Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert that's simply some combination of milk and cream thickened with gelatin. The name means "cooked cream", and that's pretty much exactly what it is. As is the case with many simple things, the magic of Panna Cotta is in its minimalism.
With only a handful of ingredients you can create a deliciously delicate, light, elegant dessert that's literally is as easy as making jell-o. PLUS, Panna Cotta (always gluten free) can easily be made without dairy or sugar.
I'm such a sucker for creamy custard desserts. Rare is the day when something filled with pastry cream doesn't sound good to me. The same goes for ice cream and frozen yogurt. I consider creme brûlée to be amongst the world's most perfect desserts. Even as a kid, my dessert preferences were for rich and creamy over sugary.
So, every time I make Panna Cotta, I wonder why I don't make it more often. It's ridiculously easy. If you can make Jell-o, you can make Panna Cotta. It somehow manages to feel both rich and light, dissolving on your tongue like ice cream. It's a blank canvas on which to add whatever flavorings and toppings strike your fancy.
Panna Cotta is always gluten- free, but can easily be dairy free and/ or sugar free.
For this Coconut and Maple Flavored Panna Cotta, I used a mixture of half coconut milk and half cream. But if you want to make it diary free, simply replace the cream with coconut cream. This recipe also calls for Steviva Blend instead of granulated sugar, a simple substitution that eliminates the sugar without compromising on the quality of the Panna Cotta in the least.
You can, of course, use regular sugar for your Panna Cotta if you prefer. Steviva Blend is sweeter than sugar, by about 2 to 1. So, if you opt for using sugar, use twice the amount.
Panna Cotta is usually made in a mold, but I love serving it in wine glasses, as pictured here. Not only does this make an elegant presentation, it gives you a built in container for toppings like maple syrup and Chocolate Almond Date Clusters.
Heat the coconut milk with the gelatin for a couple of minutes until the gelatin dissolves then simply stir in some maple syrup, cream and Steviva Blend or sugar. Pour it into wine glasses (or any glasses), let it set up in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. To serve, simply drizzle it with some maple syrup and a handful of chocolate almond date clusters.
FOR THE COCONUT PANNA COTTA:
- 1 ½ cups coconut milk (full fat)
- 3 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 3 tablespoon Steviva Blend - OR - 6 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, PLUS an additional ¾ cup for drizzling
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
FOR THE CHOCOLATE ALMOND DATE CLUSTERS:
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate - cut into small pieces
- 1 ½ tablespoon Steviva Blend - OR - 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- ½ cup roasted, salted almonds - cut in half
- 4 oz (about ¾ cup) pitted dates - chopped
MAKE THE COCONUT PANNA COTTA:
- Pour the coconut milk into a medium size saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over the top. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften. Whisk the gelatin into the coconut milk.
- Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture registers 135 degrees. Remove from the heat and stir in the steviva (or sugar), maple syrup, and salt. Slowly pour in the cream, stirring constantly, then the vanilla. Pour the mixture into 6-8 glasses. Cover each glass with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 24.
MAKE THE CHOCOLATE ALMOND DATE CLUSTERS:
- Line a plate with a sheet of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper.
- Add the chocolate, steviva blend (or sugar), and coconut oil to a microwave safe bowl and cook in the microwave for 2-3 minutes at 50% power, stopping every 30 seconds to stir, until the chocolate is about 75% melted. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Add the chopped almonds and dates to the melted chocolate and stir to coat. Spread the mixture onto the parchment lined plate, spreading it out into an even layer. Place in the refrigerator until the chocolate has hardened, about 20 minutes.
- Chop the chocolate clusters into small pieces. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Pour about 2 tablespoon of maple syrup into each glass of Panna Cotta. Top with a spoonful or two of chocolate almond date clusters and serve.