I planned to post this recipe a few days ago, to allow you plenty of time to shop for all the ingredients and seal your perfect Easter menu with an elegant dessert. But you know I’m not good in planning, so here I am, a few hours before Easter, with a delicate chocolate panna cotta with fresh strawberries. As promised, though, the ingredients are simple, seasonal and probably you might have them already in your pantry, so roll up your sleeves and get cooking.
For days I dreamt about it: the silky texture, the sleek presentation, the comforting taste. We close every traditional Tuscan Easter meal with a slice of sportellina, an Easter sweet bread flavoured with aniseed, and a few pieces of chocolate egg. So it had to be chocolate and it had to be strawberries. Finally juicy strawberries grown on the warmer Tuscan coast are hitting the market and I began introducing them in pies, jams and breakfast bowls.
Chocolate panna cotta with strawberries and tonka bean
There’s just one ingredient which is slightly less common in this panna cotta, tonka bean.
When I opened my blog I was suddenly introduced to a whole array of unusual ingredients for a Tuscan palate: matcha green tea, long pepper, curries, tonka bean… I could spot these spices in every foreign and Italian blog, then all of a sudden a new ingredient would take their place and become the new trend. Now it is all lattes and avo on toast on Instagram and social media, but for some time it was matcha desserts, or cupcakes, or cake pops.
Tonka bean belongs to that time, when I was exploring a new world, when every day I was discovering a new taste. If matcha left no trace in my pantry, tonka bean conquered my heart and I still love to pair it with chocolate and coffee. So if you happen to have a forgotten tonka bean in your pantry use it for this chocolate panna cotta, otherwise flavour the cream with your favourite spice, such as vanilla bean, cinnamon or cardamom.
Enjoy this glorious time with friend, family and good food. And now, the recipe…
- 500 ml (16,89 fl oz - 2 cups + 1¾ tablespoons) of fresh cream
- 100 ml (3,38 fl oz - ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons) of fresh whole milk
- 1 tonka bean
- 50 g of sugar (1,76 oz - 4 tablespoons)
- 15 g of gelatin sheets (0,53 oz)
- 150 g of dark chocolate (5,29 oz - 1⅓ bar)
- 200 g of fresh strawberries (7,05 oz - 1⅓ cup)
- 25 g of sugar (2 tablespoons)
- Fresh mint leaves
- Soak the gelatin sheet in a bowl with cold water for about 10 minutes.
- Pour cream and milk in a saucepan, add sugar and a whole tonka been. Warm cream and milk until they begin to simmer, then remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes, then remove the tonka bean.
- Melt the finely chopped chocolate in a bain-marie and, once melted, stir it into the cream. Do not skip this passage, to have a smooth chocolate panna cotta first melt the chocolate then add it to the cream.
- Wring gently the gelatine to remove excess water and dissolve it into the chocolate and cream.
- Pour the chocolate and cream into single serving ramekins or silicon moulds - be sure to rinse them Leave the panna cotta in the fridge for a few hours or, better, until the next day.
- About an hour before serving the panna cotta, chop the strawberries, sprinkle with sugar and add a few chopped fresh mint leaves. Set aside so that they will produce a thick syrup.
- To unmould the panna cotta pass a knife on the edges and gently tip the bottom of your mould or immerse the moulds for a few seconds into hot water before unmoulding.
- Serve the panna cotta with a few tablespoons of strawberries and drizzle with the strawberry syrup.
- Read more about tonka bean here. The taste of the tonka bean is linked strongly to its scent. “Scents,” I should say, as the tonka bean has many at once. I register the aromas of vanilla, cherry, almond, and something spicy—a bit like cinnamon. When served cold—say, in tonka bean ice cream—the taste is like a vanilla caramel with dark honey. When warm, perhaps shaved over scallops, it moves toward spiced vanilla. Additionally, the aroma of the tonka bean shavings (it’s almost always shaved) is so affecting that it seems like an actual taste in the way that opium, which has no taste in the traditional sense, “tastes” like its rich, flowery smoke.
- My friend Giuseppina in Goult loves tonka bean, read her recipe for a Semifreddo with amaretti and tonka beans’ syrup. When we visited her last summer she made us a chocolate and almond milk jelly doused in tonka bean syrup. I can still smell it and taste it.