Easy Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Oh, Panna Cotta.  I never really knew what you were. Until I had an intense craving for vanilla pudding, and you popped up during my Google search for recipes. 

Did you know Panna Cotta might be the easiest fancy dessert out there? It is. And very delicious, very vanilla-y, and gluten free!

I have made it a couple times now, and I like this amount of gelatin the best. I used two packets once, and it turned out too jello-y.  This recipe is just the right level of creaminess and a lightened up a bit with the half & half.  Yes, lightened up with half & half.  Most recipes use all heavy cream.

Prepare 6 ramekins, or wine glasses, or small bowls, or whatever you plan to serve your Panna Cotta in.  I chose wine glasses (actually one time wine glasses and another time punch glasses), because I liked the ease of just eating these out of the glass instead of going through the hassle of dumping them onto a plate and making them look good.  And by 'preparing,' I mean set them on the counter.
In a large saucepan, combine the cream, half & half, sugar, and vanilla extract.  Slice the vanilla bean length wise, then scrape all the seeds into the cream mixture.  Add the pod.  Bring mixture to a simmer, then turn off the heat, cover, and let the vanilla steep for at least 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix the gelatin and water.  Remove the pod from the cream mixture; bring back up to a low simmer just to lightly heat, then remove from heat and whisk in the gelatin.  Pour the Panna Cotta into your prepared dishes, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Garnish with caramel, chocolate, candies, anything you wish - and remove from fridge several minutes or an hour before serving (it's creamier than when it's at its coldest).