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Back in July, I found myself in Houston. I was staying with one of my best friends and her new husband (who is totally awesome, obviously, he married an awesome lady! The two of them together make a hell of a team.). Here we are upon my arrival:

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson. [Me on the left, KellBell on the right.]

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson.
[Me on the left, KellBell on the right.]

And on my last night there, Kelly made my favorite dessert of all time (this does not include carrot cake, which I don’t really classify as dessert, because I only eat it on my birthday, and I’m not a sweets person at all, so if I ever even crave a dessert, it’s not going to be sweet. It’s going to be this).

What did she make? Panna Cotta.

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson

And not just any panna cotta, but the one from my favorite dessert guy, David Lebovitz. He’s the best of the best, and so is Kelly, so that was a natural match.

Panna Cotta


  • 4 cups (1l) heavy cream (or half-and-half)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 6 tablespoons (90ml) cold water


1. Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)

2. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.

3. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

5. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, which will take at least two hours but I let them stand at least four hours. (Judy told me American refrigerators are colder than European ones. )

If you’re pressed for time, pour the Panna Cotta mixture into wine goblets so you can serve them in the glasses, without unmolding.

6. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired.

To make Panna Cotta with sheet gelatin: Soften 25g (approximately six sheets) in a liter of cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. Wring the sheets out and stir them into the warm Panna Cotta mixture in step # 4, until dissolved.

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