Vegan Vanilla Peach Panna Cotta
How is your Summer going? Because I know there's been a lot of suffering and pain and insanity on the media. But here, from where I stand, the air is sweet. The bugs are creaking and tittering and tumbling over dewy stalks of grass. There is a bit of sun overlooking clouds. And I have a body which moves through reality like a ship cuts through water.
And isn't the point of it all to appreciate the joy and comedy of the infinite, unending theatre of being?
Aren't we here to love and be loved? To drink the sparkling waters? To climb mountains and wonder at the perfectly imperfect nature of glorious moments come and gone?
Here to step into the flow, to ride the wave, to create and be created?
I've had many moments this year when I thought to myself: "what is the point of doing what I do? What's the point of doing anything if ultimately we all become dust. Our story is lost. Our ancestors forget. Our planet is destined to be consumed by a brilliant and hungry sun."
And that's when my gut tells me, reminds me, you're here to experience it all. To feel the joy and the sorrow. To fall in love with presence. To create like a child who is awake to the beauty of all things.
I sometimes want to shake people and say DON'T YOU KNOW YOU'RE EXISTENCE IS AN INCREDIBLE, IMPOSSIBLE, BEAUTIFUL MIRACLE???
But mostly I just translate that energy into a loving smile. Or a hug. Or a butt pat. Depends on who I'm talking to.
A lot of what I do with food comes from this place. That flow state. Transcendent, alive peacefulness in motion. What I would generally call good vibes. And out of this flow state, this vibe state comes all sorts of wonderful things. Recipes, mostly. That pop into my mind like a million bubbles. One and then another and then another. Occasionally I'll see one very clearly, reach out and hold it. Gently. So as not to break it. Look it over, roll it around.
This vegan vanilla peach panna cotta came from one of those sparkling thought bubbles.
It took some testing. And plenty of research. And months of rolling the idea around in my head.
But now that it's glorious, deep Summer with that languid heat like a hot stone settling into your chest... now it's time. Time for the most perfect, easy, cool Vegan Vanilla Peach Panna Cotta recipe. Made with peaches so ripe they cleave beneath your fingers and fill the room with fragrance.
This panna cotta is my favorite dessert of the season, so far. Creamy, cool, quick. Subtly flavored with vanilla bean, ripe peach and lemon zest. Sweet but not too sweet. And amazing topped simply with some crunchy maple-sweetened buckwheat groats. Or chopped nuts. Or a punchy compote.
I've made my Vegan Vanilla Peach Panna Cotta with agar agar. Which is infamously testy. As a substitute for gelatin, there's no equal. But it's certainly not the same beast.
Agar agar is more powerful than gelatin, tablespoon for tablespoon.
Gelatin is known for providing a soft, round, melting quality to foods. We've all had Jello, right? The gelatin in Jello provides a crisp bond but remains soft and jiggly from spoon to mouth to belly.
Whereas agar agar "bonds vertically and cleaves horizontally." Which means too much agar agar and you end up with a taught, unpleasant, hard puddin'.
I won't get too deep into it seeing how Food52 just did a whole write up on agar agar. With tips and tricks and all of that.
My main point is that you definitely want to use agar powder in this recipe, not agar flakes. I use this agar agar powder from Now foods.
My secondary point being that a little goes a long way. 1 tablespoon of agar powder is enough to set 7-8 cups of custard.
The resulting custard is soft and creamy, like traditional panna cotta. (Albeit less rich and dense.) It will actually unmould from your cups or moulds with just a little bit of tapping and gentle prying. It's kind of insanely dreamy, watching those jiggly panna cottas plop onto the servings plates.
I hope you all enjoy this Vegan Vanilla Peach Panna Cotta recipe as much as I do! I've eaten so much of this during my testing period. So much. Now I just need to come up with a berry and chocolate version!
Vegan Vanilla Peach Panna Cotta
Created by Renee on August 4, 2016
Note: make sure you’re using agar agar powder for this, not flakes. I use the NOW foods brand. Also, set-up time for the panna cotta varies. Smaller moulds set up faster, larger moulds set up slower. So total recipe time ranges from 30 mins to 1 hour 10 mins.
- Cook Time: 10m
- Total Time: 1h 10m
- Yield: ~8 cups custard
- 4 cups full fat coconut milk (2 13 oz cans coconut milk)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup + more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamom
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- pinch sea salt
- 1 tablespoon agar agar powder
- 3 cups very ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped roughly
- 1/3 cup raw buckwheat groats
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ~1 tablespoon lemon zest
- edible flowers (I used blossoming mint from my garden)
Optional garnish: Maple Cinnamon Buckinis
- Lightly oil your moulds or glasses with coconut oil or another neutral-flavored high quality oil. This step is particularly important if you’re planning on un-moulding your panna cotta, but doesn’t really matter if you’ll be eating it directly out of a cup.
- Scrape the seeds from your vanilla bean pod. Reserve the pod.
- To a medium-large saucepan, add the coconut milk, vanilla bean seeds + whole vanilla bean pod, cinnamon and lemon zest and a tiny pinch of salt. Whisk everything together. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally.
- Once simmering, cut off the heat and remove the vanilla bean pod, discarding it.
- Add the agar agar powder 1/2 teaspoon at a time, whisking vigorously while doing so. Cut the heat back on and, whisking slowly and constantly, bring the mixture just up to a boil. Immediately remove the pot from heat.
- Add the peaches to the custard. Using a metal immersion blender, blend everything together until very smooth — making sure to submerge the immersion blender blades fully to keep it from splattering. You could also use a high powered blender with a heat-safe glass blender cup.
- Pour the panna cotta custard into your molds. Tap the molds on the counter a couple of times to pop any bubbles that may have formed on top.
- Set in the freezer to cool. The panna cotta is ready when it’s fully cool. Smaller moulds set up quickly (as quickly as 20 minutes). Large molds can take up to an hour.
- To remove the panna cotta from your moulds, flip your mould upside down and tap it a couple of times on the plate / platter on which you’ll be serving. Then gently pry the panna cotta from the moulds using a sharp knife, setting the knife just at the edge of the panna cotta and pulling down. It should slip right out of the mould quite easily.
- Optional garnish: Stir together the buckwheat groats, maple syrup and cinnamon. Top your panna cotta with the groats equally. Top with lemon zest and edible flowers or mint leaves as you like. Dig in!