Vanilla Panna Cotta and Maple Poached Rhubarb

A delicious Italian dessert that balances creamy vanilla with sweet maple syrup and bright, tart rhubarb. A dusting of maple sugar sprinkles adds a sweet crunch.

Prep time: 15 min               |                Cook time: 3 hrs 30 min               |                  Total: 3 hours 45 min*             |                 Makes 8**

*More if you freeze molds to remove panna cotta.        ** Depending on ramekin or mold size

ingredients

Vanilla Panna Cotta

1 quart heavy cream

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped

2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

3 tablespoons water

Maple Poached Rhubarb

10 large stalks of deep red rhubarb, sliced diagonally in ~1 inch pieces

2/3 cup maple syrup (Grade A Dark Robust or Very Dark Strong)

2 tablespoons water

Garnish

Maple syrup to drizzle

Maple sugar crumbs

Instructions
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In a medium sauce pan, combine heavy cream, sugar, vanilla bean pod and seeds. Heat over medium heat until just beginning to simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for 15 minutes.

While waiting, sprinkle powdered gelatin evenly over water in a ramekin or small bowl and let stand until absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Once the cream mixture has steeped, remove vanilla pod. Pour a cup or so of the mixture into another medium sauce pan and warm over medium heat. Whisk in the gelatin until fully dissolved and add in the rest of the cream mixture. Bring to a simmer while whisking to ensure that the gelatin is completely dissolved and combined for a smooth panna cotta.

Pour the panna cotta mixture into eight small ramekins (~4oz) or, for the dessert here, into small silicone molds set onto a half sheet pan. Have fun with it! You could use rocks glasses, sturdy coupe glasses, or a larger ramekin (for fewer desserts) depending on what you have in your cupboards. You may have to transfer the hot mixture into a pitcher for more precise pouring.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the panna cotta is set but still jiggles, 3 hours or more. If you are using molds, transfer to the freezer after it has set until stiff enough to remove safely from the molds. Thaw completely before serving. Panna cotta "pucks" can be frozen for up to 2 months in a sealed freezer bag.

To prepare the rhubarb, add the the sliced rhubarb, maple syrup, and water to a large skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until just starting to bubble - around 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover loosely with a lid, parchment paper, or foil. Let sit until rhubarb is soft but still holds some texture and shape, around 5 minutes (taste test until it's to your preference; may need longer).

Let cool and serve with panna cotta. Add a drizzle of maple syrup to the poached rhubarb and garnish the dessert with maple sugar sprinkles.