The Mind of a Chef: Creme Fraiche Panna cotta with Caviar


  1. Nonstick cooking spray or grapeseed oil
  2. 8 ounces Bellewether Farms crème fraîche
  3. 1 cup heavy cream
  4. 1 cup whole milk
  5. 1/3 cup sugar
  6. 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  7. 5 gelatin sheets (about 12 g)
  8. 2/3 cup Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
  9. 2/3 cup American sturgeon caviar
  10. Fleur de sel


To prepare the Panna Cotta:

  1. Lightly coat an 8x8-inch baking pan with pan spray or grapeseed oil. Press a layer of plastic wrap into the pan, being careful not to wrinkle the plastic. Make sure the plastic is pressed into the corners, but be careful not to break a hole in the plastic: lift the plastic off the sides, and gently work the plastic on the bottom then into the edges. Use a flat plastic object (such as a credit card wiped with alcohol) to remove any large wrinkles by running the flat edge from the center of the pan out to the edges.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, stir the crème fraîche, cream, milk, and sugar in a large saucepan to blend. Scrape the vanilla bean and stir the seeds and the bean into the cream mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Meanwhile, soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the softened gelatin from the water and add it to the hot cream mixture. Stir over medium-low heat until the gelatin dissolves.
  4. Transfer the cream mixture to a bowl and set the bowl over another bowl of ice water. Using a silicone spatula, stir the cream mixture until it is cold and just begins to thicken. This will ensure the vanilla beans are suspended throughout the panna cotta, and do not collect on the bottom. Do not allow the mixture to thicken too much and do not mix the cream mixture with a whisk, as this will incorporate air.
  5. Pour the cream mixture into the prepared baking pan. Set the pan on a flat, level surface in the refrigerator and keep refrigerated until the panna cotta is set, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. Invert the panna cotta onto a cutting board and gently pull off the plastic wrap. Using a very sharp knife dipped in warm water, first cut the 8x8 panna cotta into 1-inch strips, then cut once across the strips to cut all the strips in half. This should yield approximately sixteen 4x1-inch strips.

To serve:

  1. Pour about 2 teaspoons of caramel sauce in the center of each plate. Using an offset pastry spatula, spread the sauce to form a rectangular shape that is about 6x2-inches. Using your finger tips and the offset pastry spatula, carefully set the strips of panna cotta on top of the caramel sauce. Gather the caviar in a line along the edge of a knife then drop the caviar onto the panna cotta strips in a line centered down the long side of the strips. Sprinkle a few grains of fleur de sel over the panna cottas and serve.

Caramel Sauce

  1. Makes about 1 1/2 cups
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1/4 cup water
  4. 1 cup heavy whipping cream


  1. Combine the sugar and water in a heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until the syrup turns a very dark amber, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals and swirling  the pan, about 9 minutes. Do not stir the mixture. Test the darkness of your caramel by dipping a spoon into the caramel and dotting some of it onto a white plate. It will appear darker in the sauce pan than it is, and checking with a white plate will ensure it is the proper color. It should be a deep amber.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat. Slowly add the cream (the mixture will bubble vigorously). Using a long whisk, stir over low heat until the sauce is smooth. Cool completely and refrigerate until cold before serving.
Serves 16

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Recipe Credit: The Mind of a Chef