A panna cotta is the ultimate low-carbohydrate dessert. Translated from Italian, it literally means "cooked cream." Actually, it is barely cooked-just enough to dissolve the gelatin. The final result tastes like vanilla pudding and has the texture of an "upscale" Jell-O mold. You can serve this scrumptious dessert alone, or it can be garnished with fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries.
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, 2 inches long and slit lengthwise (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
¼ cup Splenda
Scant ⅛ teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup raspberries or sliced strawberries, for garnish
8 sprigs fresh mint, for garnish
Lightly coat eight 4-ounce ramekins (or small coffee cups) with a nonstick vegetable spray.
Pour the milk in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Allow it to stand for 5 to 10 minutes or until the gelatin softens.
In the meantime, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Set aside.
Place the whipping cream in a medium bowl. Lay the vanilla bean flat and use a paring knife to split the bean lengthwise. Using the dull side of the knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the whipping cream and lightly blend. Set aside.
Heat the milk and gelatin mixture over high heat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 135 degrees F, stirring constantly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the Splenda and salt; blend well. Gradually add the whipping cream mixture, stirring constantly. Set the saucepan in the ice water for 5 to 10 minutes or until it is the consistency of lightly beaten whipped cream, stirring occasionally.
Pour the whipping cream mixture into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
To serve, fill a small bowl with boiling water. Dip each ramekin in the water for 2 to 4 seconds to loosen the mold. Remove the ramekin from the water and use your fingertips to press lightly around the edges of the Panna Cotta. Dip the ramekin in the water for another 2 to 4 seconds. Quickly wipe the bottom of the ramekin with a towel and place a dessert plate over the top and invert. Remove the ramekin and garnish each serving with fruit and a sprig of mint, if desired.