Tonka Bean Panna Cotta is a delightfully creamy and delicately flavoured take on the classic Italian dessert. Paired with roasted strawberries and a crunchy brown sugar crumble, it makes a stunning dessert with plenty of well matched flavours and textures.
For years I was under the illusion that Panna Cotta was a dessert to be scared of attempting at home. I kept hearing that it was really difficult to successfully turn out a Panna Cotta from it’s mold and I got deterred. In the end, my own greed for creamy puddings won out and I began serving panna cotta in small glasses so I could avoid the potential mess I could make of my creation.
When I started thinking about the presentation for this Tonka Bean Panna Cotta I had every intention, initally, of going down this route.
However, I like to push myself and I really wanted to create the full panna cotta package for you. That entailed unmolding, so I could present these individual portion desserts as the Italians intended – wobbling freely on a plate.
And oh, how they wobble.
Confession: I’m not really into regular jelly. But for creamy, dreamy panna cotta, that is much softer set than the average jelly of my childhood, I make a happy exception.
Infact, I love panna cotta. It is everything that jelly is not:
And, bonus, it doesn’t come in any garish shades. Well, not unless the creator intends it to.
My Tonka Bean Panna Cotta is as creamy white as the ingredients suggest it should be. On top a few tiny speckles of tonka bean show through. The tonka bean adds subtle vanilla and caramel notes to the overall flavour of the sweet, creamy panna cotta. To this already impressive dessert I’ve added a serving of syrupy roasted strawberries and a spoonful of fine brown sugar crumble to add a little crunch.
The 3 elements work wonderfully together, creating a dessert that is pretty to look at and a real treat to savour.
If you want to serve this dessert in glassware to avoid having to unmold the panna cotta, I suggest picking a relatively wide glass, so that the strawberries and crumble can be piled on top easily. However, I hope I can persuade you to try out the full wobbly panna cotta experience. Here are my tips for success.
How to unmold a panna cotta:
- Dip the ramekins, one at a time, into a heatproof bowl filled with hot water. Let the water reach as high as the top of the pannacotta but do not let any water flow over the top of the pot and into the dessert. Dip for about 10 seconds, remove and quickly dry the ramekin on a towel
- Immediately place a serving plate over the top of the ramekin and flip everything over, so the ramekin is inverted onto the plate
- Hold the ramekin firmly in place and shake gently to help release the panna cotta. It should fall out of the pot onto the plate in one piece
- If the panna cotta refuses to come out, repeat the process, but dip for just 5 seconds this time (do not be tempted to leave the ramekin in the hot water for too long, since the heat will melt the panna cotta).
It’s really not as challenging as you may have been lead to believe. Have I tempted you to give it a go?
- 3 Gelatine leaves (platinum grade)
- 240 ml/ 1 cup Whole (full fat) milk
- 240 ml/ 1 cup Double (heavy) cream
- 30 g/ 1 oz Caster sugar
- 1 Tonka bean
- 200 g/ 8oz Strawberries
- 1 tbsp Caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 30 g/ 1oz Plain (all purpose) flour
- 15 g/ 1/2 oz Butter
- 15 g/ 1/2 oz Light muscovado sugar
Grate the tonka bean and place in a saucepan with the caster sugar, milk and cream
Heat until scalding, but do not let the mixture boil. Stir with a wooden spoon several times as it heats to help dissolve the sugar
Take off the heat and let infuse for 20 minutes
When the remaining infusion time is 10 minutes, put the gelatin leaves into a bowl of cold water and let soak for 10 minutes, then remove and squeeze out the water
Add the softened gelatin to the infused liquid and stir until it has melted in
Pass the liquid through a fine-meshed sieve to remover any lumps of tonka bean, then pour into 4 ramekins or glasses (see notes)
Let cool, cover loosely with clingfilm and carefully transfer to the fridge to set for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight
Remove the stalks from the strawberries and cut into quarters
Place on a baking tin lined with parchment. Sprinkle the sugar and vanilla extract over, toss briefly with a metal spoon and spread the fruit out into a single layer
Roast in a preheated oven 150C/ 300F/ GM2 for 45 minutes
Allow to cool then scrape the fruit and any syrup into a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve
In a small bowl rub the butter and sugar into the flour until it resembles sand
Spread it onto a baking tin lined with parchment and cook at 150C/ 300F/ GM2 for 20 minutes
Let cool in the tin and then break up any lumps to ensure the crumble is fine rather than lumpy
When ready to serve unmold each panna cotta carefully. The best way to do this is to dip the ramekins, one at a time, into a heatproof bowl half-filled with hot water. Leave for about 10 seconds, dry the pot, place a serving plate over the top of the ramekin and swiftly invert so the pot is on top of the plate. Hold the pot firmly and shake gently - the panna cotta should come out of the ramekin onto the plate. (if it doesn't budge, try repeating the process, but take care not to overheat the dessert when dipping the pot into hot water
Spoon a little of the roasted strawberries and syrup around the side and top with a spoonful of the crumble topping
If you prefer to serve the panna cotta in glass jars that is perfectly acceptable. The overall look may not be as pretty, but it will still take sensational.
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