Panna cotta is an Italian dessert dish whose name means "cooked cream." The delicate panna cotta is made by heating heavy cream, vanilla bean, half-and-half or whole milk, sugar and unflavored gelatin, then pouring the custard into individual dishes, or ramekins. The ramekins are placed into a refrigerator to chill until set. Removing panna cotta from ramekins without damaging the delicate custard takes practice, but it results in an elegant presentation.
Sparingly oil the ramekins with vegetable oil or unflavored non-stick cooking spray before pouring the panna cotta into the ramekins. This will make it easier for the custard to slide out of the dishes and will not compromise the flavor.
Bring a pot of water to a boil when you are ready to remove the panna cotta from the ramekins. Remove the water from the heat once it reaches a boil.
Submerge a ramekin (bottom only) in the pot of hot water. Depending on the thickness of your ramekin, hold the ramekin in the water for 30 to 45 seconds.
Remove the ramekin from the water. Run a dinner knife around the edge of the panna cotta to loosen it from the ramekin.
Turn the ramekin upside down on a serving plate. Lightly tap all sides of the ramekin to dislodge the panna cotta, then slowly pull the ramekin up away from the plate. The panna cotta should remain intact on the plate.