Chai Panna Cotta

Panna cotta has become a favourite in my family. It’s come to the point where if you come over for dinner it’s almost expected that you’ll have panna cotta. This chai one was a hit the other night, topped with warm rum caramelized pears it was the perfect ending to dinner on a crisp autumn day.

Panna cotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and molded. You’ve probably seen it at nicer restaurants, presented on the plate with a sweet sauce dripping off the top. Okay, I’m drooling now. Now I don’t put mine in molds, because to be honest, I’m terrified it won’t work out and it will sploosh all over the plate. The easy way to do it is to just make it in a dessert glass and eat it out that – it still looks pretty and you’re not fretting about “will it or won’t it come out?”

The great thing about panna cotta, besides being uber creamy, sweet and delicious is that you can flavour it with basically anything you like. Booze, coffee, chocolate, fruit – whatever you fancy. AND you can also play around with the toppings! The classic is plain panna cotta with strawberry sauce on it. YUM.

Oh and did I mention it’s MAKE AHEAD. You guys all know how I love make ahead dishes. These last for 3 days in the fridge, but believe me that they will NOT last that long. Once you start eating it, it’s impossible to stop. Panna cotta is addicting.

BUT the other night, I decided to spice it up and add CHAI TEA and some warm and cozy spices. WHAT A WINNER. Flavoured with tea bags, cinnamon, and cloves it’s a nice cozy, autumny twist. Topped with soft, warm and spicy pears in a sweet caramel…there was nothing else on the planet that mattered while we ate this.

If you so wish, remove the spices and tea bags and add in any flavourings you want, or just leave it plain and top with berries or a sweet sauce. You can’t lose with panna cotta.

The first time I made it though, it didn’t turn out. It seemed like the cream separated from the milk and make two very distinct layers which was very unappealing. I found a cure to that though and haven’t had the problem since! My trick? I pour the mixture into my dessert glasses, and I let it sit on the counter and cool for about 15-20 minutes before I put it into the fridge. That little bit of time to cool on the counter helps it not to go into so much shock in the fridge. (that’s my not so expert opinion anyways!)

With only a few minutes of hands on time, and a beautiful, elegant and DELICIOUS reward – this panna cotta is my go-to dessert! Having made different variations of this, I always get “oooOoo”‘s and “aaaaahhh”‘s when I pull them out of the fridge. No doubt, any person would assume that these would require a ton of skill, expertise and time – but little do they know. The secret is out…

Chai Panna Cotta

PANNA COTTA

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 packet unflavoured gelatin (about 2 1/2 tsp)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 6 chai tea bags
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of cloves & nutmeg

RUM CARAMELIZED PEARS

  • 3 pears, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup butter (depending how saucy you like it)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Splash of spiced rum!
  • pinch of salt (do you like my accuracy?)

To make Panna Cotta:

In a medium pot or sauce pan, pour in whole milk. Sprinkle with gelatin and let sit off the heat for 5 minutes.

Once the 5 minutes is up, put over low – medium heat, add tea bags and spices and stir mixture until the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture is simply steaming, not boiling. The heat will steep the tea bags.

Add in the whipping cream and sugar. Continue stirring until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is once again steaming, but not boiling. Let cool for a 5 minutes.

With your spoon, squeeze the tea bags to release any extra chai flavour. Remove tea bags.

In a large bowl with a pouring lip, place sour cream. Slowly add warm milk mixture and whisk until smooth and there are no lumps of sour cream. Once the mixture is totally smooth, pour into 6 dessert glasses or ramekins. Let cool on the counter for about 15-20 minutes. Place in the fridge to let set, at least 4-6 hours – but best overnight! Top with warm rum caramelized pears before serving.

Panna cotta will stay fresh for 3 days (but they will definitely be gone before then!)

To make pears:

Melt butter in sauce pan and add sugar, pears, salt & cinnamon. Once the pears have began to get soft, add in a splash of rum and cook until pears are totally soft and coated in the sauce.

Once cooked- let cool until it’s warm, but not hot. Place warm pears onto panna cotta and serve. Pears can be cooked ahead of time and reheated!

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