New Recipe: Vegan Coconut Panna Cotta with Balsamic Fig Syrup
New Year is a time when many of us make resolutions to eat healthier. While it is a great goal to have, often times, when we actually start doing it, we find it to be not so easy. Overwhelmed by cravings for the foods we used to eat (like sugar, for example), we feel deprived and not satisfied with our new food choices, which makes it that much harder to stick to a healthy diet. But life is not about deprivation! The good news is that you can eat healthy and delicious foods that are deeply satisfying and nourishing at the same time. This easy to make, restaurant-quality dessert is a perfect example.
This panna cotta is rich, creamy and has a well-rounded flavor, and yet it is vegan and refined sugar free. I really wanted to create a panna cotta which wouldn’t taste dull or gummy, with a rich glossy and silky texture. The key to the right texture was using a heavier proportion of cream to milk (3 to 1) and just the right amount of agar powder to set it. The version with just coconut milk produced panna cotta which was not creamy enough and had kind of matte and dull appearance. That is due to the lower amount of fat in coconut milk than in cream. Using coconut cream as a base resulted in a luscious velvety texture and glossy appetizing look. For the milk you can use either coconut or almond milk (unsweetened, of course). I tried it with both and had a really hard time deciding which I liked more, so try it for yourself and adjust to your own taste. Coconut milk gives stronger coconut flavor and creamier texture, but both versions really taste great. It is just the matter of personal preference.
To set the panna cotta, I used 2 teaspoons of agar-agar powder for 4 cups of liquid, which produced just the right firmness and wasn’t too hard or too soft. If you are not familiar with agar, it is a mix of carbohydrates extracted from seaweed, specifically Red Sea Algae. It is also known by its Japanese name, Kanten. It is used as a vegan substitute for gelatin, and has no flavor, odor or color.
And, finally, the sauce! I used refined sugar-free balsamic fig syrup, which is a rather unusual topping for panna cotta but give it a try. Its bold intense tangy-sweet flavor creates a perfect contrast to a soft and mild panna cotta, making your taste buds burst with joy. I used maple syrup as a sweetener here, plus the natural sugar from figs helped create just the right amount of sweetness. If you don’t want any fruit in your dessert, just skip the figs and adjust the sweetness to taste by adding more maple syrup or stevia.
Because of the large amount of coconut cream used here, this dessert contains a lot of healthy fats from coconut oil contained in the cream. You can enjoy it freely, knowing that it has no dairy or refined sugar, and it will leave your sweet tooth completely satisfied.
So, be brave, try this recipe and let me know what you think!