Panna cotta is one of those things that looks wickedly difficult and fancy but really is one of the simplest desserts out there and cheating even more by getting the base at your favourite coffee shop makes it even easier. Panna cotta is so simple that if you’re comfortable working with gelatine, it’s just bloom, heat and mix well.
The hardest part of making a panna cotta is making the flavourful base, but you can cheat here and just go to your favourite coffeeshop (mine’s Cuppers here in Lethbridge) and ordering your favourite drink. There are a few extra steps — ask for it extra sweet and a breve (brev-ah). That means they’ll use cream instead of milk. If they have 18%, that’s ideal. Most recipes call for a cup of heavy cream and a cup of milk, and that balances that out. Purists may have a heart attack, but with the small serving size, you probably won’t.
Personally, I like a large, cold, extra sweet decaf white chocolate breve with no ice for this, but you do you. I get both the syrup and the powdered chocolate added, and to make it mix, they usually have to blend it a bit. They may charge you for extra dairy for the cream and the extra syrup, but that one cup can make six servings, so it’s still a great value. You can always swap out dairy for soy or coconut milk, but it won’t be so mouth pleasing.
Try not to sip it on the way home. The base is very, very rich. You can use 1 package of gelatine to a twenty ounce drink. Pour out 1/2 a cup of the liquid into a microwave safe bowl and sprinkle your gelatin over the surface. It will take 5 minutes to bloom, so while you’re doing that, heat up the drink on the stove or microwave while you’re waiting. Don’t let it boil, but it should be hot. Nuke the bloomed gelatin for 30 seconds in the microwave and then add it to the hot liquid. You know your gelatin is melted when you rub the liquid between your fingers and can’t feel graininess. This is the only really difficult step. You should stir until it’s completely combined. If you don’t like the way jello can sometimes separate into two different densities, it’s because the crystals weren’t completely melted.
For easier pouring, a measuring cup allows more control. You can get super fancy here; try putting glasses at an angle into muffin tins if you want it slanted in the finished cup or pour into fancy glasses. This is traditionally served in a ramekin — just pop into hot water for a few seconds and invert it onto a plate. Fresh fruit, whether whole or in sauces go really well with a good vanilla base. You can dress this up or down. Whatever you do, let it set completely up, overnight if at all possible.
There’s so much you can do to this. You can use the coffee as half the base and make up your own flavours. Melt chocolate into light cream to make it less of a coffee flavoured base. Starbucks makes you a breve with heavy cream, which will allow you to add 50% of the base as coffee shots. Bringing home espresso and add condensed milk for vietnamese panna cotta coffee. Add gelatine to sweetened espresso on its own to make a rich, dark layer on top.