*This White Chocolate Vanilla Panna Cotta with Rhubarb is vegan and free of dairy & refined sugars.
When it comes to rhubarb, my town is completely unaware of it’s existence, apparently. Well, at least the grocery stores are. Every year it’s the same. Spring time hits and I keep my eyes peeled for those long, dark pink stalks each time I go shopping. I expand my circle of stores in hopes of finding it at a market that I don’t normally frequent.
Every year the result is the same:
Last year we had a natural market open up and it’s become my favorite place to shop. There I was, popping in for a bag of turbinado sugar on Saturday, when I made the fateful decision to give the produce section a quick scan. Beautiful red beets, golden beets the color of sunshine, rainbow carrots with grass green tops, crisp watermelon radishes, knoby knarled hands of Buddha, vibrant fushia stalks of rhubarb…….wait, what?
Rhubarb. The elusive vegetable was suddenly right in front of my face and I wasn’t even looking for it.
I guess miracles do happen.
Also, maybe I should consider just planting some rhubarb plants in my garden. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with the yearly hunt.
Anyway, I bought as much as I felt I could get away with (I hate to take all of something so special, in case someone else is in the same boat as I am) and started plotting all the ways I could use it.
I knew for sure that I wanted to stew some of it in a syrup. Rhubarb imparts the most beautiful pink shade to the liquid it’s simmered in. And what better canvas for a pretty pink syrup than a simple panna cotta?
I wanted to try making a vegan panna cotta this time, since I’ve made my share of conventional ones. In place of gelatin I used agar agar, which is an algae-based thickening agent. Clear and powdered, it firms up liquids and is much more powerful than gelatin. You need much less agar agar to have the same effect as you would with gelatin.
I wanted to use cacao butter for a nice white chocolate flavor instead of using white chocolate which is full of additives and sugar. I used 1 teaspoon of agar agar, which, when melted with the cacao butter, kept everything emulsified and resulted in a firm, white chocolate flavored panna cotta.
You can serve the panna cotta in jars topped with the rhubarb and syrup, or you can chill them in molds and serve them unmolded with the syrup on top or around the side. I actually preferred them unmolded, because the texture was firmer than a traditional panna cotta and it was fun to slice away at the perfect dome of gelled white chocolate with a spoon.
*do note that this panna cotta will not have the same texture as a gelatin-based panna cotta. Agar agar has a different texture and makes this panna cotta firmer than a gelatin would. If you want to replace the agar agar with gelatin you will need about 1 1/2 teaspoons of it. Because agar agar sets so quickly it helps to keep the cocoa butter emulsified – if you replace it with gelatin you may end up with the cocoa butter separating and floating to the top of the panna cottas before they are set.
For those wanting a tutorial on how to make the rhubarb rosettes, I will get a video up shortly demonstrating how to make them.
More Panna Cotta?
- 1 can Full-fat Coconut Milk
- 4 tablespoons Maple Syrup (or agave syrup)
- 2 tablespoons Cacao butter, finely chopped
- ½ Vanilla Bean, sliced in half, seeds scraped
- 1 teaspoon Agar Agar, powdered
- 3 Rhubarb Stalks
- ½ cup Raw Cane Sugar
- ¼ cup Reisling Wine (water can also be used)
- Place the coconut milk, maple syrup, cacao butter, vanilla bean and agar agar in a small saucepan. Heat on medium high, whisking occasionally, until the cacao butter is melted and agar agar is full dissolved. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat. Remove the vanilla bean and divide the mixture between 4-6 small jars or molds. Place in the fridge and chill for 2-3 hours.
- Peel the rhubarb into thick ribbons with a potato peeler and place in a saucepan with the sugar and wine. Bring to a boil, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Boil for about 30 seconds and remove from heat.
- Remove the strips of rhubarb from the syrup and let cool.
- When rhubarb is cool, loosely coil the strips around your finger, using about 3-4 strips, until you form a rosette.
- Place the rosette on top of a jar of panna cotta (or an unmolded panna cotta). Repeat with the remaining strips until all panna cottas are topped with rosettes. Drizzle the syrup on top of the panna cottas.
- Serve cold.