Silky smooth and sublime! The thing that gives this panna cotta some orange WOW is a delicious Orange Caramel Sauce topped with a Lacey Orange Tuile.
Orange Panna Cotta
1-1/2 tsp (1/4 oz) packet unflavored gelatin (Knox)
3 T (44 g) cold water
2-1/2 cups (591 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
(4) 2-inch strips of orange peel (don’t include the pith)
Miniscule pinch of salt
1/8 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup (118 ml) cold whole buttermilk
1 T (13 g) fresh squeezed lemon juice
In a small bowl, mix the water and the gelatin and let it bloom (gel) for five minutes or so. It will resemble rubber; no worries, that’s normal.
In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, sugar and orange peel on medium low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then let it simmer just until it starts to get bubbles around the edge. Take it off the heat.
Add the ‘tiny’ pinch of salt, vanilla, and the now bloomed gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is absorbed. Whisk in the cold buttermilk and lemon juice, and then strain (using a fine mesh strainer) into a 1-quart measuring cup or something that has a pour spout.
I prefer pouring them into individual serving containers (custard cups, molds, ramekins, dessert glasses) at this point, but you could also pour it into a large ramekin and then spoon servings to your guests.
Whatever you choose, after you’ve poured them, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for five hours, or preferably, overnight.
You can serve them in the cups directly, or remove the dessert from their ramekins by carefully lowering the ramekins first into some warm water for a moment or two. (Be careful not to get water on the panna cotta). After you take them out of their water bath, wipe the water from the ramekin bottoms and invert them onto a serving plate. Even doing this, you may need to carefully slide a knife around the outside.
Orange Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (170 g) honey
1/2 cup (240 g) heavy cream
1/4 cup (62 g) fresh orange juice (from about 1 orange)
1/2 tsp. lightly packed finely grated orange zest
1⁄8 tsp. pure vanilla extract, plus more if needed
1 T unsalted butter
In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and honey (you need a lot of extra volume in the pan because the honey makes the mixture foam up during cooking) over medium-high heat. Cook, using a small whisk or metal spoon to stir frequently, until the sugar and honey are blended and the sugar melts.
Continue to boil, stirring as needed to keep the foam from overflowing, until the mixture is rich amber and smells like caramel, 6 to 8 minutes. At this point, you can test the color of the caramel by spooning a few drops of it onto a heatproof white plate. Do not let the caramel get so dark that it starts to smell burnt or bitter.
Add the cream and orange juice and boil, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened a bit and is very smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the orange zest, vanilla, butter, and a pinch of salt. Taste and add more vanilla or salt if needed, but don’t let those flavors overwhelm the delicate orange and honey notes. Strain the sauce, if you like. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For a lovely crunch to this dessert, try Claudia Fleming’s delicious Lacey Orange Tuiles!
Many thanks to Chef John for the help on the Panna Cotta and Fine Cooking for the magical caramel sauce recipe!