Easter is basically synonymous with chocolate these days and whether you celebrate the holiday or not, it is hard to pass up an opportunity to get a little more chocolate into your diet. Chocolate bunnies are delicious, but I prefer chocolate Easter eggs – especially when the chocolate dessert in question happens to be White Chocolate Panna Cotta Easter Eggs.
For this dessert, I made a delicate and creamy white chocolate panna cotta and poured it into egg shells to set up before serving. The panna cotta itself is easy to make, with a base that is made with melted white chocolate and half and half. The white chocolate gives the creamy custard a real richness and a lot of body, without making it too sweet. The most important thing in making this panna cotta is to use good quality white chocolate (made with cocoa butter, not vegetable oil) and make sure that it is completely dissolved in the cream before finishing up the dish. If it is not completely dissolved, small particles of white chocolate may float to the surface of your custard and form a chocolate “crust” on top that distracts from the rest of the panna cotta.
To make the egg cups, I hollowed out the egg shells (saving the eggs for later use) and cleaned them thoroughly. I placed the eggs cut-side-up in an egg carton and filled them with the panna cotta mixture, then slid the whole tray into the refrigerator to set up. This recipe makes about a dozen egg-shaped panna cottas. The egg cups really complete the holiday look for Easter, but this dessert is good any time and you can also simply pour the panna cotta mixture into ramekins (I like espresso glasses for small servings) to set up.
Panna cottas are typically unmolded to serve by dipping the ramekin they were molded in in a dish of very hot water to loosen them, but you can serve the panna cottas in nice dishes without unmolding them, too. I served the egg panna cottas right in the shell. Make these in advance and allow them to set up overnight before serving.
White Chocolate Panna Cotta Easter Eggs
2 3/4 cups half and half
1/2 cup white chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup water, boiling
2 tsp gelatin
In a small saucepan, combine half and half, white chocolate, sugar and vanilla extract. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate and sugar have completely dissolved and mixture is very smooth, about 5-8 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine boiling water and gelatin stir well to dissolve gelatin, then pour gelatin mixture into the smooth cream and chocolate mixture and bring just to a simmer, still stirring frequently.
Pour panna cotta mixture into twelve 2-oz serving cups (egg shells) or about six 4-oz ramekins. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
Panna cottas can be served directly from ramekins, or ramekins can be dipped in hot water to loosen the panna cottas and unmolded directly onto a dessert plate.
Makes 6-12 servings, depending on dish size.
For the egg cups: To make the egg cups, you will need to remove roughly 1/3-inch from the top of each egg, peel out the membrane within and wash eggs well before filling. The egg tops can be removed using a very sharp knife, by gently cracking the tops of the eggs and removing a small portion of the shell or by using an egg topper.
Here is what the panna cotta looks like if you make it in a small ramekin (4-oz) and unmold it onto a dessert plate. Just as delicious without the eggshell presentation!