I know people who organize their restaurant meals around dessert. Pas moi. The dessert light in my brain flickers fitfully, according to context, and the availability of something attractive to my retrograde tastes. A slice of fruit tart is never amiss at the end of a picnic; or if I know that a master of crème caramel, flying in the face of fashion, resides in the house, I can be tempted. Homemade panna cotta, that exquisitely delicate Italian wobbler, another seduction. When Sara Cravedi, the pastry chef at Trade, introduced a coconut panna cotta onto the dessert menu, my dessert light began flashing an SOS. Sara’s dessert includes a scoop of avocado ice cream, crumbled peanut brittle and a mango macerated with lime and habanero pepper. It comes together in an interplay of heat, fat, sweetness, delicacy and unctuousness. Jody’s Coconut Panna Cotta with Spicy Mango pares things down to just a pair of flavors–coconut and mango–just in case you don’t have an ice cream machine and pastry kitchen standing in readiness for the next dessert launch. To make it even easier, there’s no need to un-mold this panna cotta–it’s served in its glass, topped with a spoonful of spicy mango. Think of the panna cotta and mango as a couple that wandered off the terrace party to do a little dance by themselves down on the beach.
Many of this week’s photos are on the blurry side, shot in the dim light of our kitchen without the flashes that would have crisped up the pours and stirs. The confines of our kitchen are too small to fit visitors and big light modifiers. We were honored to host visiting Japanese blogger Ayako Ohi and her charming mother Sachiko. Ayako, an inveterate photographer and world traveller, is a dedicated documentarian of her experiences, whether wondering the streets of Macau or visiting a French restaurant in Tokyo. We gladly sacrificed some sharpness in our photos to allow them to watch what we do. At the risk of sounding clichéd, it’s a treat to discover that there are real people behind all the generous comments we receive on our posts. We’re happy that they could taste some of our experiments with the panna cotta, even if the process comes off as a bit blurry. You’ll notice that in the ingredients photograph a small radish bowl appears, empty. It was a gift from Ayako. We probably should have filled it with the shaved coconut, but then you wouldn’t have been able to see what makes it a radish bowl.
The recipe makes 8 generous 4-ounce portions of panna cotta (a half-cup of panna cotta!). You can stretch it to 10 servings, and still give everyone a satisfying experience with a dessert both rich and a little heated. Enjoy. Ken
Coconut Panna Cotta with Mango
Adapted from Trade Pastry Chef Sarah Cravedi
- 4 sheets gelatin 9″ x 2 ½”, or ¼ ounce granulated gelatin
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups organic full fat coconut milk
- 1 cup whole milk yogurt
- Soak the gelatin sheets in 2 cups cold water to “bloom.” The goal is to make the gelatin sheets pliable.
- Heat the milk with the sugar and salt over medium heat until the sugar melts. Don’t let it boil. Remove from the heat.
- Squeeze out excess water from gelatin and drop into the warm milk. Whisk until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
- Whisk in the coconut milk and yogurt – whisk well – this likes to separate.
- Strain through fine sieve and whisk again.
- Pour into 8 4-ounce cups. Refrigerate at least six hours, or overnight.
Mango and Assembly
- 2 cups mango, cut into small dice (see photographs)
- pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- ¼ teaspoon habanero pepper, minced
- ½ ounce toasted coconut flakes
- Toss the diced mango with all the other ingredients except the toasted coconut. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Place a spoonful of the spicy mango atop each portion of chilled panna cotta, garnish with coconut and serve immediately.
Sarah Cravedi, our pastry chef at Trade, put an amazing coconut panna cotta with avocado ice cream and spicy mango on the menu. I was inspired. Hers is a more complex dessert with the foundation of a simple panna cotta made with coconut milk, whole cows milk, sugar, gelatin and a pinch of salt.
I got hooked on Liberté Coconut Yogurt a few years ago, and let’s be clear, it’s a dessert–not health food. As you spoon your way down through the mildly tart coconut yogurt, a yummy coconut jam awaits you in the bottom of the cup. Another case of agrodolce.
I wanted to include a bit of that sweet-tart business in the panna cotta and so substituted yogurt for half of Sarah’s whole milk.
Most gelatin is made from animal collagen. If you’re vegetarian, there are vegetarian alternatives and the internet is full of suggestions and equivalents. Since I haven’t experimented with them, I’m not comfortable making a recommendation. If you have experience with vegetarian gelatin and know more than I do, please share what you know with our readers.