Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert of silky, sweetened cream set with gelatin, is all at once simple, classic and elegant.  It is, at its best, subtle, not overly sweet, and the perfect way to end a meal on a light and refreshing note.
Panna cotta comes together quickly and can be molded in any type of vessels you choose -- from ramekins to demitasse, martini glasses to mason jars.  I like to compliment my panna cotta with a thin layer of gelée -- a gelatin stabilized glaze made from fresh fruit.  Apricots are in season right now, and are bursting with summer sweetness, so I chose to do an apricot gelée.  You can use my recipe with any type of fruit you'd like.  
Here are some photos of panna cottas I've made in the past with a variety of gelées and vessels:
Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Honey Gelée and Bee Pollen
Lemon Panna Cotta, no gelée
Meyer-Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gelee

I like to decorate my desserts with edible flowers, especially in summer and springtime. My theme fo…

Vanilla Bean Peach Preserves -- a spoonful of heaven!

“The jelly - the jam and the marmalade,
And the cherry and quince 'preserves' she made!
And the sweet-sour pickles of peach and pear,
With cinnamon in 'em, and all things rare--!
And the more we ate was the more to spare,
Out to old Aunt Mary's!”

--James Whitcomb Riley of my favorite things about summer is the summer fruit, with peaches at the tippy top of my list.  When the first peaches of summer hit the market, I'm quick to hoard. Yet even when my family has had their fill of the juicy, velvet-skinned fruit, we're always left with a few pounds that ripen to tender lumplings; ready to burst with sweet liquid sunshine! This presents the perfect opportunity to make the most blissful, pie-like preserves that a palette has ever had the pleasure to savor!

This past weekend, we enjoyed the preserves
as a topping for our "Dutch Baby".
My Vanilla Bean Peach Preserves are made with loads of fresh, ripe peaches, a touch of honey to bring out the floral notes, and a liberal speckling of vanilla bean.  It is wonderful on toast and pancakes, as a filling for thumbprint cookies, as a dessert topping on pound or angelfood cake, or served over ice cream.  

Vanilla Bean Peach Preserves
yields 4 1/2-pint jars

6 pounds ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered
2/3 cups water 
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 whole vanilla bean, halved and scraped
3 ounces liquid fruit pectin (1/2 of a 6-ounce foil pouch)

1.  In a large stainless steel pot, combine peach quarters and water.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally until the peaches are soft (approx. 15 minutes).

2.  Working in two separate batches, transfer peach mixture to a food processor or blender and puree just until a smooth texture is achieved -- do not liquefy.  This should yield 6 cups of peach puree.

3.  Return the puree to the pot and stir in lemon juice, sugar, honey, salt, vanilla bean scrapings, scraped vanilla pods, and pectin.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens and will hold its shape on a spoon (10-15 minutes).

4.  Prepare your canner*, jars and lids.  

5.  Remove vanilla pods, then ladle the hot preserves into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rim, and tighten lids.  Completely submerge jars in canner filled with warm water.  Bring to boil and process, with lid on the pot,  for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid and boil for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove jars, cool and store.

*If you don't have a canner, you can use a large stock-pot, lined with a steamer.

Final Details:  I like a rustic homespun look for my canning jars.  I cover each jar with a circle of fabric cut from drop-cloth with pinking shears, and then wrap with jute twine.  Here, I've used the jute twine and mini clothespin from Canvas Corp.

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