The trifle needs to be done a day ahead.
For what it delivers, panna cotta deserves culinary sainthood. Ten minutes of your time and several hours in the fridge delivers a dessert that's made more than one cook's (and non-cook's) reputation. And not many sweets are this free-spirited.
This was improvised last Easter when my free Saturday night to bake Easter dessert was sidelined by a last minute party. So improvisation took over.
Bread and jam trifle came to mind, but panna cotta was so much easier. Spoon store-bought marmalade onto sponge cake slices and layered them with the gelled cream was the plan. When the marmalade tasted tooth achingly, some lemon juice got stirred in. The mix became more a sauce than a jam and deliciously tart/sweet, just what was needed to cut the richness of the panna cotta.
Tuck that one away for when you need a fast sauce, or a glaze on some ribs.
Cook to Cook: Use organic cream if possible, and check that the sour cream contains only cream and culture, no other additives.
For assembling the trifle:
1. Make the panna cotta in two equal batches. For each one have the cold water in a small cup, and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together half the cream with half the sugar, salt, vanilla, and orange zest. Do not let it boil. Stir in the gelatin until thoroughly dissolved. Take the cream off the heat and cool about 5 minutes.
2. Put half the sour cream in a medium bowl. Gently whisk in the warm cream a little at a time until it is smooth. Taste the mixture for sweetness, it may need another teaspoon of sugar. Turn the panna cotta into a deep glass serving bowl. Cover, and chill 3 hours.
3. Cut the sponge cake into 1/2-inch thick pieces that are about 3 by 3-inches. Blend the marmalade with the lemon juice and taste for tartness. Spoon it over the cake slices.
4. Once the panna cotta is firmed up in the refrigerator, top it with half the sponge slices. Make the second batch of panna cotta with the remaining ingredients, pour it over the first and top it with the remaining sponge slices. Don't worry if they sink down a bit. Chill overnight. Serve cool spooned into small bowls.
Copyright 2010 Lynne Rossetto Kasper
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