This panna cotta is rich, creamy, has a well-rounded flavor, and yet it is gluten free and refined sugar free. The key to a silky texture was using a heavier proportion of coconut cream to milk (3 to 1) and using just a moderate amount of maple syrup to sweeten it. Adding vanilla bean produces a richer flavor than vanilla extract, so experiment for yourself and find the version that you like most. Adding balsamic fig syrup adds an unusual tangy sweet taste and a burst of flavor, which is certainly not boring, Makes a perfect dessert for Italian dinner night.
Coconut Panna Cotta [Vegan]
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
- 2 teaspoons agar agar powder (not flakes)
- 3 cups unsweetened coconut cream
- 2-inch piece vanilla bean, slit lengthwise with paring knife (or substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
- 6 tablespoons maple syrup
- Pinch pink Himalayan salt
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 Sherry wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup dried figs, preferably unsweetened, stemmed and finely chopped
For Panna Cotta:
- Measure and prepare the ingredients.
- Place milk and agar powder into a blender and blend until smooth and there are no lumps. Transfer into medium saucepan. Measure cream into large measuring cup or pitcher. With paring knife, scrape vanilla seeds into cream; place pod in cream along with seeds and set mixture aside. Set eight wine glasses or 4-ounce ramekins on baking sheet.
- Heat milk and agar mixture over high heat, stirring constantly, until agar is dissolved, and mixture has thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Off heat, add maple syrup and salt; stir until well incorporated, about 1 minute.
- Stirring constantly, slowly pour cream with vanilla into saucepan containing milk, then transfer mixture to medium bowl. Stir frequently until thickened a bit and all ingredients are well combined. Strain mixture into large measuring cup or pitcher, then distribute evenly among wine glasses or ramekins. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap, making sure that plastic does not mar surface of cream; refrigerate until just set 1-4 hours or overnight.
- Stir maple syrup and 1/2 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium-high and boil without stirring until syrup thickens a bit, occasionally swirling pan, about 7 minutes.
- Add both vinegars and figs (mixture will bubble vigorously). Continue boiling until mixture is slightly thickened, stirring constantly, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Spoon figs and syrup over panna cotta and serve.
If you use coconut milk, the panna cotta will have a more distinct coconut flavor and creamier texture. Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and stir gently to blend before serving. If you don't want any fruit in this dessert, you can omit the figs and just make balsamic syrup.