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Apr 01, 2019 2:48pm

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

White Chocolate-Basil Panna Cotta

Pretty soon basil will be flooding farmers’ markets, overstuffing fridges . . . and launching most home cooks into pesto overdrive. Sure, you can freeze the zesty green stuff, but why not turn the herb into a dish that’s really fresh?! Here, I’ve infused panna cotta with basil and orange zest to give a mint-like lift to the Italian classic. Sound odd? Perhaps. But once you try it, I think you’ll suddenly find basil in extremely short supply! Note: This recipe hails from my James Beard-nominated column for Sauce magazine.

Yield: About five 1/2- to 3/4-cup servings

Prep Talk: Make the panna cotta about 4 to 5 hours before serving to allow it adequate time to chill and set up in the fridge.

  • 3 tablepoons cold water
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin (less than 1 package)
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sweet basil leaves (about half 2/3-ounce package, stems removed), torn
  • Zest of 1/2 orange, cut into long strips with a channel zester or paring knife
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
  • 6 ounces premium white chocolate, finely chopped and melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh strawberry purée, lightly sweetened


1 | Clean and dry five 8- to 10-ounce wine or martini glasses. Set aside. Pour the cold water into a small bowl that fits a double boiler. Sprinkle the gelatin onto the water and let the mixture sit, without stirring, 5 to 10 minutes until the gelatin has absorbed all of the liquid. (Fight all impulses to stir. You will only create lumps of gelatin that will never completely dissolve.) Set the bowl over simmering water in the double boiler to melt the gelatin. Remove the double boiler from the heat, but leave the melted gelatin over the warm water while you complete Step 2. (You want the gelatin to remain liquid.)

2 | Combine the cream, milk, basil leaves, and orange zest in a non-reactive saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring the mixture to the scalding point. (That is, get it so hot that a skin forms on top, but do not boil it.) Remove from the heat and let the basil and orange zest steep in the cream about 30 minutes.

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