Daring Baker's challenge: Vanilla bean Yogurt Panna cotta with Blackberry coulis

I recently joined the Daring Baker's group because I thought in addition to chasing after a little monkey who is all over the place, making sure he doesn't climb into cabinets, eat insects or paper ( his treat of choice) hang upside down from his swing ( when he's feeling a little xtreme sportsy) and other unpredictable heart attack inducing (for me)  feats, I needed to be challenged. That I needed even more worrying, meltdowns, anxiety attacks.

I actually thought that I needed the sheer panic induced by a souffle not rising, or a cake that kept falling, a pudding not setting, the deep dissapontment of a feetless macaron- oh the horror! The myriad nightmares that plague a baker, the challenge of not only learning and mastering new techniques, but also making sure that they are done within a rigid time frame with specific rules and regulations.
Why do I do this to myself? Because it's fun! Because for every disappointment, there is that thrill of victory, when something does come out well, or when under the deep disappointment of a collapsed pudding, you lick your wounds and a spoonful to discover that even when it is terribly ugly, it is also fantastically delicious, and in the end you have learnt so much and that's what counts, really.

The first month, we made the printed sponge- Joconde Imprime Entrement and things did not go so well for me. It led to tears, swearing, and much needed emotional support delivered via cross country phone calls between the distraught me and the sweet and talented Ria who has a much more mature (and insanely talented) head on her shoulders. She convinced me to try it again- although this time too it was a flop so I swore of jocondes for good. Atleast the low fat mousse that I used to make the filling was a wonderful discovery and am thrilled that I can use it to fill cakes, charlottes and roulades (those rolled log like cakes) and  freeze to make luscious chocolate gelato and also truffles!

This month however the challenge was Panna cotta. What is panna cotta? it's nothing but italian for "cooked cream" and is a sort of fancy cross between pudding and Jell-O. But creamier, and not as stiff and solid as Jell-o and infinitely yummier!

While I have eaten more than my fair share, I have never made panna cotta before for some reason. So this was a fun challenge for me!I learnt that panna cotta is simple to make and perfect make ahead for a party that you have a lot of cooking to do the day before.Just pour the cooked cream mixture into a mold or serving dishes and keep in the fridge to set, then forget all about it until ready to serve to your appreciative guests. What could be better?

The recipe for the panna cotta is posted here and you can see the showcased stunning creations that the other daring bakers came up with ( including mine- yes!!!! the second picture with the two shot glasses was chosen as part of the showcase slideshow on the Daring Bakers site and I am so unreasonably proud!!!) 

The recipe I used which you'll see at the end of this long rambling post was a slight variation, and lower in fat with part yogurt instead of full cream, just because I thought 3 cups of cream when T and I are trying to eat healh(ier) would be too much, plus thats what I had on hand ( you caught me- I hate having to go off to the grocers when I can make do with stuff I do have on hand) 

However I didn't make the florentine cookies that was also part of the challenge recipe. I actually conveniently forgot all about it until it was too late :/ It looks really good though and quite simple to make so I may even try it one of these days!

Vanilla bean yogurt panna cotta with blackberry coulis 
( I only made a half quantity of the following recipe which was more than enough dessert for a few days for T and me, even though the origianl recipe says the yeild is only 6 servings, it could easily serve 12 in smaller portions since panna cotta is quite rich and even though this recipe is slightly less rich being made with a part of yogurt instead of full cream) 
Recipe source: Adapted from a Mario Batali recipe from epicurious here


  • 2 tablespoons water ( not warm water- do not heat) 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 1/4 cups plain goat's-milk or whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ( or half of a vanilla bean slit in the middle and the black sticky matter scraped out with a knife)
  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • Pour 2 tablespoons water into small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until softened, about 15 minutes. 
  • Whisk 1 cup cream, yogurt, and vanilla extract ( if using) in large bowl to blend. 
  • Heat remaining 1 cup cream and 1/2 cup sugar in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and cream comes to simmer. If you are using a vanilla bean, add the scraped part along with the pod- you can remove it later after it has time to infuse the cream while it is still hot. Remove saucepan from heat. 
  • Add gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve gelatin. Mix hot cream-gelatin mixture into yogurt mixture in bowl. Divide mixture among six 3/4-cup ramekins, using about 1/2 cup for each. Or you can pour them into shot glasses or drinking glasses like I did.
  • If you want the cool slanty effect ( see the first picture), simply place the glasses in a tilted position- for example by resting them in an egg box.
  • Refrigerate desserts uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Coulis is just a fancy sounding word for a fruit based sauce and guess what! You can also just thin out some jam or a good preserve to make it! Or you can use fresh or froen fruit, sugar and some lemon juice to make it from scratch as seen on this site here. Me, I had a nearly over jar of black berry preserve that I put to good use:

Blackberry coulis (shortcut method)

  • 1/4 cup blackberry preserve ( use a good quality one with real fruit ofcourse- I pick up some jars from the gourmet foods aisle whenever I go to Marshall's or TJ max for really awesome prices-even less than the supermarket blobs)
  • 1/8 cup water
Mix the preserve with the water in a saucepan and heat gently until well combined. Make sure it doesn't boil. a gentle simmer will do. That's it! You have fancy coulis to pour over your panna cotta, ice cream, chocolate cake, yogurt, puddings or whatever else you please!

The coulis might be too sweet to eat plain so I made sure that I mixed it well with the panna cotta when I was eating to make sure I got a little bit of both together. However T preferred his panna plain. He is the purist while I like mixing things up !- He doesn't even mix curries and sides! He has them one at a time.

I thought the panna cotta wasn't sweet enough and had a slight tang from the yogurt to be eaten as is, so preferred mine with the coulis or even a drizzle of honey or fresh fruit- maybe berries mixed with a little sugar and left to "macerate"- meaning become softened and juicy as the sugar makes the natural juices from the fruit ooze out. 


  1. Looks easy to make. Liked the idea of resting them in an egg box !!!!

  2. Wow, yummy and delicious. Looks easy also.Amazing cliks. Thanks for posting this :)

  3. Thanks ladies! I'm so pleased! Sandra, if you mean using the coulis to top ice cream with. Panna cotta is definitely not ice cream though!

  4. Oh and I'm definitely a changing ice cream personality- one minute all I want is chocolate, then I am in love with pistachio ( only the one at Jeni's) then its salty caramel,then coffee, then mango..Oh and tender coconut! man I so want ice cream now!

  5. Never tried yougurt panacotta before...urs look totally yummy..:-)The topping with blackberries looks soo delicious..
    By the way last weekend, even i had a failed macaroon episode.Atleast ur failed version was still edible...Mine was far far away from edible version sigh sigh...

  6. Thank you for sharing all your baking adventures and nigtmares- very entertaining read! Honestly, we all have such moments :) Magpie, that first picture of the panacotta is beautiful- lovely shot!

  7. Love the recipe and the pics are great too. Especially like the healthy bit :-) that you have added to reduce the guilt (caused by consumption of pure cream). I don't know if you have heard of a cook/ author called Anjum Anand from the UK. I remember her making some steamed yogurt dessert (on the lines of panacotta, she mentioned it was - unless, I have got it completely wrong) and was topped with raspberries. The cream would then have to discarded (sadly). Let me know if you manage to lay your hands on that at all. I'll try to find it too.

  8. Thanks a lot Plateful!,means a lot especially coming from a talented photographer like you!

    Shilpa I do try to reduce the guilt, even if not the calories that I do put on in the end!
    Sounds very interesting about the Anjum Anand recipe. Just googled it.
    Is it this one for Bhapa Doi?

  9. Looks really lovely, pannacotta with yogurt is very creative. Your pictures also looks too good.

  10. Wow.. this looks yummy..Snaps are lovely!!


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