Panna cotta, especially this chocolate panna cotta, is another one of my quick and easy do-ahead desserts. Panna cotta, an Italian “cooked cream” dessert originated in the Piedmont area. It is a molded chilled dessert made in individual ramekins or cups. The dessert can be flavored with vanilla, a fruit puree, coffee, or chocolate. I introduced you to my panna cotta with blueberry compote and my pumpkin panna cotta with caramelized pears earlier this year.
This chocolate panna cotta is rich and dense. It requires only several simple ingredients. Cream, sugar, gelatin, and of course, chocolate! The cream is heated briefly on the stove. The gelatin does the work in the panna cotta to thicken and congeal the creamy chocolate mixture after it is refrigerated.
If you make a creme brûlée, the eggs thicken the custard as it is baked in the oven. A mousse is lighter and is bound together with whipped cream and whipped egg whites or meringue. All of these custard-style desserts are creamy and smooth and are served chilled. And, they all can be made ahead which is a plus for the busy chef.
The panna cotta needs to chill for about 4-5 hours until it sets. It is a little firmer than a mousse, which is, of course, light and airy, and a smooth custard such as creme caramel. These desserts will stay fresh and tasty for a week if kept refrigerated.
Because our farmers market is overflowing with an abundance of strawberries, I decided to use these sweet ruby gems to garnish the chocolate panna cottas. I added a few blackberries for a little more color and flavor and a dollop of whipped cream.
Panna cotta is suitable anytime of the year and can be flavored or garnished with seasonal fruit and cream.Voila, a perfect dessert, made in a matter of minutes! Don’t forget that sprig of mint!