|Photo Courtesy of Rachelle from Dear Coco|
Summer berries are here in full swing! It may be too early in the season to feast on homegrown fruit, but local farmers markets and supermarkets are fully stocked with an assortment of colorful berries, lush and bursting with flavor.
Sweet, versatile and nutritious, strawberries are one of the most well-liked fruits in the United States and perhaps the most popular of all the berries. In addition to their distinct, juicy flavor and gorgeous crimson color, strawberries are packed with fiber and potassium and have the most Vitamin C of any berry, all at only 25 calories per half cup. Nowadays the fruit is usually available year round, but peak season is from April to July when strawberries are welcomingly inexpensive.
Take your summer strawberries to a new height with this dairy-free, gluten-free and egg-free dessert. I love making panna cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”) during the warmer months — the traditional creamy eggless custard is thickened with gelatin and chilled until set (no oven required!). This not-too-sweet dark chocolate panna cotta is a recipe you’ll find yourself turning to again and again not only because of its simple preparation but also because it is elegant, impressive and deliciously satisfying (and who can resist deep, creamy dark chocolate lusciousness on a spoon?). Another bonus is the make-ahead nature of panna cotta; since it needs to set, you won’t be juggling dessert at the same time as your other dishes.
As chocolate is so versatile, the dark chocolate panna cotta can be dressed up differently each time you make it: think chocolate shavings, toasted or caramelized nuts, fruit coulis, crushed toffee, chocolate or caramel sauce, or simply a raspberry and mint leaf. But why stop there when strawberries are here and at their peak of flavor? Enhance them and the dark chocolate with a splash of aged balsamic vinegar for a truly unforgettable summer dessert.
Enjoy this simple summer dessert perfection and let me know how yours turns out.
Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
Makes 4 servings
1 pound fresh ripe strawberries
2 tbsp sugar
1 ½ tbsp good quality aged balsamic vinegar
¼ cup soy milk or other milk alternative
1 ¼ tsp powdered gelatin
1 can (13.5 oz) regular coconut milk (you can use light but the result will be less creamy)
3 heaping tbsp sugar
3 oz good quality 70% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Macerate the strawberries: Wash, stem, hull and roughly chop the strawberries and place in a large, non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and balsamic vinegar and mix well. Set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries soften and release their juices, at least one hour and up to 3 hours. (If you are preparing the dessert in advance, refrigerate the balsamic strawberries at this point and let them come to room temperature before serving.)
Make the panna cotta: Spray four ceramic ramekins lightly with flavorless cooking oil spray. Set aside.
Place the soy milk in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature until the gelatin has softened and absorbed the liquid, about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, combine the coconut milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chopped chocolate and let it sit for a minute until the chocolate has softened. Whisk the chocolate mixture until smooth.
Gently heat the gelatin mixture over low heat, stirring frequently, until the gelatin has just dissolved and the mixture is liquid. Pour the gelatin mixture into the chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended.
Pour the finished mixture into a 4-cup measuring cup with a pour spout and divide evenly among the prepared ramekins. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.
To serve, dip each ramekin into boiling water for a few seconds, then quickly invert onto a serving plate.
Top generously with the strawberries and balsamic sauce and serve immediately.
About the Author:
Rachelle Ferneau is pastry chef, chocolatier and owner of Dear Coco Chocolate, which specializes in artisan dark chocolate truffles in globally-inspired flavors designed to transport you around the world through chocolate. All Dear Coco Chocolate truffles are dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, certified kosher pareve and 100% handcrafted using premium ingredients, in small batches, and without corn syrup, trans fats or preservatives. Please visit for more information.
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