Leela Cyd is a photographer and stylist who has snapped images for magazines including Sweet Paul, Kinfolk, and Condé Nast Traveler. When not making images, she can be found testing out recipes, hosting a tea party, or on a beach walk with a friend. Here she divulges a heavenly white-peach panna cotta recipe that hits a perfect late-summer note.
Panna cotta, which literally means “cooked cream” in Italian, is one of the simplest, most delectable summer delights for me. It is a true celebration of the season’s finest fruits and takes only about 10 minutes to assemble and a few hours to set in the fridge. No need to turn on your oven, no baking required. And every time I’ve served this make-ahead, no-bake dessert, it’s a delight to know that my guests leave the table with the sweetest memories of it.
Light and luxe, panna cotta is made primarily of milk, cream (half-and-half is a wonderful option), and one other creamy dairy of your fancy. For my recipe, I love the tang of a bit of crème fraîche, but you can’t go wrong with a dollop of Greek yogurt, mascarpone cheese, or sour cream. The velvety sweetness and almost-almond flavor of the sweet white peach sends the whole thing over the top—as does the ample drizzle of heated peach jam, a convenient confectionary not to be scoffed at.
White Peach Panna Cotta
2 1/4 cups half-and-half
3 teaspoons gelatin
1/2 cup crème fraîche
2 medium white peaches, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
pinch of salt
1/2 cup peach jam
lemon zest (optional garnish)
For panna cotta
Spray liberally 6-8 small ramekins or molds with cooking spray and set aside. Pour 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half into a medium pot, sprinkle gelatin on top, and set pot aside to allow gelatin to bloom for 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, blend the crème fraîche, peaches, and remaining 3/4 cup of half-and-half on high speed until combined. Pour this mixture into the pot. Place the pot over medium heat, stirring until gelatin has dissolved (about 5 minutes) and making sure not to let the mixture come to a boil. Add the sugar, vanilla bean, and salt, and cook for another 2 minutes, until sugar has dissolved.
Pour about 1/3 cup mixture into each ramekin and chill for at least 4 hours (or overnight). When ready to serve, dip ramekins and molds in a bowl of piping hot water for about 5 seconds and give a firm tap to release the panna cotta onto a plate. If it doesn’t immediately loosen, dip molds in hot water for another few seconds until they release.
For the topping
Heat the peach jam on medium in a saucepan, add a few tablespoons of water, and bring to a high heat, stirring constantly until the jam thins out. Blend and pour contents through a sieve. Garnish each panna cotta with a few spoonfuls of topping, and add a little lemon zest if desired.
The velvety sweetness and almost-almond flavor of the sweet white peach sends the whole thing over the top... It’s a delight to know that my guests leave the table with the sweetest memories of it.