Basic Panna Cotta

3 cups cream, or 1 1/2 cups cream and 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or to taste) or 1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar


Put 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it; let sit for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring, until gelatin dissolves completely.

If using vanilla extract, add remaining cream and sugar to gelatin mixture and heat gently, just until sugar dissolves; add vanilla and proceed to Step 3. If using vanilla bean, cut it in two, lengthwise. Scrape out seeds; add seeds and bean pod to pot, along with the sugar and remaining cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until steam arises. Turn off heat, cover, and let steep for 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove vanilla bean, if you used it. Pour mixture into 4 large or 6 small custard cups. Chill until set, about 4 hours. Serve in cups, or dip cups in hot water for about 10 seconds, then invert onto plates. Serve within 24 hours.
Panna cotta can be used as a base for an ice cream that requires no churning. Make the recipe below and freeze it for several hours or overnight. Let it soften for 15 to 30 minutes at room temperature and you have something close to what used to be called Philadelphia-style ice cream.

Source: The New York Times