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Total time: 40 minutes, plus chilling time

Servings: 8
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
5 tablespoons sugar
1 (2-inch) section vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, or 1/2 teaspoon vanil
la extract
1. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir t
o distribute, and set aside to soften 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Wipe the insides of 8 (one-half-cup) ramekins with a light coating of neutral
oil and set aside. Half-fill a large bowl with ice and add enough water to make
an ice bath and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and split vanilla bean, a
nd bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, and whisk in the soften
ed gelatin and the vanilla extract, if using. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the
bean pod into the mixture, and discard the pod.
4. Set the saucepan in the ice bath (making sure the top of the saucepan is well
above the surface of the water), and whisk until the mixture is lukewarm. Rub y
our fingers together: There should be no grit from undissolved sugar or gelatin.
5. Ladle the mixture into the oiled ramekins and chill at least 4 hours or overn
ight. If you re going to keep them longer than overnight, cover them with plastic wr
ap, pressing the wrap gently against the panna cotta to prevent a skin from form
ing. Be aware that preparing the panna cotta more than 24 hours in advance will
result in a somewhat firmer set.
6. About 10 minutes before serving, run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of
the ramekin. Dip the ramekin briefly in a bowl of hot tap water, and then caref
ully invert onto a serving plate. If the panna cotta doesn t unmold right away, tap
the ramekin lightly on the countertop to loosen it. If it still doesn t unmold, retu
rn it to the hot water bath for another five seconds and repeat. Panna cotta can
also be served without unmolding.