Friday, February 13, 2015

Chocolate Panna Cotta

My obsession with panna cotta has been well documented here. It all started a few years ago when my cousin Angie shared this delectable panna cotta with a simple strawberry sauce. I never thought I could love a dessert without a trace of chocolate as much as I loved that panna cotta. It was just divine! Since then, I've expanded my panna cotta repertoire to include both buttermilk and Greek yogurt versions, and while I love both of those, the original cream and milk only version is still my favorite. Luscious and smooth, it's truly something special.

While I had ventured out of the traditional panna cotta realm before, I never strayed far from the same basic sweet cream flavor. Sure, some versions added a hint of tang, but essentially, it was a similar flavor profile. I hadn't thought about making a chocolate version until recently, and I thought that would be a good place to begin experimenting. I envisioned a super smooth and velvety chocolate treat that was just rich enough to save for special occasions, but not enough that you'd want to skimp out on your share!

I wanted a simple, pure chocolate panna cotta. Nothing more and nothing less. I could have added a touch of amaretto or Grand Marnier, but I chose to keep things simple (although next time, I think an added splash would be amazing!). The panna cotta starts out much like any other. Gelatin is added to a little bit of milk and allowed to sit for ten minutes or so to become soft. In the meantime, cream, milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt are gently heated in a saucepan. When they begin to simmer, the saucepan is removed from the heat and the gelatin is whisked in. The hot cream is then slowly poured into a bowl of melted chocolate. Everything is whisked together until smooth, and then poured through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup. The chocolate mixture is portioned into cups or ramekins, and then it all goes into the fridge for a few hours to chill.

And it's that easy! It takes only a few minutes to prepare- maybe fifteen minutes in total from start to finish, and none of the steps are particularly difficult. Panna cotta is definitely a secret weapon kind of dessert; it's totally impressive, elegant, and delicious, but is actually effortless to prepare. The fact that it's a make-ahead dessert gives panna cotta an edge over all other desserts-you can whip it up the day before and be ready for Valentine's Day in advance.

I really loved the way this panna cotta turned out. Rich, velvety, and with a pronounced chocolate flavor, this dessert was exactly what I had in mind. I used dark chocolate (mostly because it's my favorite and I had it on hand), but feel free to experiment with other types of chocolate and combinations to get the flavor that suits you. You may find that you'll need to play around with the sugar if you decide to use milk chocolate or unsweetened chocolate, in order to get it just right. If you like mousse, custard, hot chocolate, and decadent desserts, this panna cotta is the perfect way to finish off your Valentine's Day. Enjoy it with someone you love!

Chocolate Panna Cotta

recipe adapted from Food & Wine


2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup whole milk, divided
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped


In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup of milk and set aside until the gelatin has softened, about 5-10 minutes.  In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and salt.  Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat off, and whisk in the softened gelatin. 

In a large microwave safe bowl (or in a double boiler setup), melt the chocolate in 15-second intervals until smooth.  Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until smooth.  Strain the panna cotta into a large measuring cup.  Pour the panna cotta into 6 1/2 cup-ramekins.  Chill the panna cottas in the fridge until set and very cold, at least 3 hours.  Enjoy!

Makes 6 1/2 cup panna cottas


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