Panna Cotta Journey

Cooking is just incredible fun... and never simple.


This is not a recipe or how to make Panna Cotta. So, please visit Serious Eats for detailed how to and the recipe. It's my story of learning while failing.

Panna Cotta
Panna Cotta

I love eating Panna Cotta and I think gelatin is moody. I love this melt-in-mouth, creamy milky silky dessert that only has 5 main ingredients. It makes me think of ice cream with a different mouthfeel. It's like some magical milk to me. 


My mom used to make gelatin dessert, aka Jell-o ( it’s a brand name but I have no idea how else best to describe the dessert…), quite often for us. Peppermint flavor with canned pineapple and Nata de Coco, and orange flavor with canned orange were my favorites. She used Savarin mould. It was always so pretty. My mom taught me how to work with gelatin when I was young. It seemed complicated for something beautiful but relatively simple looking thing… But, working with gelatin isn’t really simple. Not like open the package and pour it in the liquid… 

*It needs to completely melt but it doesn’t melt all that easily…

*Blooming…? And the now after reading serious eats, how long to bloom matters?!

*Different brand might offer different strength? European vs. American vs. sheets vs. powder vs. pig vs. cow?! I thought it was all horse something… always thought it was kinda weird. But now knowing what they are actually made from makes me feel better. 


So there are some simple but useful tricks I gathered from Serious Eats, my textbook.

*Don’t boil the liquid! If you do, make sure to mix in the gelatin after it cools under 212F.

*Mix the powder and small amount of liquid with FORK to bloom.

*Acid, alcohol, kiwi, pineapple, papaya, mango and ginger could give you a hard time especially they are fresh and have direct contact to gelatin, aka cook those fruits first, and don’t bloom gelatin with acid or booze. Canned fruits are your best friend. 

*Don’t be cute and don’t swap when following recipe

*Be patient and wait for it to set. 4 hours at least, and it will keep setting for 12 hours.

panna cotta
Panna Cotta

Now Panna Cotta, which means cooked cream, is a bit more than figuring out how to solidify liquid. Because it uses cream and milk, the ratio of those two seem to matter… Most recipes ask for more cream than milk. It make sense for the dish is called cooked cream. The other interesting thing that happen is the mixture separates. So, when to pour the liquid into the mould matters. Suggested timing is lukewarm… I understand the concept of lukewarm, but can we talk about this? I waited so very patiently for my liquid to cool to lukewarm but my Luke must have been hotter than yours. My panna cotta separated even though I mixed it till what I thought lukewarm. What tempter is lukewarm?!!! Bah. Oh, another mistake I made was I let the mixture boil… I was doing dishes. Why?! Don’t ask! I was pretty crabby after seeing it boiling and not having any idea how long it might have been… 

mix it


End result of this adventure? It solidified and it wasn’t rock hard but it was quite bouncy/ kinda sticky, not the best mouth feel. I think I lost some liquid, so the ratio for the gelatin and liquid was off. Maybe boiling the cream and mixture made it funky. And maybe also the gelatin I used is an issue… I also feel that I put too much salt, and I didn’t have vanilla essence so I din’t use it… So, as you can see I have failed to stick to the recipe even though the rule says don’t be cute. The funny thing is I really really tried to stick to the recipe. Oh, boy… I hope reading my struggle will make you want to cook. I can’t wait to make more panna cotta, because I know for sure that it will be a completely new adventure!  Oh! Bonus notes! Panna cotta can last up to 10 days if sealed and kept in the fridge. Vanilla bean pods can be reused after washing and drying. 

panna cotta
Panna Cotta
Moe Kuroki