February 9, 2017 19

Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs

Vegan, gluten-free coconut panna cotta.
Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs | Vegan and gluten-free panna cotta made with coconut milk, agar agar and lightly sweetened and topped with salty maple cacao nibs.
Next week Chris and I are headed back east. We’re going to be in Philadelphia together for the first time since we left. It’ll be a celebration of a lot of things. The two years we’ve been in the Midwest. Our four years of marriage. And our general gratitude to be alive and well, and in love.

I have been thinking a lot about how much I miss the east coast. And how it’ll always be my home. While simultaneously thinking about how much I love St. Louis. Like could live here for forever if I had to. Which is really crazy since two years ago I could barely stomach the idea of it.

Besides the burgeoning food scene, easy-going attitudes and central proximity to many major cities, there is a single thing that makes it so great here. The people. Christina Lane author of Sweet & Simple: Desserts for Two, is one of those people. She is as funny as she is sweet and caring. And a close St. Louis friend who provides endless support and constant reminders that us two transplants got each other’s back.

Her newest book {#3!} is out now. It’s full of small batch treats. And endearing tales. And love. Most of her recipes are not gluten-free, or vegan for that matter, but they could be with just a few easy swaps. The first time I cooked for Christina was at my Late Spring pop-up last May. I made her coconut panna cotta {it wasn’t that good} that was topped with peppered balsamic strawberries {very good}. And since then I’ve been determined to get that panna cotta right.

In her book she has a coconut panna cotta and it’s wonderful. I used her perfect recipe as a guide and swapped in agar agar for the gelatin and maple syrup for the honey, and finally my vegan panna cotta is just right. It’s smooth and creamy and not too firm, which is hard to get right with agar agar. I’ve given you the two recipes below. They’re both refined-sugar and gluten-free. One is made with animal products. The other is vegan.

Some tips! If you’ve never worked with agar agar before, a little bit goes a long way. Agar agar is a gelatin-like substance sourced from algae. It’s commonly sold at health food stores, international food stores, online and sometimes mainstream grocers. It’s affordable and easy to handle.

This agar agar panna cotta is finished with salty maple cacao nibs. Basically a simple syrup made with maple syrup and salt and infused with cacao nibs. If you’d like, you can strain the nibs out and plate the panna cotta with just the syrup that’s been left behind. But I like to keep them in because I like the contrast of the crunchy and creamy texture.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs | Vegan and gluten-free panna cotta made with coconut milk, agar agar and lightly sweetened and topped with salty maple cacao nibs.Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs | Vegan and gluten-free panna cotta made with coconut milk, agar agar and lightly sweetened and topped with salty maple cacao nibs.Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs | Vegan and gluten-free panna cotta made with coconut milk, agar agar and lightly sweetened and topped with salty maple cacao nibs.Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs | Vegan and gluten-free panna cotta made with coconut milk, agar agar and lightly sweetened and topped with salty maple cacao nibs.Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs | Vegan and gluten-free panna cotta made with coconut milk, agar agar and lightly sweetened and topped with salty maple cacao nibs.

Coconut Panna Cotta
 
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Recipe from Sweet & Simple: Desserts for Two. This recipe makes two perfect servings. Next time I make it, I'm gonna double it so I have one for breakfast the next day. I recommend you do the same. The method using agar agar will set much faster than the gelatin version. It will be ready in about 1 hour.
By:
Makes: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon agar agar powder {or 1 teaspoon gelatin}
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup {or honey}
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • Salty Maple Cacao Nibs, to garnish {see below}
Instructions
  1. Heat all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat until the agar agar {or gelatin} is dissolved and the mixture is near boiling.
  2. Turn the heat off and ladle the mixture into two lightly greased ramekins and refrigerate. The agar agar version only takes about 1 hour to firm, while the gelatin version takes least 4 hours. When you're ready to serve flip the panna cotta out of the ramekin and serve with a generous portion of salty maple cacao nibs.
Salty Maple Cacao Nibs
 
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I like to keep the cacao nibs in the syrup, for added texture, but you could easily strain them out if you preferred. This will yield more than you need, store extras in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
By:
Makes: ½ cup
Ingredients
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • 3 tablespoons cacao nibs
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup
Instructions
  1. In a small sauce pan bring the water, cacao nibs and salt to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add in the maple syrup and simmer for a minute more, while stirring occasionally.
  2. Turn off the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely, then either use or store for later use.

Thanks to the folks at Countryman Press for gifting me an advance copy of Sweet & Simple: Desserts for Two.

19 Responses to "Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs"

  1. Reply

    Sophie

    February 9, 2017 at 11:04 PM

    I want to try this. Where do you get your maple syrup from?

    • Reply

      Sherrie

      February 10, 2017 at 8:40 PM

      Hi Sophie – I get my maple syrup from the regular grocery store. Sometimes if I’m traveling back east I grab some from my home state of NY, or nearby in VT or Canada. But any old maple will do!

  2. Reply

    bella

    February 10, 2017 at 12:15 AM

    This sounds so incredible. Those salty maple cacao nibs are a revelation!

  3. Reply

    amanda paa

    February 10, 2017 at 9:28 AM

    Wow, that will be so great for you and Chris to be back in Philly, together. I’m sure a flood of emotions, but also celebrations, as you mentioned. And this midwest girl loves knowing you’d stay in STL forever, if it came down to it.

    I’m excited to cook from Christina’s book too! It just came in the mail, and it was so great to sit next to her at your last pop-up. One thing is for sure – she has major dessert game.
    Beautiful photos my friend, and panna cotta success.

    xo

  4. Reply

    Julia @ HappyFoods Tube

    February 10, 2017 at 10:00 AM

    Panna cotta is such a great dessert! I like the combination of sweet & salty. Gotta find the cacao nibs around here so I can try this. :)

  5. Reply

    Stacy

    February 10, 2017 at 10:58 AM

    I love panna cotta. While I’m not a vegan I have always been looking for a gelatin free version because gross! Love your idea to add salted cacao nibs. Sounds rich and and interesting!

  6. Reply

    Em

    February 10, 2017 at 4:21 PM

    I love panna cotta — it’s my go-to dessert when eating out and one of the only desserts I ever truly crave. And I love you, and Christina — and as a result, STL (though I’ve never been. But for that matter, I’ve never met either of you in the flesh!). This is such a pretty interpretation, Sherrie — and those saucy nibs sound straight-up delicious. Also: saucy nibs. You are so very welcome. ;)

  7. Reply

    Abby @ Heart of a Baker

    February 10, 2017 at 4:24 PM

    I agree with everything about Christina’s book, that girl knows how to bake! I’m crossing my fingers that she will be at your next pop up (I’ve only met her briefly once). Now you’re inspiring me to dig out the agar agar from somewhere in the back of my cabinets..

  8. Reply

    Valentina @Hortus

    February 11, 2017 at 8:04 AM

    Isn’t coconut panna cotta so good?! I even included it in my book! Though I cannot help not being convinced by the agar-agar. I know gelatin is gross, but having grown up with ‘colla di pesce’ as a thickener, the texture is just not the same to me. Still, this panna cotta is probably the only dessert that can really stand up to agar-agar! The salty maple cacao nubs must be delicious! :)

  9. Reply

    Julia Gartland

    February 11, 2017 at 10:31 AM

    This is gorgeous, Sherrie! Love the idea of a dairy-free panna cotta. Gotta try this, xx.

  10. Reply

    Sophie MacKenzie

    February 11, 2017 at 8:36 PM

    This looks aaa-mazing! TBH, I really don’t think I’ve panna-cottaed (the verb) in over ten years. What’s wrong with me? Making this one ASAP! Happy four years you two. Much love xox

  11. Reply

    Willow | Will Cook For Friends

    February 12, 2017 at 11:58 AM

    These are beautiful! I’ve always wanted to become more confident using agar agar, but it does seem tricky to get the amount right. These look like the perfect place to start if I want to become more familiar with using it. And isn’t Christina amazing? I have her first book, but haven’t gotten my hands on the other two yet. So many tasty recipes to try.

    • Reply

      Sherrie

      March 2, 2017 at 10:26 PM

      Many batches of panna cotta have been wasted trying to get this agar agar amount just right. I promise it is the best place to start, xx!

  12. Reply

    Tessa | Salted Plains

    February 12, 2017 at 1:08 PM

    I’m so glad STL has become a second home for you. That transition is a hard one. It took me a full year after we left NYC and moved to KC to not get emotional when things on TV portrayed NYC (yikes), and I grew up here.

    Christina’s book sounds awesome and I need to get my hands on a copy. You made this panna cotta insanely gorgeous! xo

  13. Reply

    marianne

    February 15, 2017 at 2:16 PM

    Hi Sherrie! This looks so pretty. I am gonna try it. xx

  14. Reply

    Nicole Buckley

    February 16, 2017 at 7:23 PM

    I can’t tell you how happy I am to see a panna cotta recipe made without gelatin! Yay, I can’t wait to try this.

  15. Reply

    Kathryn

    February 19, 2017 at 4:58 AM

    I never realised how few ingredients are needed for panna cotta, thanks for sharing this recipe, sounds delicious.

  16. Reply

    Courtney

    February 19, 2017 at 9:40 AM

    Great taste! I used a full can of coconut milk and arrowroot. It set nicely and could easily take some more for a more stable panna cotta. The flavor tasted like a sexier version of marshmallow fluff, especially after vigorous whisking to incorporate air and ensure proper distribution of the arrowroot.

    • Reply

      Sherrie

      March 2, 2017 at 10:47 PM

      Arrowroot? Not agar agar? I’ll have to try that some time.

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