Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cocoa Panna Cotta With Custard Sauce

Another dessert from our holiday menu, this one putting a beautiful finish on Christmas dinner, comes straight from Leite's Culinaria. The recipe can be found here and in the marvelous cookbook The Essence of Chocolate, by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger.

I changed just one thing in the recipe, substituting Splenda granular for the sugar in the custard sauce. Because the panna cotta itself begins with caramelizing sugar, one must use granulated sugar or it won't work.

This panna cotta, or "cooked cream", is absolutely delightful: silky smooth with a just-sweet-enough-but-still-bitter cocoa and caramel flavor that marries perfectly with the smooth custard sauce. It was the perfect finish to a rather rich leg of lamb dinner (subject of a near-future post.)

Be sure to make it well in advance so it can chill in the fridge.

I must admit to having had one problem: I had a heck of a time getting the panna cottas to unmold from their souffle cups. Whether this had to do with the molds themselves or is a flaw of the recipe, I don't know. I'll be trying it again and when I do, I'll wipe a very thin film of light oil on the inside of the molds.

One more note: This recipe is very easy to make. When I found that one recipe wouldn't fill enough molds for my dinner guests, I was able to quickly whip up another batch.
Another note: Why didn't I type out the recipe for you? Well, David Leite, a dear man and my first food-writing teacher, has a really big thing about usurping copyrighted material from his web site, and from that of others as well, and from cookbooks. This list goes on.
According to my research while taking his on-line class, and the findings of others, recipes fall into a VERY gray area of copyright law, in that a list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted but the written instructions, or artistic expression, on how to assemble said list can, to put it very simplistically.
If you've been reading by blog for any length of time, you will know that I print recipes from all over the place, always giving credit where credit is due. Still, out of respect for my teacher's feelings on the issue, I do not take any recipes verbatim or otherwise from his site.
Plus, this way I get to plug Davis, his delightful writing and Leite's Culinaria by inviting you to click on the links I've provided and give him a visit.


  1. Wow.

    That's all I can say - this looks tasty.

  2. I really like the idea of just referring to the author to get the recipes-then I also like to see everyones adaptations!I do worry some about what I read all over the blog-kingdom and hope that most respect the rights of the recipe they are using. It is indeed a very gray area. Sometime in the future this could get really sticky-until then,we will need to remain creative in our written expressions! A very nice dessert you made, by the way-I think a gentle swipe of oil in the molds will do the trick!

  3. I came by to wish you a sweet, sweet 2007! All the best to you and yours.

  4. Mmm thats looks delicious Christine.

  5. this looks great, a tasty new year's treat! I had a taste of a vert different panna cotta the other night at Craigie St. Bistrot in Cambridge. It was flavored with sweetened fennel, an interesting twist.

  6. It is something I think about every time I put something up. I know I recreating with only some small twists sometimes. This is a good reference.
    Beautiful coca-panna-cotta!
    Happy New Year.

  7. What a lovely dessert!

  8. Hi Christine !
    This dissert is very,very seducing ... How you make it iv such perfectly round form.

  9. That looks luscious. I adore panna cotta -- discovered it only this past year!

  10. I guess you all liked the panna cotta, hmmm?
    I can assure you it's as good and delicious as it looks. And it looks even better in the photo on Leite's Culinaria where they actually used real panna cotta molds.
    I used 4-ounce souffle dishes and will, as Jann suggests, wipe them with a thin film of oil the next time I make them.
    i'm also going to search out some cute molds that will make these and other panna cottas more photogenic.
    Thanks for all your comments. Your visits mean so much to me.

  11. It looks fabulous--thank you. You had quite a feast over the holidays.

    As an attorney, I agree it's a very gray area. I know that some cookbook writers don't care, as long as credit is given to them. One told me that she appreciated the "publicity" because it inspires people to buy her books. But, not all people feel that way and it's good to respect their wishes.

  12. Hi there Sher,
    You are such a fantastic cook that I often forget you're an attorney also. Good to know if we bloggers get into hot water! Yeah, I know, bad pun!

  13. How Splenda of you to include this one! I'll have to make it for the Bear, who is a big fan of flan-type desserts. Now that the holidays are over, how about some canning recipes? Seems like a good pastime for those dark winter days. Our neighbors just gave us the most fabulous piccalilli--almost as good as Skip's. Happy New Year! Niece #1

  14. You are indeed Niece #1! Happy Belated Birthday to you. I hope you celebrated in the grand style that this particular milestone demands. I'll be joining you in a few days, as you well know - yikes! However did we get here?

    I think Mother kept all the canning genes to herself. Or maybe gave them all to Di. I don't can. I CAN. But I don't.
    I am, however, going to try to caramelize the Splenda-sugar blend to see if it will work for the panna cotta. Will report back soon.
    xoxo #5

  15. Another beautiful-looking dish! Wow!


  16. Happy New Year!


  17. I agree with Jann, and I thank Christine for commenting on this in her post. My philosophy (which has changed since I started blogging) is to use link to online recipes when I can and encourage people to buy the cookbook when I can't.

    I learn from all of you every day. Thanks.

  18. I'm with you on the grayness of copyright issues when it comes to food. How many different recipes do you think exist for, say, osso buco? Do you think every single chef just happened on the same basic idea and ingredients and then just happened to call it osso buco? No. Everybody borrows and improvises. That's the nature of cooking.

    That said, like you, I am also a firm believer in giving credit to any recipe I've adapted and made my own.

    Recently, there was an interesting article [in the New York Times, maybe?] about how ghost writers for celebrity chefs get none of the credit that ghost writers assisting athletes and other celebrities do. And often, they work much harder, taking vague, restaurant-scaled recipes and working them into something accurate and repeatable for home cooks.

  19. Thanks Paz. Happy New Year to you also!

    Thanks Mimi. We all learn from one another, which is why I believe that the Internet is the one truly great equalizer on the planet.

    Terry, You're absolutely right about recipes. Plus, how many different ways can you say, "boil in the pan..."?
    If you haven't done so yet, do click on the link in the word "findings" and read his post about this subject.


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