Panna Cotta, which means cooked cream in Italian, is one of Italy’s favored traditional desserts. Originally from the Piedmont region, known for its exceptional cream, Panna Cotta’s rich creamy goodness is now enjoyed around the world.
Relatively easy to make once you have the proportions set in stone. Traditionally, panna cotta was made with pure cream served with fresh fruit or fruit coulis (puree). As the recipe evolved and became regular fare in restaurants, gelatin was added to the recipe to firm up the cream for molded presentations. Sauces also proliferated as a flourish to this once simple county dolci. .
As I live in Thailand I thought why not go for a tropical panna cotta with fresh lime juice, mango, and a flourish of salted cocoa sauce laced with local vanilla. I do prefer the texture of the traditional panna cotta, but I did use gelatin in this recipe, although just enough to hold the cream together without transitioning into a firm Jello like consistency. This does make unmolding a little tricky, but the texture is worth the sacrifice… and, as you can see, you have an arresting Joan Mitchell abstract painting on your finished plate to show for it!
Tropical Panna Cotta serves 8
Prepare ahead: 8 custard cups or ramekins if you want to serve the panna cotta without unmolding, or lightly spray 8 molds with light vegetable oil or lightly brushed with melted butter for unmolding. Place in the refrigerator in either case.
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, strained
- 2 teaspoons granulated gelatin (3 teaspoons for a firmer texture)
- 1 ½ cups thick cream (organic if available)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
- fresh mango coulis (puree)
- salted cocoa sauce (recipe included below)
Stir the lime juice and gelatin together in a small bowl and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set a smaller bowl, fitted with a fine mesh strainer, into the ice water.
Combine the cream, sugar, and salt in a sauce pan set over medium heat and cook until the mixture begins to bubble, but not yet boiling. Turn off the heat promptly and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Slowly stir in the lime juice gelatin mixture until completely incorporated. Stir in the sour cream (or yogurt) until well combined. Pour the mixture through the strainer into the bowl set in the ice water and set aside until the mixture cools to room temperature.
Remove the chilled custard cups, ramekins, or prepared molds from the refrigerator and ladle the panna cotta mixture into them, leaving ample room at the top for the coulis and cocoa sauce for serving in the cups or ramekins, and just short of the top for the molds. Return to the refrigerator for at least 3 t0 4 hours or overnight to set.
When you are ready to serve the panna cotta assemble your dessert plates. Remove the panna cotta from the refrigerator.
To unmold the panna cotta, very briefly wrap a hot kitchen towel around the mold to release the panna cotta from the mold. Place a dessert plate over the mold and holding the mold and plate together, flip over, releasing the panna cotta onto the plate.
Spoon the mango coulis around the panna cotta and spoon cocoa sauce onto the top of the panna cotta letting it cascade down the sides and into the coulis and serve at once!
If you are serving the panna cotta in cups or ramekins, simply spoon the coulis over the surface and top with the cocoa sauce.
Salted Cocoa Sauce: makes 1 cup
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon water + more for thinning
- 4 oz bitter sweet dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
Combine the cocoa powder, honey, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water in a stainless sauce pan set over low heat. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until well combined and smooth, 3-4 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, vanilla, and salt. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the sauce is very smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Thin with warm water as needed.
The sauce may be refrigerate for later use. Bring to room temperature before serving.