Make Ahead

Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries and Herbs

May 29, 2013
1 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Makes six 8-ounce servings or eight 6-ounce servings
Author Notes

Ever since having crème fraîche panna cotta at Gramercy Tavern with my husband, I knew I wanted to recreate it at home. Served in miniature ramekins with a dot of bright green tarragon oil and a few supremes of grapefruit on the top, the panna cottas were presented as a gift from the kitchen before our main desserts arrived. They were beautiful and so, so good -- by far the best panna cottas I’d ever had. I’m convinced that crème fraîche makes everything better.
Back at home, I went about my research to recreate this recipe. I combined my favorite elements of multiple panna cotta recipes I found online and in my cookbooks, including ones by Claudia Fleming and Tom Valenti. I also decided to use turbinado sugar instead of granulated white sugar, to amp up the flavor. My first attempt at making the panna cottas was a success -- fortuitous since I was making them for a dinner party and didn’t have a back-up plan. As a nod to the Gramercy Tavern, I chose to serve mine straight from the ramekins, topped with macerated strawberries and tarragon. They went over very well.
Any number of fruit and herb combinations would be lovely here depending on the season. A few ideas: strawberries and tarragon; blackberries and basil; raspberries and mint; and blueberries and lemon thyme. Or you could copy Gramercy Tavern and go with a combination of grapefruit and tarragon -- there's nothing wrong with that. —EmilyC

Test Kitchen Notes

Fantastic. The addition of the buttermilk and the crème fraîche (I used sour cream) to a standard panna cotta gave a great mouthfeel to the finished dish. It was smooth but not as sour or tart as I'd feared it might be, and it had a great clean finish. I used vanilla bean, which I really recommend if possible. We topped our panna cottas with macerated cherries and mint, and they were fabulous -- a great summer dessert! —Ruth Kirwan

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 ounce powdered gelatin (1 package)
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh berries or fruit, hulled and sliced (see headnote for ideas)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped or torn (see headnote for ideas)
  • Sugar to taste
  1. Place 2 1/2 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin on top and let soften for 5 minutes.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the crème fraîche, heavy cream, buttermilk, turbinado sugar, and vanilla bean (if using), stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat just before the mixture reaches a simmer. Add the gelatin mixture immediately and vanilla bean paste or extract (if using in lieu of vanilla bean), whisking until the gelatin dissolves. (If using a vanilla bean, scrape remaining seeds from the bean and add them to the mixture at this time.) Strain the crème fraîche mixture through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout.
  3. Pour the mixture into eight 6-ounce ramekins, bowls, or parfait glasses (or six 8-ounce ones). Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 3 to 4 hours.
  4. About 10 minutes before serving, combine fruit and herbs in a bowl and mix in a few teaspoons of sugar. Let the sweetness of your fruit guide the amount of sugar you add. Let the fruit mixture macerate for about 5 to 10 minutes. Top each panna cotta with a spoonful of the fruit mixture, serving additional on the side if desired.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Yayita
  • Karen
  • Rajika Basu
    Rajika Basu
  • Petite fee
    Petite fee
  • Can I have a bite?
    Can I have a bite?

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

30 Reviews

Suzy Q. December 10, 2017
Is there any way to omit sugar OF ANY KIND including honey, stevia, agave, etc or anything artificial like Splenda? I'm on a ketogenic diet.
Thank you all. This recipe seems simple and healthy...
Yayita March 8, 2017
This was easily and quickly made. I followed the recipe as directed but I did half the recipe as I only wanted to make half, enough for two people. Even when halting the recipe, I did not have any problems with the ratios and was overall very pleased with the silky smooth panna cotta. This was my first time making panna cotta and I couldn't have picked an easier and non-intimidating recipe. And it's versatile given that you can top it off with any fruit compote, so with you have an abundance of _____ fruit this is one way of using it on a nice and simple dessert. I must confess that I skipped the straining part due to laziness but don't plan to this again as you do get some tiny clumps here and there (which in the end don't affect the taste but slightly affect the texture). Also, if you plan to photograph this dessert I would recommend to pay attention to the vessel you use to pour into the cups in order to avoid panna cotta on the sides.
EmilyC March 9, 2017
So glad you had a good experience with the recipe! Thanks for your note, Yayita.
Karen February 4, 2015
It does not say what fresh herbs to use. Help
EmilyC February 4, 2015
Hi Karen -- my note at the top of the recipe includes some suggestions: strawberries and tarragon; blackberries and basil; raspberries and mint; blueberries and lemon thyme; or grapefruit and tarragon.
kalieliz November 26, 2014
I just made this with agar agar powder instead of gelatin and it turned out great! I used 2 1/2 teaspoons, dissolved it in water (as the recipe says for the gelatin) for about ten minutes instead of five. I suggest heating up everything together slowly since the agar agar can take a while to dissolve. I added a few crushed green cardamom pods and subbed honey for sugar since I'm making a Middle Eastern meal, and I'm serving it with pomegranate syrup and pistachio tuiles. Should be delicious!
EmilyC November 28, 2014
This variation sounds lovely!
Amber S. March 6, 2019
I made this per kalieliz's ratio. it is way too hard and grainy to be considered a panna cotta. agar is tricky to work with. i am still experiementing as to make a vegetarian panna cotta, will update if i find anything.
Rajika B. August 25, 2014
turned out fantastic! it's a winner recipe. thanks!!
EmilyC August 25, 2014
Great to hear! Thanks for trying it!
btglenn August 20, 2014
A wonderfully rich dessert for special occasions. Sunset Magazine years ago offered an every-day alternative:
for the liquids, 2 cups of buttermilk sweetened to taste, and vanilla to one packet of getatin. You absolutely need gelatin for any pannacotta.
Tastes surprisingly rich, especially when coupled with a fruit compote topping.
I"ve varied it by substituting a fruit puree (like mango) for part of the buttermilk.
EmilyC August 20, 2014
Sounds good!
Petite F. August 20, 2014
Awesome thank you!
EmilyC August 20, 2014
You're welcome -- and if you try this with a gelatin substitute, please report back!
Petite F. August 19, 2014
Beautiful...Can I use anything else in place a gelatin?

EmilyC August 19, 2014
Thanks Petite fee! Here's a helpful guide on substitutes for gelatin.
Can I. August 19, 2014
So glad to see this recipe! I had something very similar at the Salvation Cafe in Newport, R.I., last week and have been hoping to recreate it. I can't wait to try this.
EmilyC August 19, 2014
Hope you like it!
meganvt01 August 18, 2014
So beautiful and looks delicious. This is on my next dinner party menu!
EmilyC August 18, 2014
Thanks Megan! I really hope you enjoy it!
QueenSashy July 28, 2014
What a delightful recipe, I cannot wait to make it...
EmilyC July 29, 2014
Thank you QS! I'd love to know what you think if you try it!
QueenSashy August 19, 2014
I cheated on the Gramercy Tavern combination and did grapefruit and lemon verbena. We loved them. Next will be strawberries and thyme...
EmilyC August 19, 2014
These combinations sound perfect. And so glad you tried and liked the panna cotta. Thanks for circling back!
JanetFL June 24, 2013
Another great recipe, Emily! I have a garden full of tarragon and will be trying your recipe this week. Thank you!
EmilyC June 24, 2013
Thanks Janet! I'd be thrilled if you try it! As someone with a fully shaded yard, with some potted herbs strategically placed to soak up as much direct sun as possible, I'm oh-so-envious of your garden full of tarragon! : )
JanetFL June 24, 2013
I guess I shouldn't tell you that it comes back every year, here in cold Colorado!
EmilyC June 24, 2013
Haha, no, you really shouldn't tell me that!
ChefJune June 24, 2013
What fresh herbs do your ecommend for this? There are so many possibilities.
EmilyC June 24, 2013
I used strawberries and tarragon, and I've included a few ideas on other berry and herb combinations in the headnote. You're right, so many (delicious) possibilities!