The Italian pudding-like dessert served cold, Panna Cotta, was never my first choice for dessert. When I originally tried it, I thought it tasted like vanilla flavored milk. Probably because it was, just set with gelatin. That does not get my taste buds going.
David Lebovitz recently posted an intriguing Coffee Caramel Panna Cotta that made me think perhaps I was missing something. So, I revisited this Italian specialty. David made caramel using the dry method where the sugar is just melted in a wide pan and brought to a deeply browned color. That is where we parted ways. With no shame at all, I have to tell you I have never been able to do this. I make my caramel pastry this way but it isn’t a good fit for panna cotta. I suppose I could go through the beginning and then just add cream, but this is supposed to be effortless.
So, I opted for using Golden Syrup as my sweetener. As you all know if you have followed the blog for a while, I fell in love with it the first time I used it. It has a caramel like taste that lingers. I also use pure vanilla for this and in fact, I use Tahitian Vanilla just as I do in the Tiramasu that is so loved at the restaurant. But any good vanilla will do. Dark rum, for its intensity of flavor, is a must. If you don't have Golden Syrup sweeten with sugar to taste.
I noticed a lot of recipes use both milk and heavy cream. I opted for half and half to make my life easier.
Make it as you Please
You will notice there is some variance in the measurements for a few ingredients. It depends totally on your taste. Do you like your coffee strong? Weak? In between? How sweet do you prefer? Just follow the basics and make as you wish.
One of the best things about this Panna Cotta is that it can go from elegant to BBQ in a blink of an eye and it’s the perfect easy, cold summer dessert.
Effortless Panna Cotta
1 tablespoon pure vanilla*
1 tablespoon dark rum**
1 to 2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin* (10 grams or a scant ⅓ ounce)
½ cup half and half from the measured amount
⅓ to ½ cup golden syrup*** or sugar to taste
3 cups half and half
*I used Tahitian vanilla
** I used Meyer’s Dark Rum
*** I used Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Combine the vanilla, rum and ½ cup half and half from the measured amount. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and stir it in. Allow it to sit for 5 or 10 minutes. It takes longer to bloom in milk and in water.
In the meantime, combine the golden syrup and remaining half and half. Heat it to take the chill off the cream.
Once the gelatin has softened, microwave or heat it briefly to liquify it. Add it to the half and half and warm the mixture to make sure it is completely combined.
Pour it into serving bowls or cups and let it set up overnight in the refrigerator.
This should be served very cold. It will be softly set but will not keep it’s shape if unmolded.
Finishing the Panna Cotta
½ cup cream
1 to 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon dark rum, optional
Combine in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until soft to medium peak stage. Spoon a bit of whipped cream onto each of the panna cotta and sprinkle with shaved chocolate.
Refrigerate Panna Cotta. It will keep 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. Serve cold.
Yield: It depends upon the dishes, but 6 half cup servings are good.