Friday, September 28, 2007

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta was described as 'cooked cream served with berry sauce' in the menu of the italian restaurant we were having lunch at last July. Attracted by the word 'cream' (arent I always?), I decided to give it a try. My order came with fresh raspberries in sauce. It was yummeh!

When I came home, I googled for the recipe , only to discover that it is actually made using gelatine. erks.... ooops! :p

The recipe looks pretty easy, so I decided to give it a try, but to substitute the gelatine with agar-agar instead.

I had never cooked with agar-agar before in my life, and I heard that it's quite complicated to get right. I was given a few packs of agar-agar by Farah when she was packing to move back to Malaysia in June, so I had plenty to play around with. The instructions on the packet said dissolve 25grams agar-agar in 2.5 litres of water, but I don't have a weighing machine to weigh out 25grams, so I decided to do it by volume instead. I just had to figure out how to measure the right amount of agar-agar and liquid proportions to get the right texture and firmness. Panna cotta has to be smooth, just firm enough to stand, but not so firm to have a bite to it.

My first try resulted in more like milk agar-agar, very hard and not smooth at all, plus I had these stringy bits at the bottom of the mold. I couldn't figure out why. I made raspberry sauce using leftover frozen raspberries, so it was yummeh albeit a little chewy.

My second try was for the Merdeka Makan2. It turned out slightly softer and smoother, but it still had these stringy bits, which I had to strain out before putting the liquid into the serving dish to cool and set. My mom who was around to help, pointed out that I had not cooked the agar-agar thoroughly enough and I added the sugar too soon. Apparently, sugar stops the agar-agar from dissolving properly. Ah... I learn something new everyday! Nevertheless, the panna cotta was a hit, (I think, since a few people asked for some to be packed home), especially since I served it with fresh strawberries cut up and mixed with sugar.

My third try was too soft, when I turned it out of the mold, it was just too mushy. But it was still yummeh, and my kids just ate the dessert out of the individual cups, like dadih (yogurt).

I finally got it right at the fourth try, and I am happy to share the recipe with you:

Easy Peasy Panna Cotta


  • As much agar-agar you can soak in 1/2 cup of water**

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 litre (roughly 4 cups) of whipping cream @room temperature

  • 8-10 tablespoons of sugar

  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

  • 1 tsp lemon zest (optional)


  • Boil agar-agar in water, stirring often, till liquid is clear and no longer cloudy. (If you're not sure, leave it to boil for another 5 minutes)

  • Lower the heat and add in half of the cream, stir till well mixed.

  • Add sugar and stir till well mixed.

  • Add the rest of the cream and vanilla essence.

  • Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest (if using)

  • Ladle into molds or serving dish (strain if necessary, and especially if using lemon zest)

  • Let cool then chill in the fridge to set.

Easy peasy Lemon Squeazy, no?

** So far I discovered that the best method of measuring the agar-agar is to measure water (1/2 cup) in the measuring cup, then to cut up as much agar-agar into small pieces into the water until I could not keep any more agar-agar submerged. This method works almost every time.

Panna cotta with strawberry sauce

The resulting panna cotta was smooth and still a bit wobbly, but had enough firmness to hold its shape when taken out of the mold. I used my silicone muffin pan as a mold, and also served a few of them in coffee cups. I guess you could also use ramekins if you own them. Alternatively, you could also just pour everything into a serving dish and cut/scoop it out to serve.

It can be served with sweetened fresh fruits (cut up strawberries or whole smalll berries mixed with sugar) or fruit/berry sauce (cook berries in equal amount of water and as much sugar as you want, bring to a boil till it is reduced to almost half and thickened). I served my last attempt with strawberry sauce in a squeeze bottle - the kind you pour on ice cream.

The kids, especially Ihsan, really love panna cotta. I brought a huge dish of it to the melayu iftar gathering 2 weeks ago and the kids had eaten it all up by the time the adults were ready for dessert! It is also a good way to sneak milk/calcium into their diet.

I'm already imagining variations to this recipe -

As I mentioned above, reducing the amount of agar-agar would create a dadih-like texture. I am already imagining them in chocolate, or corn flavour.. yum yum.

To get a less 'creamy' texture (read: less fat, whipping cream has 35% fat), you can use plain full cream milk, or low-fat milk if you'd prefer.

I also wonder if I would get tau-fu-fah if I used soy milk instead of whipping cream. :) (and serve with maple syrup or brown sugar dissolved in some water! oooh yummeh!)

Happy trying!


  1. menggoda nya panna cotta nih.. and thanks for sharing the tip on agar2.. will try it someday

  2. you're welcomed :) happy trying.
    I'm sure you can do it if I can do it :)

  3. oh that does look yummeh.
    *note to self: only read elisa's blog after iftaar, in case terliur.

  4. nadia: ha ha!!
    I just bought sotong today, so be forewarned that I will post pics of ketupat sotong in the next few days!

    eh I think you can make this yourself lah. Go cari halal gelatine, coz I'm sure it's less complicated than using agar-agar. (Oztolia ada agar2 tak?)

  5. Alamak, your panna cotta recipe looks marvelous but its too late for me to pack some agar2 in my already overloaded box of foodstuff (we're leaving for Riyadh tommorrow) Any chance of finding agar2 in KSA?

  6. eh , ini Han orangkampung kah?
    You pun nak datang riyadh jugak ke??
    I belum jumpa agar2 in KSA, tapi gelatine halal banyak.

  7. oh yum. anything that has cream in it is in my list. i wonder, boleh ke bagi panna cotta tu ada colour ke?

    eh btw, have you ever heard of the word 'fondue'? pernah makan tak?

  8. 'fondue' is anything that is hot and melted and you dip stuff in. The most common one is cheese fondue lah. (Cheese melted in fondue pot, and you dip bread, meats or veggies in. Tapi org putih suka tambah wine in their cheese fondue, so if you're not making it yrself, u have to ask.).
    Semalam I went for iftar buffet at LeMeridian and they had dark and white chocolate fondue fountains at the dessert section, with selection of fruits and marshmallows.
    Sungguh yummy!
    Sekarang ada banyak jual fondue sets at supermarkets. You can get it for around SR100 gitu.

    p/s I guess you can put kaler2 into the panna cotta if u want, but the original one is natural cream colored.

  9. sungguh menggiurkan itu panna tak makan!!!

    yup i had the marshmallow and strawberries coated fondue...sodap ehhh...

  10. Anonymous4:41 AM

    Hi K Elisa,
    I've tried your recipe. Thanks for posting it. It was a big hit among the kids& so easy to make. Btw, I used chocolate topping.


  11. Mas , seddap gilller kan?? yum yums!

    Nong, yay!! Congratulations!! I wanted to try it with chocolate sauce too, but my mini market ran out of that and only had strawberry sauce :) I'm sure it was yummeh!

  12. This is Han..Leen Ashburn's friend..if you follow her will notice that she will embarass me with our childhood of my hubby;s friend actually told me that I can get some at Al Rajhi Supermarket..lovely! Will try out your recipe..