A belated 4th


Happy belated 4th of July!

I meant to post this recipe last weekend, but I decided to take a mini "staycation" at my family's home in suburbs for the weekend and didn't have my laptop with me.  Like every 4th of July, it's tradition in our family to make a patriotic dessert.  It's usually a flag cake, but this year I decided to try something a little different.  I was looking through recipes and found one for red white and blue layered jello.  While you can't really go wrong with jello I thought I would make my dessert a bit more interesting, if not refined, and try a patriotic panna cotta instead. I initially wanted these ready to take to my friend Beth's bbq but as usual, I underestimated the amount of time it would take me to execute my great plan.  I served them for dessert the next day at home.  Sorry Beth.

A few things I learned while making this recipe:

Raspberry seeds are difficult to take out of the tiny holes of a strainer.

Pureed blueberries do not make a blue puree.  In fact, they make a lavendar colored one.  Thanks to food coloring this is not a problem.

Gelatin layers don't always solidify in the fridge at the same speed.  Patience should be a required ingredient in this recipe.

Imperfect layers of panna cotta taste just as good as perfectly poured ones.  phew.

When trying a new recipe I should always leave myself a few extra hours, just in case it turns out to be more complicated than expected.  I never remember to do this.  I think a timeline would serve me well in the future.  Write out, step by step, what I need to do and how long I think it will take me.  This recipe was a sort of exception because I did not have an actual set of instructions, I just had a list of ingredients.  I normally use a recipe I've found on a blog or in a cookbook.  This time I used a recipe I got from the pastry chef at work.  I went to her asking for a recipe for panna cotta.  Who better to ask than an Italian pastry chef I thought.

Me - "This is my plan [insert explanation of tri-color panna cotta here] for this weekend. Do you have a recipe I could use?"

Pastry chef - "OK! Yes!" She takes a piece of paper and proceeds to write down a list of ingredients and hands it to me.

Me- "Umm. Thanks, but this is just a list of ingredients, not an actual recipe.  What do I do with these?"

Pastry chef - " Ah! Ok!" [ insert explanation of what to do with said ingredients].

After I repeated these instructions back to her a few times to make sure nothing was lost in translation, I left the pastry station, gelatin sheets and foil cups in hand, full of inspiration and with high hopes for my dessert.

Patriotic Panna Cotta

Ingredient for basic panna cotta:

(makes about 20 foil cups -  restaurant quantities!)

1 quart of heavy cream

160 g sugar

6 sheets of gelatin


Make your fruit purees for the colored layers:

I used 2 little plastic boxes of raspberries and one slightly larger one of blueberries. Not very precise, I realize that.  I think it ends up being a pint of both berries.  You can use strawberries for the red too if you want.  Puree the fruit in a small food processor and set aside.  I did the extra step of straining out the seeds of the raspberries and most of the skin from the blueberries to make the panna cotta smoother.  I don't think it's required but it definitely makes for a smoother, silkier dessert.


To make the panna cotta base:

Pour the heavy cream into a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the sugar.  How much you ask?  160g please.  I meant to measure it out and then convert it into cups for those who don't have a scale but forgot. My apologies.  Not only does the chef work, apparently, purely from memory when it comes to recipes, but she also works in grams.  Ah Europe.  Thankfully my mother gave me an old scale she had.









Heat the cream until the sugar dissolves and reaches a simmer.  While it is heating up, "dissolve" the gelatin sheets, one by one, in a bowl of cold water and add them to the hot cream mixture.  I was instructed, several times, to put the gelatin sheets in the bowl of water one by one.  I didn't ask what would happen if I put them all in at once but it sounded like a bad idea, so I would recommend against it.  I assume the worse that could happen is you end up with one giant ball of gelatin.  While it doesn't sound too ominous we'll steer away from it just to be safe.


A few dry gelatin sheets. They almost look like stain glass windows.


What happens to the gelatin sheet after a couple minutes in a bowl of water.

This is where the recipe gets a little more complicated.  You now have the sweetened cream with dissolved gelatin sheets, hot, on your stove.  I added a little vanilla, about a teaspoon, to add extra flavor.  You now want to divide the mixture into 3 bowls so that  you can add your fruit puree to two of the bowls to create the different colors.  Pour the fruit purees into their respective bowls, leaving one plain for the white layer.  I added a little bit of red food coloring to the raspberry cream mixture to make it more red than pink and a fair amount of blue food coloring to the blueberry cream mixture.  I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn't turn people's tongues blue.

Interesting note: You'll need to add an extra gelatin sheet to each bowl that has fruit puree.  You are, in fact, adding more "liquid" to the bowl and therefore diluting the amount of gelatin to cream mixture.  You want to keep the consistency of the layers the same so you need to add gelatin.  I added an extra sheet to the raspberry and blueberry bowls.  Depending on how much puree you use, this could change.

Put your foil cups on a baking sheet so you can easily put them in and take them out of the refrigerator.  Pour in your first color about a third of the way up the little foil cup.  For my patriotic theme it happens to be the raspberry aka red.

IMG_1211.jpgRefrigerate the first layer until it solidifies enough that you can pour the second layer on top without it mixing.  This took longer than the 20 or so minutes I thought it would.  Some of my panna cottas were a little marbleized.  (Apparently these colors do run.)  Repeat this step until you have the red, white, and blue cream mixtures layered in the foil cups.

I usually take pictures for almost every step of the recipe.  This time I didn't for a good reason.  My kitchen was a mess.  This recipe pretty much turned my little kitchen into a red white and blue picasso painting, or was it more like a Miro?  I'm not sure.  There was raspberry and blueberry puree pretty much everywhere.  Not very photogenic. Needless to say I couldn't manage keeping the panna cotta, that had taken on a life of it's own, in check and take pictures of the steps at the same time.  I'm sorry!

Based on the feedback from those who tasted it, it was a success!  The raspberry was my favorite layer.  It was incredibly flavorful.  I might make a mango and raspberry one next. I have a feeling the two flavors would work really well together.  Was this time consuming, like most of my recipes tend to be?  Yes.  Was it worth it? Absolutely.  I think I've graduated from making a flag cake out of a box and have discovered a new way to celebrate our independence!  This is not to say that there won't be more flag cakes in my future, but they might have a little company next Fourth of July.

Bon appetit!


Even though this one had a "tie-dyed" look, it was pretty tasty.























  1. So impressed! I don't think I have the patience to pull this one off!

  2. Yeah. I was happy when the last layer was in the refrigerator. Now that I know the process I'm going to try a Thomas Keller Strawberry and Champagne terrine that basically requires the same steps, minus the cream. We'll see!

  3. Good Stuff! Thought you might like the link below.


  4. Jay, I looked at the website. That's kind of adorable and amazing at the same time. Those people must have some serious time on their hands!