Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Recipe
6 hourstotal time
For the Flavored Base:
14 ounces heavy cream (about 1 3/4 cups; 395g)
8 ounces whole milk (about 1 cup; 225g)
1 Tahitian vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds reserved (see note)
2 1/2 ounces sugar (about 1/3 cup; 70g)
1/2 teaspoon (2g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or use the same weight
For the Gelatin:
1/4 ounce unflavored gelatin powder (about 2 1/8 teaspoons, though volume may vary by brand; 7g), such as NOW Foods (see note)
2 ounces whole milk (about 1/4 cup; 55g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 to 8 ounces fresh fruit (volume will vary; 170 to 225g), plain or sprinkled with sugar to taste (optional)
For the Flavored Base: In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine cream, milk, and vanilla bean pod over medium heat. When it is steaming-hot, remove from heat, cover to prevent evaporation, and steep between 1 and 24 hours, depending on your schedule or preferred intensity of flavor (see notes). Meanwhile, rub vanilla seeds into sugar to break up clumps, then combine with salt.
For the Gelatin: Just before proceeding to step 3, combine gelatin powder, milk, and vanilla extract in a small bowl, mixing with a fork until smooth; set aside to bloom for about 10 minutes.
Rewarm dairy until steaming-hot. Remove vanilla pod and use a flexible spatula to scrape out the flavorful goo inside to mix with the dairy. (The pod can be washed, dried, and reused in another recipe.) Off heat, whisk in vanilla/sugar mixture and bloomed gelatin. Transfer to a 4-cup measuring cup with a spout and cool until lukewarm, stirring from time to time to ensure the panna cotta remains homogeneous.
Once cool, set aside 6 ramekins or small serving glasses and fill each with about 3 1/2 ounces (1 shy cup; 100g) of the panna cotta base. Cover each with plastic and refrigerate until softly set, at least 4 hours, or longer if you'd like a firmer consistency. (The panna cotta's texture will continue to evolve over time; however, after 12 hours of chilling, it will reach its maximum firmness and will not set up any further.) Serve individual panna cottas with fresh or lightly macerated fruit, if desired.
6 hourstotal time