Creamy and velvety smooth Almond Panna Cotta turns into a decadently delicious finale for your holiday meal when topped with Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. The amazing marasca sour cherries from the Veneto region of Italy are candied and then steeped in a syrup made from cherry juice and sugar. The panna cotta, which means “cooked cream” in Italian, is a special treat your guests will enjoy but they will never imagine how easy and quick this chilled dessert is to prepare…there is only about five minutes of cooking involved in the recipe.
Even if you aren’t familiar with their name, you may have had the Luxardo maraschino cherries if you have been to an upscale bar or restaurant and ordered a Manhattan, Rob Roy or Old Fashioned. The delicious dark burgundy, almost black, cherries were probably stuck on the swizzle stick in your cocktail.
My husband discovered the cherries when he ordered a special “New Old Fashioned” at the bar in the Pillars Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Needless to say he loved them and went in search of the cherries when we returned home. I must confess that we were surprised that the imported cherries were pricy but considering that they are not the artificially colored neon red supermarket cherries, my husband decided to splurge. You only need one or two to top each almond panna cotta so I knew my husband wouldn’t mind sharing his special cocktail cherries for this wonderful chilled dessert that we served to our friends.
Almond Panna Cotta Topped With Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
Serves 4 – 6, depending on the size of the molds.
- 1 packet (1/4oz.) of Knox unflavored gelatin powder*
- 2 Tbsp. milk or cold water
- 2 c. (1 pint) heavy cream
- 1 c. half and half
- 1/3 – 1/2 c. powdered (icing) sugar
- 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. almond extract
- Luxardo Maraschino Cherries, 1 or 2 cherries and a little syrup to drizzle on each individual serving
*If you are using bulk powdered gelatin, a packet is slightly less than 2 1/2 tsp.
Place milk into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over it and let sit (do not stir) until the gelatin becomes soft and spongy. Place the cream, half and half and sugar into a pot over medium low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste for sweetness. Simmer over low heat until small bubbles appear around the edge. Add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves. (Do not let the cream boil.) Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve into a container with a pouring spout. Stir in the vanilla and almond extract and let cool.
Pour into serving containers or molds and refrigerate for 4 – 5 hours, depending on their size. (If making the day before, once the mixture has gotten firm, place a piece of plastic wrap on top of each panna cotta so that a thick skin doesn’t form.)
To serve, let the molds sit out about 5 to 10 minutes. Wipe the dessert plates with a damp paper towel. This makes it easier to reposition the panna cotta if you haven’t placed it in the right spot on the plate. Loosen the top edge of the molds with the tip of a thin knife then warm each mold in your hands or dip into warm water for just a second or two. Place a dessert plate on top, turn over and gently tap to unmold.
- Sweetness level of the panna cotta can be adjusted depending on your tastes and whether or not you are adding a sweet topping.
- If you plan to unmold the panna cotta, you can run cold water on the inside of the molds, then pour out but do not dry before filling.
- A thin film of non flavored oil can be lightly wiped on the inside of the molds instead of using water, which will also help when unmolding.
- It is important that the mixture should never boil or the panna cotta will not set properly.
- If you plan to not unmold the panna cotta, you can serve when firm, about 2 hours. If umolding, refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- To unmold, dip the container into hot water for a few seconds and run a knife around the edge.
- If you don’t have molds, you can use small disposable Dixie bathroom cups, they are flexible for easy removal.
- If you are worried about having problems unmolding the panna cotta, you can pour the cream mixture into pretty small glasses or cups, chill until firm and serve in the glasses.
Luxardo cherries imported from Italy are quite a bit more expensive than their American counterparts but they will add a special touch to your holiday meal. The panna cotta is easy to make and looks beautiful when presented with its topping of the deep burgundy colored cherries. I’m sure you will get raves from your guests when they have had a taste of this luscious, remarkably creamy dessert.