 ounce)
½ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream (plus ¾ cup more for ganache)
2 cups buttermilk, preferably full fat
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
optional garnish : fresh cherries, with stems
- Set defrosted cherries in strainer with fine mesh, collecting juices in bowl set underneath strainer.
- When cherries are well drained, divide them among six small glasses or ramekins.
- Place 4 tablespoons cherry juice in small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over and give a stir, then allow to soften for about 10 minutes.
- In medium heavy saucepan, mix sugar with 1 cup heavy cream over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Increase heat to medium and bring to simmer : edges will bubble first, then when center just begins to bubble, remove from heat and stir in softened gelatin until completely blended.
- Add vanilla, buttermilk and 2 tablespoons reserved cherry juice.
- Carefully divide among glasses or ramekins (least messy method is to transfer dairy mixture to pouring vessel, like large Pyrex measuring cup, or use small ladle).
- Some cherries will float to the top; chill at least several hours or overnight to set.
- In small heavy saucepan, bring the ¾ cup (6 ounces) of heavy cream to simmer, and when center of pan begins to show bubbling, remove from heat and sprinkle chopped chocolate evenly over surface.
- After several minutes, stir well until chocolate and cream are fully blended.
- Let ganache cool slightly, about 10 minutes, then spoon over panna cottas, using spoon to smooth surface.
- Chill another 30 minutes at least to set and serve.
- If using cherry garnish, place in center after ganache has set at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator.