In the large family of creamy desserts the panna cotta is the easiest and fastest one to prepare. It simply sets with gelatin; but what really matters is the quantity of the gelatin used. Too much of the last and the panna cotta gets unpleasantly rubbery. I think the best textured panna cotta is served from a bowl (or glass, or ramekin) but not proudly presented unmolded on a plate. Less formal presentation requires less amount of gelatin ensuring better mouthfeel. Flavor-wise, I love the yogurt or buttermilk panna cotta best for its tanginess. And I simply adore it for its calorie-moderation.

Makes 6 servings of panna cotta and about 5 ½ dozens of tiny cookies

For the rosemary cornmeal cookies:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup fine stone-ground cornmeal
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup fine granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 stick (1/4-lb; 113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

For the panna cotta:

  • 2 tbsp Limoncello liqueur
  • 2 tsp gelatin
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup fine granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp (pinch) salt
  • 2 cups low-fat or no-fat unsweetened yogurt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup good quality fig jam (I love St. Dalfour)
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp Limoncello

Make the cookies:

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, and salt to combine. Set aside.

In another small bowl combine the sugar and lemon zest. Rub with your fingertips to release the lemon oil. Set aside for a moment.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue mixing until light and well combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla and rosemary. Add the dry ingredients and mix on the low speed just until the dough forms; you might finish mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon.

Measure out one-teaspoon portions of the dough and roll into small balls. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Flatten the balls to the ¼-inch thickness with your hand or a bottom of a small glass. Refrigerate for 20 minutes before baking. Bake the cookies, in batches, for 12 to 14 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool on the baking sheet on a rack for 10 minutes. Then transfer to the cooling rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature up to a week.

Make the panna cotta:

Pour 2 tbsp of the Limoncello into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over. Let soften for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the whipping cream, sugar, and salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and the cream is hot. Remove from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin; whisk until the gelatin dissolves. Set aside.

Place the yogurt in a large liquid-measuring cup (a spout will make the later pouring easy). Add the vanilla extract and whisk to combine and lighten the yogurt. Gradually, whisk in the hot cream-gelatin mixture. Divide the mixture equally between six 8-oz bowls, glasses or ramekins. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Right before serving or close to the serving time, combine the fig jam, lemon zest, and Limoncello in a small microwave-safe bowl. Warm the mixture gently, so it’s barely warm to the touch. The jam should be spreadable but not hot; otherwise, it will melt the panna cotta. Spoon 2 tbsp of the fig jam over the top of each panna cotta and gently spread the jam. Serve right away or refrigerate until needed.