This rhubarb panna cotta is an easy, dreamily creamy dessert that showcases the sharp, bright taste of rhubarb in three different ways.
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What’s your favorite way to enjoy rhubarb every spring? When I was growing up, my mom would make rhubarb cobblers every year, as well as strawberry-rhubarb crisps during the magical few weeks when the seasons of both fruits overlap. Though I’ve made both of those desserts in my own kitchen, to my taste buds, my mom’s versions remain the best. All I need to do to get a taste of some of my favorite childhood treats again is to visit my parents during rhubarb season, and I’m sure to find either one of those desserts ready to enjoy.
Over the years, I’ve developed a new list of rhubarb-based favorite recipes: I make classics such as compotes, quick breads, and pies, but also more sophisticated treats such as rhubarb gelato, pâtes de fruits, and macarons. What I love most about rhubarb is its tartness, which plays so well with sweeter elements. Just like citrus fruits, I find rhubarb produces deliciously complex, not-too-sweet desserts that I can’t get enough of.
This year, I was obsessed with the idea of making rhubarb panna cotta. In my mind, combining the rich, creamy panna cotta with sharp rhubarb would undoubtedly create a dreamy treat. Fortunately, I still had some of last year’s rhubarb in the freezer, so I was able to experiment and create this memorable dessert.
This Rhubarb Panna Cotta showcases rhubarb three ways: a compote is mixed into the panna cotta itself, giving it a slightly zesty note, and also used to top the rhubarb panna cotta for a pop of color and concentrated rhubarb flavor. Poached rhubarb finishes the elegant dessert for a spectacular presentation. Don’t hesitate to double or triple those batches of compote and poached rhubarb, because I’ll bet you’ll love them on your morning toast or over oatmeal, too!
Yes you can! In this recipe, fresh rhubarb and frozen rhubarb can be used interchangeably. See my tips for freezing rhubarb, below.
Of course, you should use rhubarb while it’s fresh and in season, but make sure to freeze some, too! A bit of thinking ahead in the spring will allow you to enjoy rhubarb desserts, such as this panna cotta, all year long.
To freeze fresh rhubarb, buy several bunches of fresh rhubarb, trim and wash the stalks, cut them into 5-inch (12.5 cm) lengths, and pack into resealable freezer bags. Freeze and you’ll get to enjoy rhubarb desserts all year long! Frozen rhubarb will keep for up to 3 months in a refrigerator freezer, and for up to 1 year in a chest freezer.
Yes you can, and in fact, you should! Panna cotta needs to be refrigerated for several hours to set, so it’s best to make it at least a half-day in advance. You can refrigerate set rhubarb panna cotta for up to 5 days. Always garnish it with the toppings of your choosing (if any!) right before serving.
The type of gelatin I use to make rhubarb panna potta is a dry, grainy powder and it needs to be steeped into a liquid to rehydrate. This step is crucial to creating a super-smooth, creamy panna cotta. Although “blooming” might sound like a technical term (albeit an elegant-sounding one), blooming gelatin is actually super easy. All you need to do is to sprinkle the gelatin over a liquid and leave it to rest, without stirring, for about 5 minutes. After that resting period, you’ll mix in the hot liquid, which will allow the gelatin to fully dissolve and help you create that irresistibly wobbly panna cotta texture.
Powdered gelatin is usually the easiest type of gelatin to find. The brand I use is Knox unflavored gelatin, and it is sold in all North American supermarkets. In Europe, gelatin sheets can be easier to find than powdered gelatin.
If you’ve got gelatin sheets on hand, you can use it to make rhubarb panna cotta. For 1 packet of powdered gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons), substitute 5 sheets, each measuring about 2-7/8″ x 8-1/2″ (7 cm x 11.5 cm). To rehydrate gelatin sheets, you need to steep them in cold water for 5 minutes. This means you can warm up all the milk and cream together, instead of setting aside 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the milk to bloom the gelatin. Once gelatin sheets are soft, drain and squeeze out excess water. Add to the hot milk and cream mixture and stir until fully dissolved.
It’s easy to make vegan panna cotta. Here’s how:
Substitute plant milk and cream for the regular varieties. I like to use a combination of oat milk and soy cream because they both have a smooth flavor that lets rhubarb take center stage, but you can also use coconut cream.
You can serve panna cotta in cute little glasses as I did on the pictures, or you can serve panna cotta upside down. For a classic look, you can serve this rhubarb panna cotta unmolded, on a plate, with the compote and poached rhubarb spooned to the side. To do so, use ramekins or v-shaped smooth-sided glasses, and very lightly coat the inside of each container with a neutral oil, such as sunflower, canola, or vegetable oil. When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the panna cotta, then invert the container over a serving plate and shake it gently. The panna cotta should slip right out.
Tell me how you liked it! Leave a comment or take a picture and tag it with @foodnouveau on Instagram.
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