Sugar-Free Vanilla Panna Cotta

Panacotta with raspberries
ShyMan/istockphoto
Total Time 195 min
Prep 15 min, Cook 180 min
Yield 5 servings (335 calories each)

Panna cotta is a very simple Italian dessert to make and can be flavored in many ways. It is a mixture of sweetened cream and powdered gelatin and results in a sort of custard. Panna cotta in Italian means "cooked cream," and, although the ingredients are often cooked on the stovetop, they are really just warmed enough for the gelatin to dissolve. This recipe makes the dissolving even easier by using boiling water, eliminating the stovetop altogether. Instead of the cream being sweetened with refined sugar, this recipe uses a sugar substitute (such as stevia) to allow those of us who are watching our sugar intake to enjoy such a luscious dessert.

This is a basic vanilla ​panna cotta, which is great topped with fresh berries or a berry sauce. You can make it in ramekins or custard cups and unmold it directly onto a plate or bowl, or pour it into wine glasses or other smallish glasses and serve it that way. Feel free to try other flavorings such as coffee or rum in place of the vanilla. 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened gelatin powder
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Sugar substitute, such as stevia, equal to 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the cold water in a bowl and let soften for several minutes. Then add the boiling water and stir until gelatin is totally dissolved (a fork works well).
  2. Combine dissolved gelatin with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to mix completely, and taste. Adjust flavors to your liking. 
  3. Pour mixture into custard cups, ramekins, or glasses. Chill completely—it will take 3 to 4 hours until completely set. The resulting dessert is "delicately gelled"—not as firm as a "Jell-o" type dessert but nicely congealed.

    Ingredient Notes and Serving Suggestions

    Stevia is a noncaloric herb that is made into both a powder and a liquid and is very, very sweet. Only a small amount is needed to achieve the same amount of sweetness you would get from refined sugar. The general rule of thumb is for every 1 cup of sugar you need 1 teaspoon of stevia. However, the level of sweetness can differ depending on ​manufacturer, so you will need to taste the stevia before determining how much you will need in a recipe. ​

    Serve this sugar-free panna cotta with fresh or frozen berries with or without a simple berry sauce. To make a raspberry sauce, simply thaw frozen raspberries and add sweetener to taste. Mix well until it is a sauce consistency. If you'd like, strain the seeds out by forcing the berries through a strainer into a bowl. Other berry sauces to try are easy three berry sauce and sugar-free strawberry topping.
     

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