There is no secret that I am a sweets girl, and any dinner party is just not complete without dessert. That said I am also always looking for sneaky ways to make luscious without a boatload of calories.
My favorite light dessert is panna cotta made with yogurt rather than cream. Panna cotta is set with unflavored gelatin to create that creamy custardy feel. No cooking involved except some warming of the gelatin to melt it down- so no tricky custard finessing.
Typically I make panna cotta in the summer and give it citrusy accents and then serve it with a fruit sauce of some kind. Berries can be stunningly beautiful suspended in the cream. The other wonderful thing about this dessert is it can easily be made several days in advance and kept in the fridge. At least you can get one thing out of the way.
The individuals are sweet and for an intimate party they are jewels- but I’ve also made shallow batches in baking pans and then turned them out onto low flat serving trays that have a lip on them. Puddle them into some colorful sauce and you have a dynamic presentation for a group. No trick getting them out of the pans either, just warm the bottom in some water and then flip. Works like a charm every time.
This particular combination I served at a small dinner party last week. I purchased these thin glasses for this specific purpose years ago. I used to have 12 and now I am down to 9 I think… this was my first time actually using them to make this dessert.
Now that we are into crisper temps I chose a cappuccino and classic vanilla. For some richness I divided the two by a thin level of dark chocolate ganache. This created a mixture of texture as well as a balance of richness. On top I served fresh hand whipped sweetened cream. Though I love a cheat dessert there DOES need to be some richness…
Cappuccino and Vanilla Panna Cotta
made six servings in 4″ diameter glasses
5c fat free yogurt- stirred smooth
1.5 c skim milk
4t unflavored gelatin
.5c superfine sugar
powdered instant espresso to taste (~2T)
vanilla bean extract
I halved this recipe and made the batches separately after each layer had set.
In a medium bowl combine 2.5c yogurt and .25c sugar. Stir to combine. If yogurt is not smooth use a hand blender, or put in a traditional blender to smooth out.
In a small sauce pan place .75c of milk and sprinkle 2t of gelatin over. Allow to sit for 4 mins to soften. Then gently warm milk to dissolve gelatin.
Stir warm milk mixture into the yogurt and stir until completely incorporated.
To make the cappuccino flavor= in a separate small bowl put a T or 2 of instant espresso powder. Add a few t of water to just melt the powder and create a syrup. Add a small amount to the yogurt mixture and stir thoroughly. Add more until you get the intensity level you prefer. For the vanilla flavor=stir vanilla into the warming milk.
Divide panna cotta between serving dishes and allow to set. In my fridge this took an hour.
Next make the ganache and allow that to set. Finally make the second batch of panna cotta and top off.
5 oz chopped fine dark chocolate
.33c heavy cream
In heat proof bowl microwave chocolate for ~1 minute until chocolate is warm and melted. Alternatively melt chocolate over hot water.
Stir in cold cream until thoroughly combined. If too think you can warm gently to thin- or add a bit more cream to make a less dense ganache.
Spoon over the set cappuccino panna cotta tilting the glass to make sure the chocolate shows on the edges.
Each stage of the panna cotta can be done on different days if you choose. Keep covered and serve chilled.