Aug 06, 2023
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Panna cotta is an elegant Italian custard that’s silky smooth, and melt-in-your-mouth creamy, The macerated strawberries are just the cherry on top! It’s a combination that can’t be beaten for an easy yet luxurious dessert — right at home.
What Is Panna Cotta?
There’s just something about mini desserts that bring me joy. Especially panna cotta (and this chocolate pots de creme of course). They’re the most luscious bites of creamy custard you’ll ever have. And believe be when I say, anyone and everyone will swoon over this recipe.
If you haven’t had panna cotta before though, it’s a classic Italian dessert that cooks cream, gelatin, and sugars together, then chills overnight. This combination gives the custard a slightly firm, yet delicate and creamy texture with a hint of sweet vanilla. And while it may be classified as a decadent dessert, I’m here to show you that making panna cotta is really quite simple!
Panna Cotta Ingredients
Unlike flan, panna cotta is an eggless custard that uses gelatin to form its mold. And while there aren’t that many ingredients, read through the notes below to get a better understanding of how each ingredient is used and the different options you may have.
- Creams and Milk: The combination of heavy cream and whole milk is the key to making the base of this panna cotta extra creamy. If you’d like to make it dairy-free, see the FAQ section below.
- Gelatin: What makes panna cotta solidify and able to turn upside down is gelatin. You can find this in the baking aisle at your local market, but look for unflavored powdered gelatin instead of sheet gelatin. I’ve been using this gelatin for years (starting with my homemade marshmallows recipe) and have loved it ever since!
- Sweetener: While granulated sugar is commonly used, honey or maple syrup is my go-to sugar option. In fact — I think it makes for an even more luscious base that’s not overly sweet.
- Vanilla: While I do love a vanilla bean panna cotta, vanilla beans can be a bit pricey. So to keep this easy and budget-friendly, vanilla extract works perfectly fine.
- For the macerated strawberries: All you need are fresh strawberries and some honey or maple syrup — easy! I’ll show you how to make these below.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below in the recipe card.
How To Make Panna Cotta
Bloom the gelatin: Place the water in a small, wide bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and allow it to dissolve for about 5 minutes. If you find that there isn’t enough water, you can add a half tablespoon more on top of the gelatin to completely dissolve it.
Warm the cream: The key is to simmer (not boil) the cream! Add the cream, milk, and honey to a pot over medium-high heat. Stir the mixture until a few bubbles appear on the outside edge, before it reaches the boiling point. Then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Side note — don’t turn your back on milk being cooked on the stovetop because it can quickly bubble and spill over!
Stir in gelatin: Add the bloomed gelatin to the pot of hot cream and whisk until fully dissolved. You want to avoid any lumps for a perfectly smooth panna cotta.
Pour and chill: Carefully pour the hot cream into six (4-ounce) ramekins or bowls. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to chill for at least 4 to 6 hours or overnight. Reference my notes in the recipe card about covering the ramekins!
To invert the panna cotta: Remove the ramekins from the fridge and run a small knife around the edge and/or dip the bottom of the ramekin in hot tap water for a few seconds. Then, invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate and give it a gentle tap to release it.
Make the macerated strawberries. Add the sliced strawberries and maple syrup to a mixing bowl and stir together. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, until they start to release their natural juices. Then, spoon the strawberries and some juice on top of each panna cotta, and voila!
Storing Panna Cotta
If you’ve got a dinner party planned, I highly recommend making panna cotta. It’s always a stunning dessert! And good news – you can make it a day in advance, along with the macerated fruit. Here’s how to store it:
- To store for the week: Surprisingly, panna cotta has a great shelf life in the fridge. Cover each bowl tightly (to prevent drying out) and store in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
- To freeze for later: Although panna cotta is best fresh, you’ll be glad to hear that it can be frozen for up to 3 months! Store it in an airtight container in the freezer. When you’re ready to enjoy, let it thaw in the fridge overnight.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Unlike flan and creme brulee, panna cotta is an eggless custard that uses gelatin to form its mold.
If you find that your panna cotta separates into two layers, one that’s creamy and one that’s more gelatin-like — there can be two reasons. First, either your gelatin didn’t bloom and dissolve properly when stirred into the cream. Second, the cream mixture boiled after the gelatin was added. Always make sure to remove the cream mixture from the heat before adding the gelatin.
While full-fat cream is used in a traditional panna cotta, yes, you can use dairy-free options such as coconut or nut milk. To make sure you’ve got the ratios right, reference my dairy-free panna cotta recipes, such as pomegranate panna cotta, berry coconut panna cotta or nectarine panna cotta.
More Decadent Dessert Recipes
- Rice Pudding: The perfect holiday dessert to serve for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
- Chocolate Chia Pudding: This tastes indulgent but has a healthy twist!
- Coconut Creme Brulee: Master a dairy-free creme brulee with this recipe.
I hope you and your friends love this panna cotta as much as I do! Let me know how this recipe turned out in the comment box below.
- 10 to 12 strawberries, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
To make the panna cotta
- To bloom the gelatin: Place the water in a small dish or bowl (wider is better). Sprinkle the gelatin on top, and allow it to dissolve for 5 minutes.
- Warm the cream: Add the cream, milk, and honey to a pot over medium-high heat. Heat the mixture and stir together until a few bubbles appear on the outside edge, just before the boiling point. Then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
- Stir in gelatin: Add the bloomed gelatine to the pot of cream and whisk until fully dissolved, making sure there are no lumps.
- Pour and chill: Carefully pour the hot cream into six (4-ounce) ramekins. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to chill for at least 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
To make the macerated berries
- Stir together: Add the sliced strawberries and maple syrup to a mixing bowl and stir together. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, until they start to release their natural juices.
- To invert the panna cotta: Remove the ramekins from the fridge and run a small knife around the edge and/or dip the bottom of the panna cotta in hot tap water for a few seconds. Then, invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate and give it a gentle tap to release it.
- Top with strawberries: Spoon the strawberries and some juice on top of each panna cotta.
- If you find that pouring directly from your pot into the ramekins creates a mess, transfer the liquid to a 4-cup measuring cup first. Then you can pour with a bit more precision into the individual ramekins.
- Do you really need to cover the panna cotta with plastic wrap? I don’t find that it’s completely necessary if you’re going to invert the panna cotta before serving. But it does help to reduce the “skin” that forms on top a little bit.
- I prefer to use white honey in the panna cotta and maple syrup in the macerated berries (as it’s more liquidy), but really any sugar or sweetener works just fine. So choose your favorite.
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