I have to clean my oven. I know you’re wondering what that has to do with Coconut Milk Panna Cotta, but it has a lot to do with this subject. I just don’t ever seem to get around to cleaning my oven. It couldn’t be simpler, right? You literally choose the cycle and walk away. But, for how many H.O.U.R.S? I have THINGS to BAKE and I NEED my oven. And, because I wait so long, I need the really l-ooooong cycle. But, company is coming and I can’t expose the inside of my oven (read – my bad habits) to anyone.
Which is why I chose Panna Cotta for this week’s post. It’s so super simple. You can literally put it together in 5 minutes and it is all prepared on TOP of the STOVE. Yay!!!
This classic dessert comes from Italy and the literal translation is ‘cooked cream.’ And, that’s what this dessert is. You heat the cream and sugar, combine it with the perfect amount of gelatin and pour it into a mold. The advantage to this dessert is that you can (actually must) make it ahead – at least 4 hours – which saves you all that last minute dessert prep when trying to pull dinner together. But, if you’re short on time, you can always pour the panna cotta into a beautiful wine glass, which I did here and many times in my prior catering life.
It’s traditionally made with half and half or a mixture of milk and heavy cream, but I wanted to go down the non-dairy, on-trend path of Coconut Milk. Coconut Milk is glorious. All that lovely healthy fat with the light taste of coconut. Dr. Axe has a nice post about the health benefits of Coconut Milk here. And, there are numerous flavor extensions possible with this dessert. I’m going the traditional vanilla bean route, but I’ve seen lemon, strawberry, pumpkin, saffron and green apple, for example. Not sure about that last one though.
But, what to serve it with. I’ve been partial to the red wine sauce. But, I was reading a trend report recently on lingonberries where it’s popping up on fine dining menus and lingonberries are being mentioned more and more on Pinterest, Twitter and Food.com. Some interesting new products have launched – IKEA Milk Chocolate with Lingonberry and Dark Chocolate and Blueberry, Dogfish Head Kvasir with lingonberry and blueberry and H-E-B Souper Fruit Lingonberry, Cranberry and Grape Cold Soup.
But, what is a lingonberry and where can you get it? The Lingonberry is in the blueberry and cranberry family, which is why it’s paired with those in a lot of the new food offerings. And, it grows wild in Scandinavia, Russia and Canada. It’s only available in Maine in the U.S. Unfortunately, you can only find it fresh in the areas where they’re grown. But, you can buy the products that contain lingonberries. I purchased Felix Wild Natural Lingonberries online. It’s a jam and that’s what I’m going to use for the sauce. And, look! There’s another one of my favorite Callaway wines – Calliope Red. Perfect!
So, I learned a few things that I need to share. I made this a few times before I got the gelatin just right. I read this funny analogy and I tried to find it again, but couldn’t. It went something like, you don’t want the panna cotta to be rubbery. You want it to be wobbly, like a lady teetering on high heels. (I know I didn’t do it justice there, but I’ll keep looking for the author.)
And, I learned the hard way, that you need to make sure the ‘milk’ mixture doesn’t boil. When you do that, it destroys the gelatin’s gelling power.
And, there is a tendency for milks that are not homogenized to separate into two different levels – the density of each is different – fat/no fat. To get around this, I placed my mixture in the Vitamix and it came together nicely. You also want to be sure that the mixture comes to room temperature before refrigerating. Just give it a quick, but gentle whisk before placing in the fridge. Or, I’ve heard some put the mixture through a sieve – which is a little like homogenization, so it may help. But, even if it does separate, it’s still pleasant. You could certainly use a homogenized version of coconut milk which would also solve the issue.
I lightly grease the molds with coconut oil to help the panna cotta release once it’s cold. And, when it’s time to unmold the panna cotta, I used a paring knife that I warmed up by dipping in warm water and drying before running it around the rim of the ramekin. You shouldn’t need to slice all the way down the side. You only need to release the top edge before unmolding.
And, I just ate another one of these and absolutely love the red wine lingonberry sauce!!! xoxo