Easiest Peach Panna Cotta (sort of)

Four years ago:

We moved to the UK and I quickly discovered that I can’t get gelatin (or ‘jelly’ as it’s called here) here except for strawberry, and even that comes as a partially reconstituted thick paste, which means I have to wildly adjust any recipes I make with it.* This has led to me requesting (on more than one occasion) that visitors from the US bring me jello powder when they come to the UK. This is a request that is not only embarrassing but also stupid, because nearly all of the things I have made with gelatin since starting this blog have been miserable failures (looking at you, Neon Green Lime Pine-Sol Pie). When friends bring me gelatin, it’s always the same flavours: cherry, orange and lime, because those are the most common flavours in the States and obviously that’s totally fine. But I needed peach, grape and pineapple for a few recipes and I’ve been pretty stumped at what to do about that (other than scour the nearest Trader Joe’s when I am in the US over the summer and hope for the best).

One year ago:

I bought the glass molds you see in this post at a handful of charity shops all in one day (there are two more medium-sized ones that didn’t get used for this dish) because I knew I had a host of things to use them for from the Box… but then I just couldn’t muster the energy to make any of those things, assuming they’d all be awful.

Six months ago:

We were in in Madeira over New Year’s and (of course) visited the local grocery store. I love wandering through supermarkets when I visit a new country- it’s somehow both soothing and exotic, like ‘these people drink the same brand of coffee I do!’ but also ‘WHAT EVEN IS THIS SHINY, SPHERICAL, COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT BALL AND WHY IS IT IN THE CANDY AISLE?’ and when we were in Madeira, we stayed at an AirBnB in the middle of nowhere, so we had no choice but to stock up on groceries.** While wandering the supermarket looking for milk (we circled the entire building three times before we found UHT milk on a shelf stored at room temperature because I guess that’s the only way an island that remote can feasibly get milk at all without it costing an arm and a leg), I stumbled upon… PEACH GELATIN. In an aisle full of flour, baking powder and other dry goods, with nary another gelatin flavour in sight, there was an entire shelf of peach. Naturally, I bought two packets.

But then I got it home and first I couldn’t find the recipe that required peach gelatin, and then I found the recipe but it sounded like a spring/summer dish and THEN I couldn’t think of an excuse to make this because it’s not exactly something I want to take to work or serve to friends, and that’s generally how we get rid of my sweets around here. But now I have the requisite dishware, the correct ingredients and I am out of excuses, so here you go.

Last night:

I finally made this 'creamy fruit salad mold,' but in the interest of making it sound not disgusting, we're calling it Peach Panna Cotta, because that's what it tastes like, and basically what it is.

You may have noticed that this is a large-print recipe from a newspaper in the 1970s. The newspaper is trying to pretend like they’re doing the elderly a service by printing the recipe extra-large, but I have a sneaking suspicion someone backed out of a paid ad at the last second and they just had some space to fill.

*This isn’t a different ingredient; it just has another name on the other side of the pond. But to be clear if you’re making this at home, this is made with powdered or partially reconstituted gelatin, NOT peach jam/preserves.

**As a side note, the owner of the AirBnB left us a bag of bananas, avocados and other fruits from his farm on our doorknob early one morning while we were still asleep. When we awoke, he had left a note with them that said he would ‘like to offer [us] a selection of contemporaneous regional fruits of the moment,’ which is possibly the greatest and most elaborate statement I have ever heard in English. There were two fruits in the bag that we could not identify, and when we image searched them, we found that one is called, literally, sleeve. Obviously this was the best trip we’ve taken in a long time.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. Of the three ingredients in this recipe, I hate one (yoghurt), am indifferent to one (gelatin) and adore one (peaches), so I really wasn’t sure how this was going to go. Honestly, it was great! It tastes like panna cotta, a dish I fell in love with on a trip to (of all places) China, but omits nearly all of the fat found in regular cream-heavy panna cotta by using fat-free Greek yoghurt as the only dairy. The recommendation to use canned peaches threw me for a loop as this would obviously be better with fresh peaches, so I did two versions (one small, one large) to test the difference. Fresh peaches are always better, but even the canned peaches left us with a tasty result and while I'm not saying a dessert that involves flavoured gelatin should really be nominated for an award any time soon, there's very little difference between a regular gelatin-set panna cotta and this version, which just amps up the peach flavour with a little boost from the gelatin. This was the perfect light, summery dessert to reward myself after a pretty hectic week, and it's pretty enough (if a little retro) that I'll definitely be making it again.

two years ago: Jiffy tuna supper

The recipe:

Peach Panna Cotta

The directions:

Pour boiling water over gelatin and stir until dissolved.
Stir in peach nectar or syrup.
Very slowly, pour this mixture into the yoghurt (you must pour the gelatin into the yoghurt or it won't form a uniform mixture), stirring constantly.
Chill until slightly thickened but not yet completely set; 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the coldness of your refrigerator.
Gently fold in peaches.
Pour into a 3-cup 'fancy' mold (or individual ramekins if desired).
Chill until firm.
When ready to serve, place mold in a bowl of hot water for 1-2 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.

The ingredients:

1 3-oz./85g package peach gelatin powder or corresponding amount of jelly
1 c boiling water
½ c peach nectar (or, if using canned peaches, syrup from the can)
1 c plain yoghurt (I used non-fat Greek yoghurt)
1 c canned peach chunks or peeled fresh peaches, cut into chunks