Pedro Ximénez is the name of a white spanish grape varietal that is used to produce an intensely sweet sherry that is typically served as a dessert wine. The grapes are dried in the sun before being juiced, so the resulting wine – which is fortified and aged before being bottled – has a strong taste of raisins and molasses/brown sugar. I happen to enjoy a variety of sherries (and there are a wide variety), but I love Pedro Ximénez (PX). As it is a dessert wine, it’s meant to be sipped from small glasses where you can savor the flavor without being overwhelmed by its sweetness. I also find that it is delicious when drizzled over ice cream or even pancakes. For this recipe, I incorporated the PX into some sherry-infused panna cottas, served with an addictive caramel raisin sauce.
I was inspired by seeing this original recipe in delicious magazine, though I had to adjust the proportions a bit based on how many I wanted to make and the fact that I used powdered gelatin instead of sheets. The panna cotta itself is quite easy to make. Heavy cream is combined with sherry, sugar and some gelatin to make a lightly textured but still rich custard that has a hint of vanilla and raisins to it. The panna cotta only takes a few minutes to make, but it needs time to set up in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before you intend to serve it.
The caramel sauce is downright amazing and I highly recommend giving it a try even if you don’t make the panna cottas. The raisins plump up in the sauce and become intensely sweet, fortified by the raisiny sweetness of the sherry. I used a mixture of golden raisins and black raisins (jumbo raisins from TJs, which are quite plump to begin with), which gave the sauce a nice look and added a little variety of color to the mixture. It tastes the way that rum raisin ice cream should – and it is just as delicious when spooned over ice cream as it is when spooned over panna cotta.
The panna cottas should be served within 2 days of preparing them for best results, but they can be made in advance. If you don’t want to deal with turning them out, the can also be served right in the ramekins. Since the ramekins won’t be quite full, you’ll still have plenty of room to spoon sauce over the top before serving.
Sweet Sherry Panna Cotta with Caramel Raisin Sauce
1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
1 tbsp water
16 oz heavy cream
1/3 cup Pedro Ximénez sherry
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Caramel Raisin Sauce (recipe below)
In a small bowl, combine gelatin and water. Allow gelatin to soften for 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of heavy cream, sherry and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin and vanilla extract. Once gelatin has dissolved, stir in remaining heavy cream. Divide evenly into six 6-oz ramekins (they will not be filled quite to the top).
Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
To serve, slide a thin knife around the edge of the panna cotta and invert onto a serving plate. Spoon caramel sauce over the top.
Caramel Raisin Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Pedro Ximénez Sherry
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Combine sugar and sherry in a small saucepan. Cook until sugar begins to bubble and caramel starts to darken in color. Pour in heavy cream and stir until well combined. Stir in raisins, vanilla and salt, then remove from heat and allow sauce to cool to room temperature. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
Makes about 1 cup.