Orange Panna Cotta With Saffron and Star Anise
This dessert is deceiving. The reduced orange juice and saffron add such a beautiful custardy color to this panna cotta that it is hard to believe there are no eggs in it. Creamy and scented with fragrant spices, it looks and tastes like a refined treat that involves a lot of work and skill. The truth is, the preparation takes hardly any time at all, you just have to give the gelatin about 6 hours to set. And if you can make Jell-o, you've got all the skills required.
Always on the lookout for a shortcut, I tried sprinkling the gelatin directly into the hot orange and half-and-half mixture. It didn't work. The pudding I ended up with was not fully set and had tapioca-like lumps in it. So now I take the extra 3 seconds and soften the gelatin in a bit of water first.