One of my favorite desserts in the whole world is panna cotta. It sounds so exquisite and fancy, but really it’s nothing more than milk, cream, and sugar heated up and mixed with a thickening agent. It’s the perfect last minute dessert.
As I’ve been delving more into eating a plant-based diet, I started making panna cotta without dairy. It’s incredibly easy to do with the help of rich, creamy coconut milk. For a thickening agent, I have started using agar agar in place of the typical gelatin.
With it being Valentine’s Day today, I wanted to make a naturally pink vegan panna cotta for our dessert. I had several options I was toying with, but blood oranges are in season right now and the fresh orange flavors pair splendidly with the coconut milk. The raspberry sauce on top is optional, but makes it look extra pretty and special for Valentine’s Day.
Blood Orange Vegan Panna Cotta
slightly adapted from Gourmet, September 2008
Note: A few things to keep in mind — agar agar lends a different texture than gelatin. If you want a silkier, softer texture, use a little less agar agar. If you want a firmer texture, use between 3/4 to 1 teaspoon. It sets up quickly on the counter, but I prefer to eat chilled panna cotta, and the leftovers should be stored in a fridge anyway. Agar agar can be found in Asian markets and some grocery stores, or online.
1 3/4 cups (14 ounce can) full-fat coconut milk
zest of two blood oranges
1/2 cup fresh blood orange juice plus 1 Tablespoon, divided
6 tablespoons evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar), divided
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3/4 teaspoon agar agar powder (see note above)
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
For panna cotta:
In a medium pan, heat coconut milk until very hot. Add the orange zest and let steep for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, add 4 tablespoons of the sugar and 1/2 cup of blood orange juice. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat and whisk in agar agar powder.
Place back on heat and let cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes, or until the agar agar is totally dissolved. (Check by tipping the pan so you can see the bottom – if there are little tiny clear pieces, it is not dissolved.)Let cool for a few minutes and then pour into four 6 ounce ramekins. Cover and place in fridge to set up.
Sprinkle berries with remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar and the remaining 1 Tablespoon blood orange juice. Let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Spoon the raspberries and the juices over the top. Serve immediately. Alternatively, you can unmold the panna cotta onto a plate and top with the sauce.