Earl Grey creme tea blends beautifully with the luscious creamy texture of panna cotta, and provides a multi-layer taste experience. First you taste the cream, followed by caramel sweet honey and then a powerful hit of Earl Grey tea that lingers on the tongue with its distinctive notes of Bergamot. When you add a mocha whipped cream on top, the flavors explode in a rather marvelous combination of tastes that are at once familiar and unique.
Panna cotta is dead easy to make. Simply heat heavy cream, tea leaves, orange zest, and honey until it just begins to simmer, then remove from the heat to let it steep and allow all those flavors to mingle. Stir in gelatin powder, then strain to remove the larger tea leaves and any undissolved bits of gelatin. Pour into the cups or bowls of your choosing, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. That's it!
Stir Things Up
If you aren't a coffee fan, don't worry about making the mocha whipped cream. Stick with plain cocoa whipped cream, or play off the citrus notes of the Earl Grey tea and add orange or lemon zest to the cream and a drizzle of orange extract. Vanilla whipped cream is also a lovely topping for this dessert, and almond pairs deliciously, too. Top the cream with a sprinkle of toasted nuts or caramelized ginger.
If Earl Grey isn't your cup of tea, experiment with all sorts of varieties until you find a combination that delights your palate. Try a fruity tea such as peach or pear and top it with ginger whipped cream, or a dessert tea with nutty flavors of almond or hazelnut. A nutty tea panna cotta would go beautifully with both the cocoa and mocha whipped creams. If spicy is your thing, try a cinnamon tea or a good chai tea heady with cardamom and cloves. Top a spiced tea panna cotta with vanilla whipped cream.
If you struggle with dairy products, make your panna cotta with decadent coconut milk. It makes a voluptuously smooth panna cotta that lingers meltingly on the tongue. Just be sure to reduce the honey since the coconut milk is already sweet.
While panna cotta is delicious on its own, you may want to offset the creamy texture and flavor with something crunchy or crispy. Tender butter cookies are a lovely addition, especially when they're made with coarsely chopped nuts or shards of cocoa nibs to give them extra crunch.
Wafer cookies or scrolls that shatter when you bite into them are one option that provides an excellent texture foil for the creamy panna cotta. They're also lovely for dipping so you get the best of both desserts in one scrumptious bite.
What is your favorite flavor of panna cotta?
Earl Grey Panna Cotta with Mocha Whipped Cream
Mocha Whipped Cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
- 1 tablespoon real maple syrup
Take the first measure of heavy cream and gently stir in cocoa powder, coffee powder, and maple syrup until combined and smooth, but do not whip. Cover and place in fridge until ready to whip.
In a medium saucepan add the second measure of heavy cream, tea leaves, orange zest, and honey from the honey sticks. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, just until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and let steep 2-3 minutes.
Return to stove top on low heat (don't let it simmer), sprinkle gelatin powder over the cream mixture, and stir with a whisk just until the mixture warms and gelatin is dissolved.
Pour mixture through a fine sieve (this will remove undissolved gelatin and most of the tea leaves), then pour into individual bowls or cups. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
Just before serving, remove the mocha cream from fridge and whip until soft peaks form. Spoon about 1/4 cup onto each bowl of panna cotta and dust with a sprinkling of cocoa powder.
all photos courtesy of author