May 18th, 2010

Crazy-Easy, Crazy-Good: Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with apricot-cardamom-candied ginger sauce


Panna cottas in myriad variations have been tested and tasted by cooks across the food blogosphere; when you have something so simple it lends itself beautifully to experimentation. Consider the merits of this eggless custard: It has, in a sense, a neutral base. Its list of ingredients is scant. It’s barely cooked.

How is it so dang good?

In the case here, the dessert is greater than the sum of its parts. Thick, luscious with tang Greek yogurt takes most of the credit, and the cream is no slouch. Sweet, but not too, you won’t reel from sugar shock after a few bites.

I am rather fond of crushed cardamom, and have found that flecks of this complicated spice pair nicely with the yogurt. It adds somewhat floral, somewhat citrusy dimensions, with heat like ginger. It doesn’t take much in my mix–a little dances a long way across your tongue.

panna cotta display

When I was called on to make a fancy sort of dinner for a visiting group of Bill’s business managers, this was my choice to complete the meal. It was something that I could prepare quickly in the morning, and pour it into individual serving pieces to chill. In the past, I’ve put the mixture into white ceramic ramekins, but I wanted a more elegant look. (Another beauty of the recipe is that it can be poured into whatever you like!)

A search through my china cabinet turned up these pretty cut glass cordials.

pouring into cordials

They once belonged to my grandmother on mom’s side, and had been passed on to her. A couple of years ago, mom was paring down her stuff and called, “I never use these and I think you might.”

filled cordials 2

We don’t drink liqueurs in my household, but I loved their look and their family connection. I felt certain that I’d put them to good use at some point. I stashed the eight crystals in my cabinet, and promptly forgot about them. Two years of waiting patiently on the china cabinet shelf, the cordials finally got to come out and play.

apricot-cardamom-candied ginger sauce

After placing the filled stemware into the fridge to chill, I turned my attention to the topping. I wanted something fruit based. Although I had local strawberries in the house, I was already using them in a salad for the dinner. Then I recalled a gorgeous jar of marinated apricots that I had seen on Chez Danisse’s blog….inspired from a posting by Erin of The Endive Chronicles. Those might be lovely spooned over the dessert.

Her recipe is very simple-dried apricots, sea salt, good olive oil, lemon zest and thyme. The only issue for me is that this recipe takes several days of sitting to soften and manifest flavor. Even though I had all the ingredients, I had only hours.

Nonetheless, it was enough to spark this cooked sauce. While it is indeed a departure from Erin’s–I substituted orange for lemon, added a little sugar and cardamom, remembered the small bag of candied ginger in the pantry—it’s quite delicious in its own right. I so enjoy how all these blogging connections inspire creativity, and look forward to making her recipe soon.

In the meantime, the Greek yogurt panna cottas, bedecked with the jewel-like sauce, made a stunning yet soothing finish to the dinner party.

And, there were a couple of extras, treats to spoon into the following afternoon.

panna cotta spoonful

Cardamom Scented Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
1 package Gelatin
2 T. Water
1 cup Cream
1/2 cup Sugar
1 t. Vanilla
1 t. ground Cardamom (if you have whole pods to grind yourself, so much the better!)
2 cups 2% plain Greek Yogurt (1 17oz. container is fine)

Sprinkle gelatin into a bowl, and stir in the water. The gelatin will soften and clump, but don’t worry, it will smooth out in the brief cooking that’s to follow.

Gently heat the cream in a saucepan. Stir in the sugar, vanilla, cardamom, and finally, the gelatin. Stir steadily with a wooden spoon until sugar and gelatin has completely dissolved throughout the mixture. Do not let this boil.

When all is incorporated, remove from heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt. Taste for spice–add a little more cardamom if that suits you. Its flavors will continue to bloom in the cream.

Pour into your individual serving pieces. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.
Serves 8

Apricot Sauce with Cardamom and Candied Ginger
1/2 c. Dried Apricots
2 Clementines, or Mandarin Oranges, for juice and zest
3 T. Sugar
1/2 c. Water
a splash of White Wine (opt.)
2 T. Candied Ginger
2 T. Olive Oil

Simmer dried apricots in a saucepan with sugar, water, the juice of the mandarins (or clementines, or an orange) and their zest. I like the zest in thin peels. Add a splash of white wine, if you like. Simmer for 10 minutes or so; the apricots will soften—as well as the zest—and the liquid will begin to thicken. Add cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon perhaps, and bits of candied ginger. Finish with olive oil. Cool.

nice bite

Posted in Desserts, Recipes

18 Responses to “Crazy-Easy, Crazy-Good: Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with apricot-cardamom-candied ginger sauce”
  1. rachel Says:

    I am mildly obsessed about gelatin at present, that coupled with my enduring greek yogurt, cardamom and ginger thing makes this just about perfect pudding. Olive oil too – yes very very cool.
    Love the pictures today.

  2. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Your presentation is lovely. I’m ready to make your apricot sauce. On a lazy day I might just spoon some over a bowl of Greek yogurt. Now you are inspiring me.

  3. best cook Says:

    Love all your pictures you took. And as you say it is a crazy-easy,crazy-good recipe. Can’t wait to try it.

  4. heather Says:

    Yum! I’m going to the store right now!

  5., Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Beautiful…need I say more?

  6. Nancy Says:

    I love this combination! An ideal light and refreshing dessert for spring and summer. And you definitely put the cordial glasses to good use!

  7. Fluffy Says:

    Greek yogurt is a favorite of mine and that Apricot Sauce looks absolutely

  8. Erin Says:

    I am so glad you liked my posting! Your version sounds wonderful. Lovely glasses as well!

  9. FOODESSA Says:

    Nancy…this has got to be the most alluring ‘Panna Cotta’ I’ve ever laid eyes on. That might have a little to do with the fact that it’s a dessert that never captured my attention. Let’s just say I would consider it a tad boring. HOWEVER, the ingredients are very dear to my palette, minus maybe gelatin…not a fan. I may just make an exception. Will try it sometime this summer as a re-freshing surprise ;o)
    Beautiful stemmed glasses. It could only add to the ravishing pull of your offering ;o)
    Thanks again for sharing and flavourful wishes, Claudia

  10. Madeleine Says:

    My mouth is watering.

  11. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    This is such a beautiful post! I love that you used your grandmother’s glass. I think that this is such an interesting version of panna cotta, I like that there is cardamon in this recipe.

  12. Leisa Hammett Says:

    Oh. The beauty captured in these pictures…all the details, brought sunshine to my tired soul just now. Thank you.

  13. alison Says:

    what a beautiful and elegant version of the traditional greek yoghurt and honey. This recipe looks just fantastic, well done!

  14. Linda Rich Says:

    I tried this dessert over the weekend … terrific and so easy! I did not have cardamom, and it was delicious with just the vanilla. This will be a standard in my kitchen, especailly for a large crowd. Thank you.

  15. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Thanks, all, for the kind comments.
    Linda, I’m thrilled that the recipe worked so well for you. Thanks for letting me know! It is a good one for a large crowd, and can be made anew with different spices or toppings.

  16. mark Says:

    Panna Cotta – 15 years ago, I could not sell one in my restaurant – now it’s the rage. Especially when the creativity of a inspired cook shows through.

  17. Renee Says:

    I made your Panna Cotta the other day and it was a great success, very true to its “crazy-easy, crazy-good” title.

  18. Sarah Frances Hardy Says:

    My sister-in-law Jane sent me this link. This looks AMAZING (like everything you do!).

    I can’t wait to make it!

    Sarah Frances

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