Dairy-Free Yogurt Panna Cotta

A simple, light dessert that goes wonderfully with any fruit in season – lovely with honey roasted figs, but also heavenly paired with autumnal apples, wintery pears, springy rhubarb, or summery stone fruit – panna cotta is a snap to make! Not too sweet by design, the honey flavor balances perfectly against tangy yogurt perfumed with just a touch of orange blossom water. Gelatin does all the work here, so no dairy is needed to achieve the right texture, but you can switch to agar agar if you want a vegan version (just adjust accordingly as agar agar needs to be boiled to gel and sets up more stiffly). You can set your panna cotta in ramekins and unmold them, I give directions for that below, but I prefer serving them in pretty glasses or mason jars for ease and portability, so you can take them to your socially distanced picnics and gatherings!

Dairy-Free Yogurt Panna Cotta

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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You can use either powdered or leaf gelatin for this recipe, whichever you have! If using leaf gelatin, you want silver leaf for a nice soft set around 160-180 Bloom (not the same as “blooming” to hydrate the gelatin, “Bloom” is a unit measure of gel rigidity, confusing!), gold or platinum leaf gelatin will be too stiff. No matter which form of gelatin you use, don’t let it come to a boil while melting it into the milk mixture or it won’t gel! Select the creamiest dairy-free milk, oat or coconut tend to be best, and the most flavorful non-dairy yogurt for the best results. Also choose a strongly flavored honey, i.e. not clover!, to maximize its impact. Orange blossom water is always available in Middle Eastern markets, and I have recently seen it in Whole Foods, too; you can substitute vanilla but then omit it from the roasted fruit.

Ingredients

  • 4 sheets of silver leaf gelatin or 1 packet powdered gelatin (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 cup dairy-free milk (oat or coconut)
  • 1 cup coconut yogurt (Anita’s coconut yogurt is my fave)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
  • 4 fresh black mission figs, or 4 fresh brown figs, or other seasonal fruit
  • Splash of orange blossom water
  • 1 tablespoon honey, and extra for serving
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Bloom the gelatin: for leaf gelatin, soak sheets in ice cold water until soft, no more than 3-5 minutes, and then squeeze out excess water; for powdered gelatin stir it into 1/4 cup warm water and let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk and honey in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until hot but not boiling. Add gelatin and stir in until melted and smooth, but do not allow the mixture to boil! Remove from heat and stir in orange blossom water. Slowly whisk hot liquid into the coconut yogurt a bit at a time. Whisk until smooth and skim off any foamy bubbles. Spoon equal amounts into 4 ramekins, pretty glasses, or mason jars.

Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours if serving without unmolding, or at least 4 hours if you intend to unmold the panna cotta.

For the honey roasted figs: Preheat oven to 375° F. Trim the fig stems and cut figs into quarters. Very gently toss with a splash of orange blossom water. Lay skin side down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or silicone mat, and evenly drizzle with honey. Bake for 15 minutes until the figs are just soft and the honey is slightly caramelized. Remove from oven and lightly sprinkle with just a scant pinch of salt. Allow to cool.

If unmolding the panna cotta, run the tip of a paring knife around the edge of the ramekin, dip into a bowl of warm water for 3-5 seconds, and invert onto the serving dish.

Spoon equal amounts of roasted figs on top of the chilled and set panna cotta, and drizzle with a touch more honey for an attractive shine. Serve with simple crispy cookies (e.g. Biscoff or Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux) and enjoy!!!

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