How to make Panna Cotta without Gelatin/Panna Cotta with Agar Agar
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce (Without Gelatin)… silky smooth, melt in the mouth, glamorous red and white combo, exotic, sumptuous, simply a dessert to die for. And above all a very simple and quick dessert. Takes 10 minutes to prepare and just 15 minutes for setting it. That’s it! Yes, in less than half an hour this heavenly delicious dessert gets ready.
Being strongly in love with almost all western desserts, Panna Cotta is one of my favourite desserts. The above styling of Panna Cotta always fascinated me. Little did I realise that I myself would be making it one day and when I tried Pannacotta for the first time, I had to give it this shape only 🙂 Actually, I thought of it as some very difficult to make dessert. Also, since I do not use gelatin in my cooking/baking, pannacotta at home was a straight no-no. Till few years back, agar agar also frightened me for various reasons. Agar agar is simple to use but you need to know certain things about it. But now as I handle agar agar really well, making pannacotta is a breeze.
What is Pannacotta? For me, Pannacotta is an extremely delicious dessert. Jokes apart, actually, Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert meaning cooked cream. For making Panna Cotta, the cream is cooked on slow heat for about 5 minutes or till bubbling around the edges. It is then thickened with some setting agent like gelatin or agar which is nothing but vegetarian gelatin. I tried Panna cotta with corn flour also and that too came perfect. Soon, I will share the recipe of Panna cotta with corn flour but as of now, I am sharing the one made with agar agar or china grass. Panna Cotta is made in various flavours like vanilla, coffee, chocolate, cardamom, strawberry etc. It is served with fruit coulis or even caramel syrup.
Before we proceed towards the recipe, a few words about agar agar. Agar agar also known as China grass or kanten or agar, is a popular vegetarian alternative to gelatin. Gelatin actually is derived from animal bones. Agar is derived from algae and is used to gel many food products, such as puddings, desserts, jelly candy, soups, sauces, and more. It comes in three forms, namely, flakes, grass and powder. Agar is stronger than gelatin. Unlike gelatin, agar sets beautifully at room temperature also. Since it has a high melting point, therefore, it is first added to a liquid and then brought to a boil to ensure that it is completely dissolved. Being plant-based, agar agar is 80% fibre without any fat or protein. You can read more about agar agar here.
Agar agar is to be used in correct proportion. If added less, the pudding will not set. If added more then the pudding will be hard. When touched, the pudding should be wobbly.
Panna cotta is made from cream only but we can make it with a mix of cream and milk also. Different people mix it in different ratio. I prefer taking half each. Also, I tried making Panna cotta with normal dairy cream as well with heavy whipping cream. Both were perfect. Thus, you can very well make it with Amul or Nestle cream also. Do you know why heavy cream is preferred for making Pannacotta? This is because due to high-fat content (36%) in heavy cream it doesn’t curdle. Whereas, there are chances of curdling in normal cream. So try using heavy cream. If the heavy cream is not available then use dairy cream but keep the flame low to medium and do not overcook it.
I have made Panna cotta here with agar and dairy cream and served it with homemade Strawberry Coulis.
Instead of adding agar agar directly to the cream-milk mix, I soaked it separately in water first then boiled for few minutes to ensure that it is dissolved properly and is activated fully.
Another nice thing about Panna Cotta is that you can set it in glasses/ramekins and serve individually or in a big bowl and cut into slices. If in glasses, it sets just in 15 minutes, that too at room temperature only. If in a bowl then takes little longer time. More the quantity in the bowl, more time it takes. If it is more in quantity, like the one shown below then it is better to sit in the refrigerator at least for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
There are endless possibilities of serving Panna Cotta. Set pannacotta first then top it up with fruit coulis or vice versa.
You can make this pudding in advance, 2 to 3 days prior to your party.
As the festival of colours Holi is nearby, I even tried a colourful Panna cotta using various mocktail syrups like Blue Curacao, Khus syrup etc. It’s really fun doing it like this. It’s like Italian Pannacotta falling in love with Indian colours and playing Holi 🙂
The above Panna Cotta, since quite big in size, was left overnight in the refrigerator and in the morning it came out of the bowl very easily.
Now, let’s see the recipe in detail…
Preparation Time: Nil
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Passive Time: 2 to 3 hours
Serves: 4 to 6
My 1 Cup measures 250 ml
1 Cup (250 ml) Cream (See Note 1)
1 Cup (250 ml) Milk
3 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence
1 tsp Agar Agar powder
1/2 Cup Strawberry Coulis/Sauce
- Take 1/4 Cup water in a small pan and sprinkle agar agar powder on it. This is very important and do not do it the reverse way, that is, do not put water on agar agar. Leave it for 5 minutes.
- Arrange ramekins in the muffins tray in tilted position. No need to grease them. If setting the pannacotta in a bowl, then grease it lightly. Greasing helps the pannacotta to slide out of it once set. (See Note 2)
- After 5 minutes, put the pan on the gas stove and heat the agar agar mix at medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring in between. Soon, it will be transparent. Just give it a final boil and switch off the flame. Ensure that it is dissolved completely and there are no tiny granules left undissolved.
- At the same time, heat cream, milk and sugar at low flame for 3 to 4 minutes till the mixture starts bubbling around the edges and the sugar is dissolved completely. You may rub little mix between your fingers to ensure that sugar is fully dissolved.
- Add hot agar agar solution to the hot cream mix, using both the hands. Adding from one hand and stirring from the other. (See Note 3)
- Heat this mixture on medium flame for a minute and pour into the greased bowl or in the tilted ramekins. I made in both but you may opt for any one option or go ahead with both.
- You may now keep these in the refrigerator otherwise these will set within half an hour at room temperature only. I kept the bowl in the refrigerator immediately after pouring the mixture into it. And since it is difficult to put the tilted ramekins along with the muffins tray in the refrigerator so, I left these on the kitchen counter only. Once set, after 15-20 minutes, I removed the ramekins from the muffin tray and put in the upright position only in the refrigerator for chilling.
- After about 2 hours, take the bowl out, run a knife around the edges. Put a plate on it and invert it. The pannacotta will slide on the plate. If, by chance, it doesn’t, then put the bowl in warm water for 30 seconds or so and then invert it.
- Fill the empty space in the ramekins with strawberry coulis. Similarly, spread strawberry coulis on and around the pannacotta set in the bowl.
- Check the recipe of strawberry coulis/sauce here.
- Serve with love.
- Heavy whipping cream is preferred. But if you are using Amul/Nestle cream then take care that it is not overcooked as then there are chances of its curdling.
- You may not tilt the ramekins and just fill these up to three-fourth with pannacotta mix.
- In case, agar solution sets before you pour it into the cream then do not panic. Heat it again and soon it will be liquidy.
Detailed Recipe with Step by Step Pics
Take water in a bowl and put agar agar powder on it. Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
Arrange ramekins in the muffins tray in tilted position. No need to grease them. If setting the pannacotta in a bowl, then grease it lightly.
Heat agar agar mix for 3 to 4 minutes till transparent and dissolved fully.
Heat cream, milk and sugar at medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes till the mix starts bubbling around the edges and the sugar is fully dissolved. Add vanilla essence.
Add hot agar solution to the hot cream mix, stirring continuously.
Cook for a minute only on medium gas. Switch off the flame.
Pour it into ramekins or the bowl or in both.
After 15 minutes in the ramekins.
Chill in the refrigerator for few hours.
Run a knife around the edges and invert it onto a plate.
Serve with strawberry coulis and lots of love.
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