Panna cotta was one of the first desserts I remember having in a restaurant and flipping for. I was about 14 and I was eating at Lidia Bastianich's restaurant in Kansas City (a place we often went for special occasions). The first bite was silky smooth but only chilled - not frozen. It was better than ice cream and I couldn't believe it. What I still can't believe is that it's such an easy dessert to make! This simple milk chocolate version is super loaded with sweet chocolate flavor, but still has that silky smooth texture. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
4-6 servings, depending on the size of the vessel
Gather four-six glasses or serving dishes and place them on a baking sheet. (If you plan to unmold the custards, opt for a ramekin or a sturdy disposable cup like a thick paper cupcake liner or a small plastic cup.) Make enough room in your fridge that it will fit comfortably.
Pour the water into a small heat-safe dish and sprinkle the gelatin over top. Let bloom for 5 minutes.
In a medium pot, heat the cream and sugar over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer. While it heats, combine the chocolates in a medium, heat-safe bowl.
When the cream comes to a simmer, stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate mixture.
Let the mixture sit for 15 seconds, then stir to fully combine. The mixture should be totally smooth. Stir in the bloomed gelatin and the vanilla.
Divide the custard evenly between the prepared glasses (you can use a ladle, or pour it from a measuring cup with a spout). Chill the custard until set, at least 2 hours.
Serve chilled – either in the containers or you can use a paring knife to loosen it around the edges and unmold onto a plate. (If you used a disposable mold, you can snip it with scissors and peel it away.)
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.