February Daring Baker's Challenge: Panna Cotta

Q: What could be more indulgent than a dessert comprised nearly entirely of heavy cream?

A: A dessert comprised nearly entirely of heavy cream, with added sugar and hot fudge, served from a champagne flute and enjoyed after an extraordinarily decadent 3-course dinner at home.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Well, I forgot about the cookies. And I used a David Leibovitz recipe. Whoops.

Otherwise, thank goodness this challenge came around when it did, because we decided to cook at home this year on Valentine's Day, and I had no idea what to make for dessert. Chocolate was a given, but if I made cake, we would be left with far too many leftovers - plus I have issues with eating my weight in cake batter. Panna cotta also requires (or rather, demands) vanilla beans instead of extract, and I happen to be fascinated with vanilla beans. Sold!

Since it would be just the two of us, I divided the following recipe in half (but stuck with one whole vanilla bean), and the panna cotta mixture still divided perfectly among 3 champagne flutes (kindly ignore the price tags on my champagne flutes). I topped each flute with an espresso hot fudge sauce. While the pudding and the sauce were lovely and a perfect end to an indulgent meal, I think I finally understand what people mean when they say something is “too rich” – I couldn’t finish my glass. This summer, I’d love to experiment with different toppings, like fresh berries or peaches, and serve dessert in smaller cups.
You will need:

4 cups heavy cream (my heavy cream carton yielded only half of this, so I topped it off with skim milk and the results were fine)
½ cup sugar
2 tsp vanillia extract, or one vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 packets powdered gelatin
6 tbs cold water

Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. If you are using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil, or spray lightly with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the very warm panna cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Divide the panna cotta mixture into the prepared cups/glasses, then chill them until firm, which will take at least two hours. Cover with plastic wrap if not enjoying immediately after they have set.

Top with desired garnish - some ideas are:

Hot fudge
A mix of white and semisweet chocolate chips
Caramel sauce
Macerated berries
Grilled peaches
Candied nuts
Go crazy! Here's the link to the original post.


  1. Your Panna Cotta looks great! I too used vanilla beans and thought it was a great addition. Nice job on the challenge!