Winters in Russia are really, really cold. And snowy. And dark. All shots below were taken "in broad daylight," in the middle of the day in January. That's the thing that always gets me down in winter: not the cold or the snow, but the constant twilight. Bright, white sunny days also happen but they are rare.
On a day like this (or any other day if you ask me) this saffron and cardamom panna cotta will be perfect. On a day like this, you want to eat the food that requires a spoon. Not so much a fork.
Cardamom and saffron are two of my favorite spices (see my Cinnamon and Cardamom Rolls and Upside Down Plum Cake). They are sunny and exotic yet homey. I found the saffron panna cotta recipe in Alice Medrich's book Pure Dessert and knew immediately: this is it. The recipe is very forgiving; you can vary the spices and even the milk-to-cream ratio to suit your taste.
Cardamom and Saffron Panna Cotta
3 3/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon saffron, rubbed between fingers
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup milk
2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
chopped pistachios (if desired)
Six 6-oz cups or ramekins
In a small saucepan, combine cream, sugar, salt and spices. Heat until nearly boiling. Remove from heat, cover and let steep half an hour.
In the meantime, pour cold milk into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let stand about 5 minutes (do not stir).
Combine milk and cream and heat again until close to boiling. Make sure the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally. Transfer to ramekins, cover with plastic and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.
Serve in ramekins or invert onto plates. To do this, place ramekins in hot water for a couple of seconds to loosen.
Decorate with saffron threads and chopped pistachios if desired.