Panna cotta is a very simple dessert to make, and a very elegant one at that. The basic panna cotta is a sweetened cream mixture that is just barely held together with a bit of gelatin, giving it an extremely tender (not jello-like) texture and a very light mouthfeel. A panna cotta can be flavored with all kinds of ingredients, but cream or half and half is a primary component of most recipes and you definitely want to get the richness from the cream in the finished product.
This is a Cafe Latte Panna Cotta. I would call it a coffee panna cotta, but the flavor of the cream is such a nice balance to the coffee that it really is reminiscent of a well made latte! To make the dessert, gelatin is dissolved in a bit of coffee, then cream and sugar are added in and heated until the mixture is very smooth. There is just enough gelatin to hold everything together and every bite feels quite luxurious on the tongue. It has a great coffee flavor and a nice sweetness to it that ties the coffee in with the cream. You could simply use some regular coffee from your coffee maker for this recipe, but to bring out that coffee flavor a bit more, I recommend making it a bit stronger than usual so it stands out from the creamy base. Either add more grounds to your coffee when you brew it, or add a teaspoon or two of instant coffee to give it more body. If you have an espresso machine, replace a bit of the coffee with a shot of espresso!
I poured my panna cotta into little espresso glasses to serve them, which meant I got quite a few servings from this batch. It is great for a dinner party or other gathering. Shot glasses will work just as well as espresso cups. Feel free to divide yours into larger ramekins if you prefer a slightly larger serving per person.
Cafe Latte Panna Cotta
1 cup strong, brewed coffee
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp unflavored gelatin
In a small saucepan, combine coffee and gelatin. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until gelatin has dissolved. Add in half and half (or half milk and half cream), sugar and vanilla. Stirring occasionally to ensure the sugar has dissolved, bring mixture almost to a simmer. Cream will steam, but not bubble.
Strain mixture into a measuring cup or other dish with a spout. Pour into espresso glasses or other 2-oz ramekins and chill until gelatin has set, at least 2 hours.
Makes 12 small servings.