My family loves homemade panna cotta. The Italian cooked cream dessert is typically set with pork gelatin, making it off-limits for those who keep kosher. Ahhh, but wait: you can easily replace the gelatin with agar.
Agar is a seaweed derivative which is used in vegan, vegetarian and kosher cooking as a setting agent. It is odorless and tasteless and contains no sugar or calories, so it's safe for diabetics. The trick to getting it to set well in desserts is knowing how to make it "bloom" properly. (With pork gelatin, the "bloom" phase involves mixing the powder with a small amount of boiling water and stirring it until it's dissolved before setting it aside for a few minutes until it's the same temperature as the warm liquid you want to incorporate. With agar, you boil it in water and then simmer it on low heat for several minutes before incorporating.)
This is an impressive recipe which is surprisingly very easy and which takes very little effort and few ingredients.
- 1-1/2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1-1/2 Cups Whole Milk
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 2-1/2 tsp Agar Flakes
- 2 Tbsp Water
Scald the heavy cream and milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes. (Do not boil.) Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the agar flakes with water and set aside. This will allow the agar to "bloom" and it will turn into a blob of goo. That's ok.
Stir the heavy cream, milk and sugar mixture again until all of the sugar has dissolved. Return to medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Now quickly stir in the bloomed agar mixture and continue stirring until the agar is completely blended. Add the vanilla extract. Pour into 6 ramekins (or small bowls) and refrigerate. The panna cotta will be soft serve and ready to eat in 3 hours. You can garnish with berries or serve with chocolate sauce or caramel. But it's also wonderful plain.