A short interlude for dessert: Coconut pannacotta

Occasionally, and this may come as a surprise to some of you, I do things unrelated to sewing…

Here’s one of them. For those not already in the know, I am a coeliac and a year ago discovered I’m also lactose intolerant. This makes desserts tricky. A person can only eat so much fruit salad whilst watching everyone else tuck into sticky date pudding, ice cream, death by chocolate, etc. So when I recently had a wedding anniversary dinner with the Husband at the lovely resort where we got married, I managed to wangle the recipe for my dessert from the chef by playing for sympathy and some shameless flattery. I have made a few tweaks to adjust the spice balance a little, and I’ve dressed it up differently, but it’s still luscious! Creamy, mild, delicate and exotic. A proper grown up dessert and such a nice change from bloody fruit salad.

Coconut pannacotta ingredients

This is your one picture. For the rest, It’s a white liquid being stirred with a few unattractive lumpy bits in it, then poured into white ramekins. Nothing I can do will make that look interesting… I could have shown squeezing the gelatine but that needs two hands, and besides, it looks a bit, well, gross…

Coconut pannacotta

1 x 400ml (14 oz) can of coconut cream, well shaken
250ml (8 oz) thick cream (I use treated lactose-free, but it doesn’t have to be)
3 ½ sheets of leaf gelatine, soaked in cold water till soft (about 3 mins)
1 tablespoon castor sugar or coconut sugar, which I prefer
1 shredded kaffir lime leaf OR thinly peeled zest of 1 small lime
2 lightly bruised cardamom pods
½ cinnamon quill
½ star anise pod
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence, or paste, which will colour the dessert and make it look unattractively grey)

Put everything except the soaking gelatine into a small heavy saucepan and bring very slowly to a simmer, stirring till the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Scoop the now rather slimy lump of soft gelatine out of the bowl of water and squeeze gently in both hands to remove as much water as possible without squidging bits of gelatine out between your fingers. Put into the pan of hot coconut mixture, and stir well until fully dissolved. Set aside again for 20-30 minutes to allow the aromatics to infuse into the mixture. Don’t leave it much longer than this or the gelatine will start to set. (You should be aware that leaf gelatine is an animal product, so if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll have to experiment with a vegetarian alternative such as agar agar, which will give a slightly grainier and softer set.)

Transfer the contents of the pan into a jug. Using a fine sieve, pour the mixture into small ramekins, or if you’re going to go all posh, oiled dariole moulds. There’s just over 600ml or 20 oz of mixture, so you can fill 4-6 small ramekins, and the dessert is very rich, so you don’t want to make the portions too large. Put in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours. If you’re going to turn them out, run a knife very gently around the top edge of the mould, plunge the base of the mould into hot water for a second or two then turn out. I’d tend to serve in the ramekins, less chance of disaster…

Serve with a coulis or purée of something tart, like passionfruit, raspberry, etc. It’s rich and needs the contrast. A sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes or a couple of crushed macadamias on the top is nice too. I made it first with kaffir lime leaves, and found the flavour too strong, it made me think of Thai curry too much. I like it better with lime zest. I also used less sugar than in the original recipe and also prefer this as it lets the aromatics speak out more, especially using coconut sugar which seems to enhance the flavour. If you don’t want to use dairy at all, put an extra can of coconut cream in the fridge overnight, open carefully and spoon the thick ‘head’ of coconut cream from off the the coconut water underneath and use this instead of dairy cream. And if you don’t have any problem with dairy and don’t like coconut that much, do the whole thing instead with pure thick cream! Actually, that would be tasty with a bit of strong coffee instead of the lime zest.  Well, you see how versatile this thing is!

I’m currently working on a citrus version of this, without any fat. But it will not, of course, like so many commercial alternatives, be dull, boring, filled with chemicals and over-sweetened as a a result. Just a little bit less naughty. So you can eat it more often, duh!

See how hard I’ve been working on your behalf to test and perfect this recipe?  All those experiments and tastings…. Oh, the suffering and hardship… Go on now, give it a try. You’ll thank me.



26 thoughts on “A short interlude for dessert: Coconut pannacotta

  1. Very interesting. My Granddaughters don’t like coconut very much so this won’t work for them. We’re slowly finding things they can eat. One of them is more allergic than the other. And she’s the really choosy eater. I’m so happy you found a dessert you like. 😄

    • katechiconi says:

      Is she lactose intolerant too? Because if not, you can do it with regular cream instead, or alternatively, almond milk if she is. A little almond essence instead of lime might do the trick.

      • They are allergic to something in cow’s milk not the lactose. They use goat or almond milk and goat butter and cheese. One may like it, the other doesn’t eat any dessert except vanilla ice cream and pancakes made with sugar in them. Bisquick makes a gluten free one and we use egg substitute. She loves them.

      • katechiconi says:

        This dessert would work with either goat or almond milk. But I can imagine it would be hard work to double up on the desserts! Better to stick with pancakes and vanilla icecream!

  2. An object lesson in how to present a recipe: you could make a living writing cookery books, Kate!

    Coconuts donn’t grow much in this neck of the woods. I have occasionally been able to find tinned coconut milk
    but never seen coconut cream or coconut sugar. I wouldn’t know where to find star anise or macadamia nuts either!

    Nevertheless, I shall, with your permission, save this recipe.

    • katechiconi says:

      Save away. You can use tinned coconut milk and add 250ml double cream. Caster sugar is fine, especially if you have a supply in which you keep a vanilla pod to flavour it for baking. Star anise: if you can locate anise liqueur or aniseed, use a little of that, but just a tiny bit. For macadamias, crushed pistachios would be nice if you can’t find coconut flakes to toast. If all else fails, make the recipe with all cream, substitute a little very strong coffee for the anise and lime, but retain the vanilla and cinnamon.

      • Jock can’t/won’t eat cream, so I may have to tell him it’s something else!

      • katechiconi says:

        Almond milk? Use a little extra gelatine and it’ll set a treat. Cinnamon, cardamom, a little almond essence or amaretto, crushed amaretti biscuit on top. We have such a large southeast Asian community in Australia that coconut cream, spices, etc are commonplace in all supermarkets. On the other hand, I can’t buy Swiss cheese or Gorgonzola or cultured butter for love or money!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    You had me at coconut cream!

  4. This sounds really tasty. I’ll give it a try as soon as I find leaf gelatine!

  5. dayphoto says:

    Always a treat to get one of your treat recipes!!!

    Thank you!


  6. tialys says:

    I’m not normally a big fan of pannacotta – it’s on every dessert menu going around here along with Ile Flottante – but I am a sucker for coconut. I thought I had heard of most ingredients but have never heard of coconut sugar.
    Viv – if you have a supermarket nearby with few shelves of Asian ingredients – SuperU, Carrefour and Intermarchê have them – you will find little cartons of coconut cream there.

  7. katechiconi says:

    I’m a sucker for both pannacotta and Ile Flottante, not just because they’re usually safe for me to eat but also because I love those delicate and not too heavy end of meal sweets. This one with the Asian flavour vibe and made with coconut instead of cream really opened my eyes to how delicious it could be. Coconut sugar is made from the nectar of the coconut flower, which then has the moisture evaporated out, leaving a fine, soft, brown sugar which is dryish, slightly coconut flavoured and really not that sweet. Yummy! You could use soft brown sugar, but maybe a tad less?

  8. EllaDee says:

    Mmmmm, I’m a sucker for pannacotta, creme brulee, custardy sweets and coconut and lime and coffee and vanilla… all the clever variations you suggest. I’m not sure I’ll get to making this soon -time, where does it go?- but when I do, I’ll be back because I love the way you have written the recipe. For some reason the thought of gelatine sheets scares me – they seem very cheffy, but via your description I get a better idea of the simplicity of them ☺

    • katechiconi says:

      I tell you what, those sheets are a whole lot nicer to use than the powdered stuff, which can be a bugger to dissolve, smells a bit and doesn’t give the satiny smooth finish the sheets do. Total convert here! One day, when we live closer, you’re going to be one of my test subjects…. Or better still, finish up that restumping and get yourself up here for some serious sampling!

  9. Kirsten says:

    This sounds very yummy! I may just have to give it a go 🙂

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