It’s raspberry season, at least in the Rocky Mountain West. A friend just brought us a jar of raspberry preserves from Garden City, Utah. That’s home to a number of raspberry farms and the Bear Lake Raspberry Days. Closer to our current home is the Salman Raspberry Farm. You can pick your own, buy their preserves, or buy them in our local farmers market.
Bear Lake is a spectacular blue lake that sits astride the border between Utah and Idaho. It was home to back-to-back Mountain Men Rendezvous in the 1820s. Since then it has been a site of retreat for people from all over the world but especially from Salt Lake City. We made at least one annual trip every year we lived in Salt Lake City. The blue color of the water is so intense that it looks other-worldly. It is said that the color is due in large part to tiny grains of limestone, so-called glacial flour. Lakes in the Canadian Rockies, like Jasper Lake, are also an intense blue said to be due to glacial flour. Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border is also an intense blue, but local authorities have different explanations for the cause.
Salman’s Ranch can’t boast an other-worldly blue-colored lake, but it has its own long history. And it has raspberries.
The gift of raspberry preserves was delicious, but the preserves gave me a hankering to do something with fresh berries. Raspberries and cream, though delicious, seemed a bit prosaic. Panna cotta with fresh berries was a little more complicated. Then I thought of a raspberry Bavarian. That would definitely not be a prosaic dessert. On the other hand, making a crème anglaise and finding a suitable mold seemed like a lot of trouble. I settled on something in between, raspberries in whipped cream stabilized with gelatin. The final result was ok – good but not great. There are some modifications that I would make to the recipe if I would do it again. For one, you could use about half as much gelatin. Still, we cleaned the bowl in just a day, so I guess it wasn’t too bad.
- 1 pint fresh raspberries
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 packet (¼ ounce) unflavored gelatin
- ¼ cup cold water
- ¼ cup boiling water
- Wash and drain the raspberries
- In a medium bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Stir in the raspberries and vanilla extract. You may crush some of the raspberries as you stir them into the cream. That is fine because the juice will add to the color and flavor of the whipped cream.
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin granules over the cold water and let sit for at least a full minute until the gelatin is fully bloomed. Add the boiling water and stir for at least 2-3 minutes until the gelatin is fully dissolved.
- Stir the gelatin mixture into the whipped cream mixture. Be sure that it is evenly and completely incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the mixture is set. If you prefer,, you can transfer the mixture to a decorative bowl or mold before chilling it.
Even though Sarah is trained as a savory cook, by default she has also been doing baked goods and desserts at Rich Table. She doesn’t think of herself as a pastry chef, but her success proves otherwise. Desserts have been among some of the most popular items at Rich Table since it opened over a year ago. There is always pressure to keep some of the old favorites on the menu, but there is also pressure to introduce new items on a fairly constant basis.
Two recent additions are:
Blue corn cake with honey-griddled plums, and vanilla ice cream. This dessert is a riff on Sarah’s favorite cornbread recipe, but made with blue corn meal. I suspect that comes from her interest in New Mexico traditions. She also has a good source for blue cornmeal from Tierra Vegetables in the farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Building.
Blue corn cake with honey-grilled plums and vanilla ice cream
Bittersweet chocolate ganache with almond butter crunch and passion fruit meringue.
Bittersweet chocolate ganache with almond butter crunch and passion fruit meringue
Panna cotta is one of the old favorites, but Sarah has come up with lots of variations that have kept it popular and fresh. Some of those variations include buttermilk, coconut, and more recently cream cheese. Panna cotta is a cousin of flan, crema catalana, and crème brûlée. Those custards are made with eggs which are cooked gently to provide thickening. Panna cotta has gelatin added for the thickening agent. In commercial kitchens, leaf or sheet gelatin is the form most commonly used, but that form is not often available in grocery stores and is a little trickier to use. That’s ok, because a perfectly good panna cotta can be made with the granulated form, although you may need to experiment and cut back on the amount of the gelatin if the finished panna cotta too firm for your taste.
Sarah’s current cream cheese panna cotta is delicious, but if you want to try it at home you will need to tinker with the amount of gelatin you use. The firm texture of the cream cheese sets up too hard with the usual amounts of gelatin.
I think her buttermilk panna cotta is every bit as good. Sarah makes it with fresh cultured buttermilk that the restaurant gets when it house-churns its own butter. That’s not practical at home, but fresh commercial buttermilk will work. That’s my version below.
Straining berry mixture for the sauce base
Containers of berry sauce lines up to go into the cold room
Blackberries and raspberries
Sauce with mixed berries
Chunks of cream cheese before blending
Blending panna cotta mixture
Mixing cream cheese with immersion blender
Sheet gelatin set to soak
Gelatin bloomed and ready to be added to the panna cotta mixture
Heated cream ready to receive the gelatin
Individual panna cottas ready to be chilled
¼ cup water
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (optional)
- Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let stand for 5 minutes or until the gelatin softens. Do not let it stand too long or it will turn into a solid blob that is hard to dissolve.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, buttermilk, and sugar. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Using a whisk or immersion blender, stir in the softened gelatin. Stir for at least a minute. Make sure that the gelatin is completely dissolved. Otherwise it will sink to the bottom and form a separate gelled layer.
- Stir in the orange blossom water and optional Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur.
- Pour into 6 6-ounce cups. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
- Serve with fresh berries or your choice of toppings.