Basil Panna Cotta

Basil Panna Cotta

[Photograph: Ben Fink]

The beauty of panna cotta is its flavor flexibility; it takes on the taste of whatever you infuse it with. Using basil and lemon, as in Baking Out Loud: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors, makes a refreshing, zesty-sweet version with vegetal notes of basil.

Tips: If you want a stronger basil flavor, crush the leaves before adding them to the heavy cream. Use the same tip from the lemon ricotta pancakes recipe and rub the lemon zest and some of the basil leaves into the sugar before putting it in the pan.

Tweaks: Instead of just berries on the top, cook them down to make a sauce. Add candied lemon peel or candied basil leaves for a contrasting crunch.

Reprinted with permission from Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith. Copyright © 2012. Published by Clarkson Potter. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.

  • Yield:serves 6
  • Active time: 40 minutes
  • Total time:8 hours, including cooling time


  • 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed fresh berries, washed and dried, for serving


  1. 1.

    Pour the heavy cream into a medium saucepan. Scrape all the seeds from the vanilla bean, and add them to the saucepan along with the bean, sugar, basil, lemon zest, and salt. Cook over medium heat until just boiling, about 5 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

  3. 3.

    In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 4 teaspoons of water and set aside to soften and bloom.

  4. 4.

    Fish out the vanilla bean, scraping any remaining custard and seeds back into the mixture, and set it aside.

  5. 5.

    Over medium heat, bring the cream mixture back to just barely a simmer

  6. 6.

    Slide the pan from the heat, add the softened gelatin, and stir until dissolved.

  7. 7.

    Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl, pressing on the basil and the zest to make sure you get all of the flavor from them. Discard the basil and the zest.

  8. 8.

    Add the buttermilk to the cream mixture, and stir until well blended.

  9. 9.

    Pour the custard into 6 small straight-sided rocks glasses (about 6 ounces each, the kind you would use for a good bourbon). Cover the glasses with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 2 days.

  10. 10.

    To serve, spoon the berries on top of the panna cotta.