A delightful mix of chocolatey and savory-spicy flavors, this combo of Coffee Panna Cotta with Chocolate Cream & Spicy Cheddar Rounds is an unforgettable one!
Is it weird that every time I make panna cotta, I always have these strict self-imposed rules I need to follow? First, they cannot be just one single flavor. Second, they need to have either some sort of special topping or some sort of side dessert. It’s as if I am always subconsciously challenging myself to think outside the box ever since finding out how easy panna cotta-making actually is. And out of the combinations I’ve managed to make and share on this blog so far, I think this is one of the best. I just LOVED this pairing.
Coffee Panna Cotta, plus a bonus chocolate cream on top that hardens into a ganache-like layer after being chilled. Just those two elements existing together in one dessert already makes this an absolute treat. Every spoonful is this combo of smooth coffee silk and melt-in-the-mouth chocolate. Every spoonful packs a punch in the flavor department.
Frankly, this is a legit dessert that will please coffee and chocolate lovers because it holds nothing back in those aspects. It’s incredibly rich to boot. The Coffee Panna Cotta has a strong coffee flavor that complements the chocolate well, but it does tend to feel a bit indulgent when you eat more than one serving at a time. To balance out some of that richness, I decided to add a shortbread pairing to this dessert; and a cheese flavored one at that.
I unearthed the recipe for these Spicy Cheddar Rounds in the form of a magazine cut-out when I was cleaning one time. It’s a good thing I decided not to throw it out because my goodness are these addictively good! They have this savory quality to them that makes you want to keep munching. They are also lightly crisp outside but soft and buttery inside. There’s also the matter of that little kick provided by the cayenne and the black pepper that makes them interesting.
Munching on these cheddar rounds while eating a cup of the rich Coffee Panna Cotta with Chocolate Cream is meant to keep your tastebuds from feeling a bit overwhelmed. However, my brothers would say their tastebuds didn’t feel overwhelmed at all as they demolished their shares. Like I said, this is a great combo.
- DO I REALLY NEED TO MAKE BOTH PANNA COTTA AND SHORTBREAD? Of course not! You are free to do as you please. This is merely a pairing suggestion that I personally find to be the bomb. In fact, the panna cotta itself is enough of a scene-stealer because it’s pretty once layered, so if you want to make only that and top it with whipped cream and chocolate shavings instead, be my guest!
- WHY DO WE NEED TO “BLOOM” THE GELATIN? Gelatin powder is made up of dried proteins that need to be hydrated in cool liquid first so that it will dissolve smoothly once added into a warm mixture. If you add the powder directly into a warm mixture without letting it bloom, it will only become lumpy rather than melt smoothly into the panna cotta mixture. And we DO NOT want that.
- CAN I USE SHEET GELATIN INSTEAD? I normally use powder gelatin because it’s easier for me, but you can of course use sheet gelatin if that’s what you have. I do believe the equivalent of 2 teaspoons powder gelatin is about 3 to 4 sheets.
- DO I REALLY NEED TO STRAIN MY PANNA COTTA MIXTURE? From my experience, that extra little step of straining the panna cotta before pouring it into the serving vessels will make a huge difference in ensuring your panna cotta comes out smooth as silk. It’s hard to see with the naked eye any small bits of unmelted things inside the mixture, whether it’s an accidentally curdled bit of milk or an unmelted chunk of bloomed gelatin, so just to make sure you don’t get any of that in the final product, STRAIN.
- CAN I CONVERT THIS PANNA COTTA INTO LESS THAN 6 SERVINGS? I don’t ever portion my panna cotta into huge servings, but I find that that’s an especially applicable rule for chocolate or coffee-based panna cotta. You don’t need a very thick panna cotta base for this dessert because it’s already packed with coffee flavor. It’s pretty satisfyingly rich.
- HOW CAN I MAKE THE PANNA COTTA SET MORE QUICKLY? I normally like to put my panna cotta in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes to make them set faster, but no longer than that because then the panna cotta will become literally frozen. You must make sure to move them to the fridge once they look set but still look fairly bouncy. This trick is especially useful for making multi-layer panna cottas like this fabulous Triple Layer Panna Cotta.
- ANY OTHER TIPS FOR THE PANNA COTTA? You must make sure your panna cotta layer is COMPLETELY set before adding the COOLED chocolate cream on top. Please cool it until just barely warm to the touch (at least) before adding to the panna cotta. Hot chocolate cream will only MELT the panna cotta layer. Let’s not waste all the work and all the waiting we’ve already done.
- CAN I MAKE MY SPICY CHEDDAR ROUNDS LESS SPICY? You can cut the cayenne pepper back to 1/8 teaspoon. For someone who likes spicy things like myself, 1/4 teaspoon is not that spicy and provides a pleasant kick. I wouldn’t add more cayenne either though, because this 1/4 teaspoon keeps things balanced.
- ANY OTHER TIPS FOR THE SHORTBREAD COOKIES? Make sure to space the cookie dough 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. I know it didn’t seem like I did that in the video but I actually rearranged the cookie dough off camera before popping the tray into the oven. These cookies spread, so unless you want them to bake into each other, space them properly.
Coffee Panna Cotta with Chocolate Cream & Spicy Cheddar Rounds
Makes 6 servings of panna cotta; and about 36 shortbread rounds
For the Coffee Panna Cotta
- 6.25 grams 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
- 125 mL whole milk, divided use
- 300 mL heavy cream
- 50 to 100 grams ¼ to ½ cup brown sugar, to taste
- 9 grams 1-½ tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder
For the Chocolate Cream
- 300 mL heavy cream
- 125 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 25 mL honey
- 25 grams good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- 10 mL 2 teaspoons Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur (optional)
- Whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or chocolate-covered coffee beans, to serve (optional)
For the Spicy Cheddar Rounds
- 55 grams ¼ cup butter, softened
- 113 grams ½ cup finely grated cheddar cheese
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 64 grams ½ cup all purpose flour
Make the Coffee Panna Cotta
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 60 mL (1/4 cup) of the milk. Let bloom 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a saucepan, mix together cream, sugar (start with the smaller amount and add to taste), remaining milk, and coffee powder. Place over low heat and stir gently until mixture almost reaches a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in bloomed gelatin until dissolved and mixture is homogenous. Taste and adjust sugar as needed.
- Strain mixture into a spouted jug and allow to cool until just warm to the touch or room temperature. Give the mixture another stir just to make sure it hasn't separated, then divide among 6 serving glasses. Chill panna cotta in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or freeze for 30 minutes then transfer to fridge so it doesn't freeze solid.
Make the Chocolate Cream
- In a large heatproof bowl, place the chocolate and honey. Heat the heavy cream just until scalded, but do not allow it to boil. Pour the hot cream into the bowl with the chocolate, then let sit for about a minute. Stir together until smooth and melted. (You can also microwave the three ingredients in 30-second intervals, mixing in between until melted and smooth.)
- Mix in cocoa powder and coffee liqueur, if using, until well combined and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Make the Spicy Cheddar Rounds
- In a bowl, cream the butter and cheese together until well combined. It's fine if it looks very lumpy. Add in the cayenne, black pepper, and salt. Beat together until smooth. Fold in the flour just until mixture comes together into a soft dough.
- Form the dough into a log 5 to 6 inches long, the wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Towards the end of the freezing time, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Unwrap chilled dough and slice into 1/4-inch rounds using a sharp knife. Arrange on baking sheet at least 1 inch apart to give room for spreading.
- Bake cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, or until light golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool in pan for a few minutes before removing with a spatula and transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
To assemble the dessert
- Spoon the cream over the firm panna cotta, then return to the fridge at least another 2 hours to set. (You can also freeze for 30 minutes if serving immediately.) If desired, top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate, or simply add a few pieces of chocolate-covered coffee beans right before serving. Serve with the Spicy Cheddar Rounds on the side for an interesting chocolatey and savory-spicy combination.
If you guys end up trying out this pairing, do let me know what you think!
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