Star Anise Panna Cotta is a great recipe for an indulgent breakfast treat or late day snack. It’s also my entry for February’s Food ‘n Flix for the movie Pan’s Labyrinth. (Food ‘n Flix is hosted this month by Katharina at Pretty Cake Machine). Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fairy tale directed by Guillermo del Toro. The story takes place in post-civil war Spain in 1944. There’s an undercurrent of political unrest and distress, and the film itself is a dark telling of a young girl following mythical creatures into the labyrinth. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, it doesn’t end well. It’s one of those films that’s incredible for its filmography and story, but probably best not watched if you are depressed.
Both times I’ve watched this movie, I’ve done so kind of between my fingers – yep, I’m a wimp when it comes to dark movies. Still, I was inspired to create my star anise panna cotta. The inspiration came from the scene in which Ofelia encounters the Pale Man at a banquet. Of course, much like Persephone going into Hades, Ofelia shouldn’t be touching any of the food at the banquet – and of course, all the food is beautiful and alluring (and of course, she eats something, thus jeopardizing her very future). I was particularly drawn to the molded desserts, which got me to thinking about jello molds and the like – very old fashioned desserts. The whole temptation and desire thing came to mind, too, especially since we are moving swiftly toward Valentine’s Day.
All of this led me to making panna cotta. Panna cotta is a rich, creamy dessert that has that air of old-fashioned about it. At first, I thought I might aim for a bright sauce for my panna cotta, but then decided to go a bit darker, landing on a star anise caramel for the sauce, which complements the star anise panna cotta nicely.
Just in case you don’t want to try to get the panna cotta to cooperate coming out of its mold – this tastes just as good in a small jar. It sets nicely, and you can just drizzle the sauce over the top, throw a lid on it, and call it an afternoon snack.
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 star anise pods
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 star anise pods
- 1 cup sugar (either white or brown)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar star anise simple syrup
- Make the brown sugar star anise simple syrup first. Combine the brown sugar, water, and star anise pods in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool for at least an hour (though for more intense flavor, refrigerate overnight). Remove the star anise pods.
- Make the star anise panna cotta. In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Bring the gelatin/water mix to a simmer and fully dissolve the gelatin. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream and the star anise pods and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Add the milk and sugar, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Take the mixture off the heat and add the gelatin (it will have formed a gelatin pancake - just scrape the whole thing into the heated milk and cream and mix until dissolved). Remove the star anise pods and pour the panna cotta into individual ramekins or half-pint jars. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night.
- As the panna cotta sets, make the star anise caramel. Combine the sugar, heavy cream, and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat and stir occasionally for 7 minutes. Take off the heat and add the simple syrup. The caramel will thicken as it cools. If it gets too thick, microwave for thirty seconds or so.
- To serve, drizzle the caramel over the panna cotta and enjoy!
- Makes four servings.