These vegan panna cotta desserts are fragrant with the heady scent of bay leaves, infused with lemon and vanilla, and set over a layer of gently stewed apple.
It's time for dessert, don't you think? A little something lovely to reward yourself for putting one foot in front of another and keeping on going? I vote for dessert.
We always, always have a few apples hanging around so they are absolutely a go-to ingredient for a last minute dessert, often apple crumble.
Italian panna cotta is an old friend, but typically made with sweetened full cream and set with gelatine. I've successfuly veganized it before in this lovely ginger and coconut panna cotta, traditionally served turned out on a plate, with a puddle of syrup and possessing a perfect wobble.
So why not bring the two together in a happy marriage of apple and creamy vegan panna cotta? Why not indeed.
How to make vegan panna cotta
It's pretty easy to make vegan panna cotta.
Swap out the cream? Done. Easy. I prefer coconut milk for a rich result with smooth mouthfeel, but you could use any milky liquid (I bet cashew milk would work pretty well too).
Swap out the gelatine? Well, yes that part is easy too, but is also where I've spent the most time tinkering to get it just right.
The best replacement for gelatine is agar, also known as agar-agar (or kanten, in Japan). It works in a similar way to ‘set’ a liquid, but its consistency is a little different. If too much is used it can result in a very firm, rubbery texture so less is more here, and measuring carefully is very important. A quarter teaspoon difference can make or break the dish.
Agar-agar comes as either a powder or flakes. I used powder, and understand it is not interchangeable with flakes which are less strong (you need to use more of them for the same result). In New Zealand agar-agar is easily found at Asian supermarkets or whole food stores.
I made life easy by layering my panna cotta mixture over stewed apple in small jars, so they could be pulled straight from the fridge to serve.
Let's throw in a wildcard - bay leaves
These layered desserts are fragrant with the heady scent of bay leaves, typically used in savoury dishes for their subtle peppery warmth. I layered the flavour by infusing my coconut milk with bay leaves, and throwing one in with the apple while it was cooking too.
Bay leaves also pair beautifully with apple and lemon, adding a little complexity to this otherwise quite simple recipe.The final flavour is subtle but really rather lovely, and doesn't veer into 'weird food territory' - my children thought these desserts were quite delicious.
Get your hands on some fresh bay leaves if you can, for the best flavour.
You may also like
- Ginger coconut panna cotta
- Raspberry, lime and coconut cheesecake
- Apple and feijoa crumble with macadamias
Get the recipe
For the apple layer:
- 2 stewing apples (I used Granny Smiths)
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 fresh bay leaf
For the cream layer:
- 1 can coconut milk (400 ml / 14 oz)
- ½ cup apple juice
- 3 tablespoon sugar
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 strip lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon agar-agar powder (I use Telephone brand)
- Peel, core and dice apples. Add to a saucepan with water, sugar, lemon juice and a bay leaf. Cook over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender, but still with some texture.
- Discard the bay leaf and spoon the apple mixture evenly into four small jars or ramekins.
- For the cream layer, add everything to a saucepan and stir to combine over medium-low heat. Simmer for five minutes, stirring often, to activate the agar-agar.
- Discard the bay leaves and lemon zest, then pour evenly over the apple layer in your jars or ramekins. Pop in the fridge for an hour to set, or make them ahead of time.
- These desserts will keep, covered, for up to three days in the fridge.
- Nutrition information is estimate.
- Recipe first published in the Autumn 2022 edition of Nourish Magazine.