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The word "perfect" is a one-size-fits-all label in the blogosphere, applied to everything from our lipstick du jour or the latest chocolate cookie to blow our minds. So when I use the word perfect to describe the dessert that I think has it all, the dessert that everyone should have memorized and ready to go, I do so with some trepidation. Does perfect go too far? No, it doesn't. Panna cotta can always be the right dessert — whether you're throwing a fancy party or a small one, have lots of time or no time, are gluten-free, dairy-free, allergy-prone, vegan, or simply craving a delicious and creamy sweet. It's perfect. Let me tell you why. 

I may sound like one obsessed, but I think this dessert is so winning, that I was compelled (and lucky!) to write a book about it, as well as its pudding and no-bake dessert cousins (Bakeless Sweets: Pudding, Panna Cotta, Fluff, Icebox Cake, and More No-Bake Desserts, available now for pre-order and out May 7 from Stewart, Tabori & Chang). 

There are so many reasons to love this dessert, and yet I've met many cooks who are intimidated by it, and this seems a shame. I love that moment of dipping a spoon into a creamy pot of panna cotta, swirling a sauce of raspberry and star anise on top, or scooping out a piece of peach from the cup. I like the chance to play with interesting dairy options, like in the Peach and Buttermilk Panna Cotta seen above.  

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