Agar agar (also known as kanten) is a great vegetarian gelatine substitute; it is made of red algae and is about 80% fibre. It has 0 calories and has no taste but it changes the texture of the liquid it is added to rather quickly. I have been thinking about making panna cotta with agar agar for a while now and when I mentioned it to my friend K. the other day, she gave me a package of agar agar flakes and told me to start experimenting!
The ratio is very straight forward, use 1 tablespoon of agar agar flakes or 1 teaspoon of agar agar powder for every cup of liquid. Since I don’t have much experience with agar agar, I am not sure how it reacts to an acidic liquid, such as citrus juices, but it worked wonderfully with milk and cream. It’s surprisingly easy to make, it took me 3 minutes to put everything together! It’s an ideal dessert for the hot and humid summer months, no baking is required and the result of a few minutes work in the kitchen is a very simple and refreshing dessert.
I am sure I will soon start using different ingredients such as honey or agave to sweeten it, or infuse the milk with mint or orange rind to give it an interesting flavour. This version of panna cotta is vegetarian, if you wanted to make a vegan version of it, you could use coconut milk or even almond milk.
- 1 ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp agar agar flakes or 2 tsp agar agar powder
- 3-4 tbsp sugar1 vanilla bean
- Strawberry coulis (optional)
Place the milk, heavy cream, agar agar, sugar and the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean in a small saucepan, heat over medium high heat and stir occasionally until the agar agar has dissolved completely. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature and pour into 4 rinsed ramekins or bowls. Refrigerate until the panna cotta sets, 2-3 hours.
Unmold the panna cotta, place in the middle of a plate or a bowl, pour the coulis around the panna cotta and serve cold.