The inspiration for this recipe came from Jacques Pepin. In his book, Heart & Soul in the Kitchen, Jacques offers a recipe for coffee panna cotta, and given that I have a Nespresso machine in my galley (kitchen), I thought why not play with different types of espresso. I found that a richer (read bolder) espresso gives more flavor, although any good espresso will do. When I serve panna cotta, many people think it takes a lot of time to prepare, but it is actually very quick and easy to make. It can be served in ramekins, espresso cups, wine glasses or unmolded straight onto the plate.
There are of course many variations you can make with panna cotta. Rather than using espresso, you can make vanilla panna cotta by substituting milk for the espresso and scraping the seeds from a vanilla bean and topping with fresh fruit or a berry compote. Or, use lemon extract and sugared lemon rinds, add blueberries and top with fresh mint leaves, use buttermilk or even coconut milk. Just let your imagination be your guide.
Espresso Panna Cotta
Makes 4 x 6-ounce ramekins
- 2 1/2 tsp. powdered gelatin, unflavored
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup hot espresso
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
- Almond biscotti, crumbled
- Chocolate shavings, to garnish (optional)
- If unmolding, lightly grease the ramekins with non-stick cooking spray or a neutral oil. Wipe the excess oil out, leaving only a very light coating.
- Mix the gelatin with water in a small microwave-proof bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds to dissolve. Mix the sugar in a medium bowl with the hot espresso until sugar is dissolved. Add the gelatin mix to the espresso and stir well with a rubber spatula. While stirring, mix in the half-and-half.
- Divide among 4 ramekins (6-ounce size), espresso cups or other mold. Refrigerate for 2 hours to chill and set if serving in the ramekins. If unmolding, let refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- To unmold, fill a large bowl or dish with warm water. Run a thin-bladed knife around the sides of the ramekin, then dip the ramekin in a bowl of warm water for about 5 seconds to help break the seal at the bottom. Finally, carefully invert on the plate and gently shake to release.
- Garnish with crumbled almond biscotti, chocolate shavings or chocolate covered espresso beans (my favorite!)