Desserts Wiggly Things / Creamy Things

pumpkin panna cotta

Pumpkin panna cotta: you complete me. You had me at caramelized apples. ::::


When I tell the classic story, the three bears did not eat porridge: they ate pumpkin panna cotta. Goldilocks did not covet the taste of oatmeal but the smooth loveliness of custardy cream and spices, topped with tangy apples. Really. It’s not that I don’t love oatmeal, but come on. Panna cotta wins here.I stumbled on this recipe accidently, in my pursuit of the perfect vanilla panna cotta recipe. After a delightful autumn, embracing various squash, root vegetables, and nibbling peanut butter taffies, I found myself swimming in pounds of leftover roasted pumpkin. And still do, as I dig through the chilly hallows of my freezer even now. And thus, I have an overwhelming urge to feed bears very rich desserts.

The original recipe from Italian kitchen maven Deborah Mele used pears and added a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on top. I wanted the snap of a tangy apple contrasted with the sweetness of the panna cotta. I skipped the whipped cream because the dessert was already very creamy. Because I used homemade roasted pumpkin, I strained the mixture through a sieve to get rid of the stringy pumpkin fibers. Canned pumpkin tends to not be quite as fibery but may still warrant a strain. The straining makes for a smoother consistency. Without straining, the panna cotta tastes a little more gritty and stringy but still has good flavor. Good enough for Goldilocks. And perhaps a bear or two.



pumpkin panna cotta
  • 1½ cups half & half plus ⅓ cup half & half (or milk)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (I originally used brown sugar and found Deborah's maple syrup a better fit for the level of sweetness I wanted.)
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) powdered gelatin
  • Caramelized Apples to top (recipe in Notes section)
  1. Place the ⅓ cup half & half in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Stir gently and leave for 5 minutes to soften.
  2. Combine the remaining half and half in a small saucepan with the sugar and pumpkin, and heat until the mixture just reaches the scalding point but does not boil, whisking often. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Whisk in the gelatin mixture until smooth. Strain through sieve, pushing solids through (as much as you can). I did have some fibery bits left in the sieve that I discarded.
  4. Divide the mixture into 4-6 glasses or ramekins and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (I did it overnight). I felt the divided servings for four were very heavy for a dessert (after a large meal). Using six ramekins and more caramelized fruit had better balance for me. My differently-sized bowls in the photo yielded 5 servings.
Caramelized Apples

1 large or 2 medium apples (Granny Smith or Jonagold work well)
1½ tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ tablespoons sugar (adjust depending on how sweet you want the fruit)

Cut the fruit in half, remove the core and peel. Cut into small dice. In a heavy frying pan heat the butter until bubbling. Add the apples, sugar and cinnamon and stir. Cook over medium heat stirring often until the apples and very tender and obtain a nice golden brown color. Remove from the heat and place in a covered bowl until needed. (Make extra: leftover apples are great on yogurt with a sprinkle of granola.)

To serve, allow the panna cotta to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Spoon on apples. Serve immediately.

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