If you're looking for a dessert that's bold, smooth, elegant, and oh-so-easy, then you have to try this Espresso Coffee Panna Cotta. Whether you're an avid coffee drinker or simply in need of something sweet, this dessert is sure to satisfy.
I have a confession. I HATE coffee. But, I love all the coffee-flavored things (I'm talking about you- coffee ice cream). My husband says those who don't like coffee, shouldn't be trusted. He may have a point, but I know dessert, and this is pretty darn good.
Making espresso coffee panna cotta is surprisingly easy. All you need are some basic ingredients – half and half, sugar, gelatin – and of course, the almighty espresso. Bonus- no baking is involved and you can make it ahead so your hosting mojo doesn't get ruined.
But what really sets this dessert apart is its versatility. You can serve it on its own for a simple yet elegant finish to dinner or brunch, or dress it up with some fresh berries and whipped cream for something truly special.
What is panna cotta?
Panna cotta is an Italian custard (eggless) dessert. Translated it means "cooked cream", because that is essentially what you are doing when preparing it. You will cook the cream and add gelatin to thicken it to a custard-like consistency. Since it does not use eggs, it more closely resembles a pudding or Jell-o but is still creamy, and smooth with a gentle jiggle.
- Half and half- You can also use heavy whipping cream and whole milk.
- Sugar- White granulated sugar for sweetening.
- Salt- Counteracts the sweetness and brings out the coffee flavor.
- Gelatin- This is what sets the pudding. Because this custard doesn't use eggs, it needs something to solidify the liquid. I use gelatin powder (Knox is popular in the US), but you can use gelatin leaves. Here is a great resource for understanding the difference between the two and the best ways to substitute.
- Espresso powder or instant espresso granules- I use King Arthur's Espresso Powder, but any instant espresso will do. And if you have any leftover you can make my Malted Milk Hot Chocolate!
See recipe card for quantities.
All you need for this simple dessert is a medium-sized saucepan and a whisk. For serving you can choose shallow glass jars, martini glasses, or any small dessert dish you may have.
You won't believe how easy it is to make this espresso panna cotta. Just a few steps on the stove and the refrigerator will do the rest!
Pour the half and half into a medium pot. With the heat off, sprinkle the gelatin powder over the top. Let stand for five minutes. It will look wrinkled.
Gently dissolve the gelatin over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. Do not boil. Add the sugar, salt and espresso powder and heat over medium low heat for about 3-5 minutes.
Whisk frequently until the sugar and espresso is completely dissolved.
To avoid any lumps, strain the heated mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Pour the liquid into your serving dishes, cover, and chill for 2-4 hours to set.
What to serve with espresso panna cotta
You can serve this panna cotta on its own, either molded or in a small dessert dish. I prefer the latter because it's much easier than unmolding. Try pairing it with some other textures for the best dessert.
- Drizzle some chocolate syrup on top.
- Top with fresh whipped cream.
- Add chocolate shavings for an elegant finish.
- Layer some fruit on top. Strawberries, raspberries or cherries would work really well.
- Add some crushed cookies such as biscotti, meringues, or these Italian pignoli cookies.
- Garnish with fresh espresso beans or lemon rind.
You can store your espresso panna cotta in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Be sure to cover the tops so they don't form a crust. After 3 days, the panna cotta may start to taste rubbery, so it is best to eat it within that time.
Make sure not to boil the cream. You want it warm enough to dissolve the gelatin and sugar and that is it.
Panna cotta is a fine balance between the amount of gelatin and cream. Make sure to measure your gelatin. Chilled panna cotta will turn rubbery after 3 days, so while you can make it ahead, don't make it too far in advance.
Espresso Coffee Panna Cotta
- 1 medium saucepan
- 3 cups half and half (or equal parts heavy cream and whole milk)
- 4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
- ½ cup white granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoon espresso powder or instant espresso
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher or fine sea salt
- Bloom the gelatinIn a medium saucepan (with the heat off), add the half and half. Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the top and let stand for 5 minutes. It will look wrinkled on the top.3 cups half and half, 4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
- Dissolve the gelatinTurn the heat to medium-low and gently heat the mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved (do not boil). This should take about 2 minutes.
- Dissolve the remaining ingredientsWith the pot on medium-low heat, add the remaining ingredients. Whisk frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved. This should take 3-5 minutes. Do not let the mixture come to a boil.½ cup white granulated sugar, 4 teaspoon espresso powder or instant espresso, ¼ teaspoon Kosher or fine sea salt
- Pour the mixture into dessert glassesRemove from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Pour the strained mixture into serving glasses or ramekins.
- Chill and setCover and place the serving glasses in the refrigerator to set. This will take a minimum of 2-4 hours The panna cotta can be made in advance for up to 2 days. Serve chilled with garnish.