Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta with Fresh Blueberries and Herbs

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Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Fresh Blueberries and Herbs

Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta with Fresh Blueberries and Herbs

Feb 3, 2017Fall, Recipes, Spring, Summer, Winter

Well folks, February is here and that means trying to come up with a plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We keep it fairly low key in my household and as you can guess, instead of going out to celebrate, I usually cook.  Since it is on a Tuesday this year, I am looking for a fairly easy dessert; panna cotta is certainly that without giving up taste.  It is so simple that while the main cook does dinner, the other Valentine could be putting this together.  I like this version, because it uses a combo of berries and herbs (I will go with the frozen blueberry and lemon thyme option.)  Herbs are not something that we always think of for dessert, but they provide a nice brightness and an interesting flavor profile.  There are some hints in the notes of berry-herb combinations that go together quite well, but try some of your own to really add that personal touch.


  • 1/4ounce powdered gelatin (1 package)
  • 1cup crème fraîche
  • 2cups heavy cream
  • 1/2cup buttermilk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1/3cup turbinado sugar
  • 1vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1cup fresh berries or fruit, hulled and sliced (see headnote for ideas)
  • 1tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped or torn (see headnote for ideas)
  • sugar to taste


  1. Place 2 1/2 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin on top and let soften for 5 minutes.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the crème fraîche, heavy cream, buttermilk, turbinado sugar, and vanilla bean (if using), stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat just before the mixture reaches a simmer. Add the gelatin mixture immediately and vanilla bean paste or extract (if using in lieu of vanilla bean), whisking until the gelatin dissolves. (If using a vanilla bean, scrape remaining seeds from the bean and add them to the mixture at this time.) Strain the crème fraîche mixture through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout.
  3. Pour the mixture into eight 6-ounce ramekins, bowls, or parfait glasses (or six 8-ounce ones). Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 3 to 4 hours.
  4. About 10 minutes before serving, combine fruit and herbs in a bowl and mix in a few teaspoons of sugar. Let the sweetness of your fruit guide the amount of sugar you add. Let the fruit mixture macerate for about 5 to 10 minutes. Top each panna cotta with a spoonful of the fruit mixture, serving additional on the side if desired.

Ever since having crème fraîche panna cotta at Gramercy Tavern with my husband, I knew I wanted to recreate it at home. Served in miniature ramekins with a dot of bright green tarragon oil and a few supremes of grapefruit on the top, the panna cottas were presented as a gift from the kitchen before our main desserts arrived. They were beautiful and so, so good — by far the best panna cottas I’d ever had. I’m convinced that crème fraîche makes everything better. 
Back at home, I went about my research to recreate this recipe. I combined my favorite elements of multiple panna cotta recipes I found online and in my cookbooks, including ones by Claudia Fleming and Tom Valenti. I also decided to use turbinado sugar instead of granulated white sugar, to amp up the flavor. My first attempt at making the panna cottas was a success — fortuitous since I was making them for a dinner party and didn’t have a back-up plan. As a nod to the Gramercy Tavern, I chose to serve mine straight from the ramekins, topped with macerated strawberries and tarragon. They went over very well. 
Any number of fruit and herb combinations would be lovely here depending on the season. A few ideas: strawberries and tarragon; blackberries and basil; raspberries and mint; and blueberries and lemon thyme. Or you could copy Gramercy Tavern and go with a combination of grapefruit and tarragon — there’s nothing wrong with that.