Agar Agar Cherry Panna Cotta Recipe
Agar agar panna cotta is my way of making a light dessert suitable for a strict vegetarian diet. Agar agar powder is a good gelatin substitute for vegetarians. It's derived from seaweed and is cooked the same way you would gelatin. It's widely used in Asia, especially for making rau câu (Vietnamese jello cake).
This time around I decided to flavor the panna cotta with cherries. I incorporated fresh fruit, cherry extract and a little red food coloring to make the dessert more appealing. We have some very pretty verrines which I used as the molds. It’s a tasty summer dessert with definite visual appeal!
Yields: 8 servings2 (0.88-ounce) packages agar agar powder
10 cups half and half
2-1/3 cups superfine sugar
5-1/3 cups cold water
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 pint fresh cherries, stemmed, washed, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon imitation brandy extract (or vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon cherry extract (optional)
2 drops red food coloring
juice of half a lemon
mint leaves, for garnish
Place the cherries in a bowl. Coat them in brown sugar, brandy and lemon juice. Let macerate for about 10-15 minutes until the juices begin to flow.
Dissolve the agar agar in about ½ cup water. In a saucepan, bring the rest of the water to a boil. Pour the agar agar liquid into the boiling water. Heat the mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Bring to a second boil, then immediately lower to medium. Keep stirring for an even, smooth texture.
In a different pan, heat the half and half, then combine with the agar agar liquid. Add sugar, then lower the heat. Add the condensed milk, red food coloring and cherry extract. Stir well. Move immediately to the next step; otherwise the mixture might set in the pan.
Rinse the verrines with cold water. Fill each mold with 3-4 halved cherries. Complete with the agar agar mixture. Let the agar agar rest until it's completely cool. Reserve the remaining cherries.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Unmold the cherry panna cotta and place 2 mini-desserts onto each individual serving plate. Garnish with the reserved cherries and a mint leaf.
Superfine sugar is very convenient for desserts. It's also called caster sugar or baker's sugar. It dissolves more quickly than regular granulated sugar.
Agar agar powder is a good gelatin substitute for vegetarians. It creates the same texture and doesn't alter the taste of the dessert. It is widely used in Asia.I also use it to make fruit mousses such as egg-free banana mousse or chestnut mousse. I buy the Thai Telephone Brand, which is sold in 25-gram packages. (FIY 0.88 oz = 25 g).
I added half and half for a richer flavor. If you choose not to use half and half, you can add coconut milk.
My tip to get freshly pitted cherries is to call your kids . Just make a small criss-cross incision using a pairing knife and use your finger to get the pit. It's messy (they can eat the ones they mess up) and fun for them.
This recipe yields 16 (3-ounce) mini-verrines. Count 2 verrines per person.Published By: on July 2, 2010.