Fig Jam, Grilled Figs and other savory fig dishes before. But I really hadn't made something sweet. But what? So I scoured the internet for inspiration, and landed on Martha Stewart's Panna Cotta recipe with figs. Then, I stumbled across a recipe for Fig Brulee with Balsamic Vinegar on Herbivoracious. That was it! I would make all three components. Martha makes a bourbon caramel sauce. I'm not a bourbon fan. But, I do like Grand Marnier. I rolled up my sleeves and started making the panna cotta. I have made Panna Cotta several times. For those of you who aren't familiar with this Italian dessert, think "cooked cream". I think of this dessert as an eggless custard, which has endless possibilities. I've made this with 1% milk, 2% milk, Half & Half, buttermilk and a mixture of all three. This is the first time I've abandoned any attempt at trimming calories and fat-- I made this with heavy cream. I've also skipped the ice bath step, but this time I decided to follow Martha Stewart's instructions. I've prepped my ingredients and I'm ready to go!
Chill for a minimum of 2 hours, or covered for up to 3 days.
Making caramel sauce made me a little nervous. It has been a long time since I've tried, but I decided to go for it. The first batch turned out way too dark. That's my fault... I got distracted and the sugar burned. A word from someone who is wiser-- organize the sugar, water and heavy pan and just don't walk away. Now that I did it twice, I've conquered my fear of caramel.
As you can see, the top left sauce is a bit dark. Burned sugar is bitter. The bottom right is the successful version. It's a pretty amber color.
This sauce is not made with sugar, heavy cream and butter. Instead, this sauce is thinner and clearer-- much like a caramel flan sauce. I tried to photograph the steps, but it's too hard. You have to work fast, so you can click here for a great photo tutorial (Simply Recipes).
Now, for the figs...
If you have a brulee or kitchen torch, you are in for a treat!
I have to tell you, these are a beautiful presentation...and they taste amazing (you can even add balsamic vinegar for a ta-da).
To unmold panna cotta, dip ramekins in warm water. Run a paring knife around edges of panna cotta to break seal, and invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate. Dessert will slowly slide out.
Add the caramel sauce and garnish with figs...
VERDICT: Wow! First, the panna cotta is very silky. Heavy cream is the way to go. This is my tastiest version yet. I didn't detect much Grand Marnier in the panna cotta, so either kick it up more or leave it out altogether. The caramel sauce! Oh, that was pure bliss for me. I love caramel in every way. The sauce is light, and the Grand Marnier was just right-- subtle and not overpowering. The figs.... the texture of the caramelized sugar added a great crunch, followed by the creaminess of the panna cotta. This dessert makes a statement, and I want it again!
I actually hid one ramekin of panna cotta, but my son found it. He feels no shame, either. Well, good for him!
As for the caramel sauce-- I did refrigerate it for two days and it did turn thick. I made another dessert with this, which I will share next. I am wicked, huh? Forgive me.
All three recipes are at the bottom of this page. This is the panna cotta recipe that will become my "go to". The caramel sauce is perfect for this dessert. Don't be afraid. You can make it, too!