Dark chocolate panna cotta with raspberries and acacia-honey syrup

February 11, 2010

Dark chocolate panna cotta

Being a chocolate lover for life, it’s hard for me to think of making anything but a chocolate dessert for Valentine’s Day. So every year, I venture to create a dessert that oozes with pure chocolate flavor.

This Sunday, I’ll be serving a dark-chocolate panna cotta to my Valentine – a not-too-sweet, unctuous custard that feels like velvet on your tongue and fills your mouth with deep, rich chocolate flavor.

If this flavor-bomb of a dessert alone isn’t enough to lure you into making it for your own special someone, consider that it takes a mere 15 minutes to prepare! That means you’ll be able to devote more time to your Valentine, and less time fussing in the kitchen.

On a side (if less-romantic) note, I use agar-agar* – a gelatinous substance derived from seaweed – as a thickener in this recipe. It’s very versatile and easy to use, yet extremely powerful, hence my precise measurements in the recipe.

To me, the perfect panna cotta is less than firm – a custard that barely holds together and falls apart as soon as you dig your spoon into it. And it should be creamy to a fault.

Blowing a chocolate wish your way for a sinfully delicious Valentine’s Day!

* Powdered agar-agar can be found in most health food stores.

Alba Vineyard Red Raspberry Wine

Alba Vineyard, Red Raspberry Wine

What chocolate is to Valentine’s Day, raspberries are to chocolate! A dessert wine infused with raspberry notes seems de rigueur for this dark-chocolate panna cotta. So what better choice than a wine made entirely of raspberries?

The Alba Vineyard Red Raspberry Wine is a perfect match to today’s dessert. Mine arrived at my door — a gift from my dear friend Robert, who has always been my partner in chocolate crime!

Made entirely with premium whole raspberries, Alba Vineyard’s Red Raspberry Wine is intense and luscious, with pure, unadulterated raspberry notes. It’s a little sweet and yet a little tart. Sipped between spoonfuls of the chocolate panna cotta, its flavor unfolds and deepens. A very pleasing – maybe even addictive – pairing!

Dark chocolate panna cotta with raspberries and acacia-honey syrup

serves 6
active time: 20 min

For the custard

  1. 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  2. 1 1/4 cups milk
  3. 2 tablespoons organic sugar
  4. 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon powdered agar-agar
  5. 8 oz (227gr) semi-sweet chocolate – (preferably Valrhona, Scharffen Berger or Callebaut) cut in 1/4” pieces

For the syrup

  1. 1/4 cup acacia honey
  2. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. 1 pt fresh raspberries
  2. fresh mint leaves as garnish
  3. powdered sugar as garnish
  4. 6–1/2 cup capacity ramequins

  1. Step 1: In a medium saucepan combine the cream, milk and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the agar-agar powder, reduce heat to medium and slow-simmer for 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and add the chocolate pieces. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes until the chocolate has dissolved, and whisk until well blended.
  2. Step 2: Pour the custard into the molds, filling them almost to the top and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the custards for at least 4 hours or overnight, until set.
  3. Cook’s note: The custards can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
  4. Step 3: When ready to serve – In a small saucepan, heat the honey and lemon juice over medium heat until warm and liquidy, about 15 seconds (do not boil). Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Step 4: Fill a baking dish with hot water. Run a paring knife between each custard and the edge of its mold. Then place the ramequins in the baking dish filled with hot water for 1 minute (this will help loosen the custards and make it easier to unmold them). Remove the ramequins from the hot water bath and wipe the bottoms clean. Invert on a dessert plate and gently shake until the custards slip out of their molds. Top with a few raspberries. Drizzle with the syrup. Garnish with a mint leaf and dust with the powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

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Panna cotta’s French cousin is the crème brûlée. Here’s an elegant version: Pumpkin crème brûlée with fresh ginger and cinnamon.

dessert, chocolate, panna cotta
© 2011 Viviane Bauquet Farre Food & Style NY LLC

Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

wifsie February 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm

That is the way of keeping a Valentine around for many more desserts! Wonderful!


savorysimple February 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm

That looks lovely. I love panna cotta.


Divina February 11, 2010 at 8:04 pm

You just describe this dessert perfectly and this is really a perfect dessert for Valentine’s day. Very romantic.


Robert February 11, 2010 at 8:06 pm

If that does not melt your lover’s heart, then it is time to get divorce counsel. Truly, a magnificent combination–chocolate and raspberries.


Eli the Fanatic February 11, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I would drizzle either a port wine reduction or dark chocolate sauce over it, but then again I drizzle the above on my eggs ;-)

Love the recipe…looks like I’m “Dooned” to try it!


Chelsea Connolly February 11, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Wow, this sounds wonderful. Chocolate and raspberrys for Valentine’s Day is perfect! :-)


Susan at SGCC February 12, 2010 at 9:13 am

Your panna cotta looks divine! You should score some serious jewelry for this one! ;)


Christine @ Fresh Local and Best February 12, 2010 at 10:07 am

This panna cotta looks absolutely divine!


Sophia February 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm

You are such an artist in the kitchen! It looks so delicious! I love using dark chocolate in my desserts. I think it is so under-appreciated! Here is my fave dessert recipe:


Jen February 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

What a beautiful dessert. My husband gave me a big bar of baking chocolate for Christmas and I ended up making pudding with it. Maybe I’ll get another one for Valentine’s Day and can try this. I’ve never made panna cotta.


Tokyo Terrace February 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm

This is just gorgeous! I love chocolate panacotta- it is such an elegant dessert. Your photos are beautiful and make it look even more elegant with the glasses of dessert wine. Great post!


Dana Treat February 13, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. I have never actually had panna cotta because of the gelatin. I hadn’t known exactly how to substitute agar agar, so I just didn’t try. I am bookmarking this for sure. On a side note, I was served a savory panna cotta on a veg plate at a restaurant and I asked the server to find out if it had gelatin. Sure enough, it did. Can’t believe they didn’t do their homework!


Claudia February 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Such chocolatey-creamy goodness – perfect for “the day.” Perfect for soothing the winter beast. Loving it! Oh – and raspberries – don’t get me going on the raspberries…


Anna February 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Wow, That looks awesome, must be very yummy. :-)


wine blog February 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Looks like a great food and wine pairing. I’ve never tasted this wine before, I’ll have to check out the Alba website. Cheers~


Fuji Mama February 17, 2010 at 1:43 am

Mmmmmm, perfect idea for a romantic dessert! I love your description of “being creamy to a fault”–perfectly described!


Viviane Bauquet Farre February 18, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Dana – I too, was very happy to discover agar agar a few years back. If you decide to use it in other recipes, remember that a little goes a very long way!

Tokyo Terrace – I am very glad you like the photos…. I managed to get a little ray of sun for these pictures – a rare occurrence in our frigid winter months!

Everyone – your comments just make my day… make me smile… and make me want to make more of these luscious dark chocolate panna cotta… We had them 3 days in a row and I still want more! Who says Valentine’s Day can only be celebrated for one day each year?!


Joy Zhang February 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm

What a beautiful dessert Viviane — such elegance and sophistication! I absolutely adore panna cotta so I can imagine if I made this I would eat all of it in one sitting, well with the help of my fiance of course haha. Lovely, absolutely lovely!


Alessio February 20, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Viviane, this is one of the first panna-cotta recipe using agaragar that I read; I will have to try it I always get my jelly too stiff (left alone agar jelly that if too stiff can easy jump off the floor). What about the fridge? Since agar doesn’t need such low temperature as gelatin to gel, do you think it would set at room temperature?


Viviane Bauquet Farre February 22, 2010 at 9:35 am

Alex, I’ve never tried to let the panna cotta set at room temperature. I’m always concerned about food safety, so I like to refrigerate the panna cotta as soon as they have cooled down. But you should give it a try. For me, it’s about using as little agar-agar as possible so that it barely holds the custards together. I love the panna cotta to be very creamy and “loose”… Let me know if you experiment with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for your comment!


Rajesh November 6, 2010 at 11:55 am

This looks divine!


Gina Hamlyn April 11, 2011 at 10:52 am

Could leaf gelatine or powder gelatine work instead of the agar agar? If so in what measurements (metric if you can please).


Sreeram December 6, 2011 at 7:45 pm

This is awesome. I was looking for this recipe indeed. No gelatin and no eggs!!! Got to try this now. Thanks


Sreeram December 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Unfortunately I got agar agar flakes. My first attempt with exact same ingredients/procedure back fired. I saw the flakes didnt dissolve in the liquid fully. Any recommendation on how to use agar agar flakes please?



Viviane December 31, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Dear Sreeram, I’m very sorry to hear! I haven’t used the flakes because they are not as reliable as the powder… But I will test the recipe with them and report back to you. It might be a while though. Next week my kitchen is being demolished for renovations… So I won’t get access to my pots and pans for a few weeks!

Meanwhile I wish you and yours a very happy and delicious New Year!


sreeram January 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Thanks Viviane. I tried with agar agar flakes amount in tablespoons ie 1/4 + 1/8 tablespoon. I left it in the milk for 15min and then started heating the ingredients (with sugar and heavy cream). The problems I saw was it has to heat (after boiling at high) in medium heat for about 15mins for the flakes to dissolve fully!!!! By then the concoction starts to reduce making it thick which is undesirable :(

I have two questions
1) Do you cool down the liquid in ramekins to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator?
2) I saw skin formed when I took out the ramekin from refrigerator. Any idea on how to avoid this? It was thick.

Thanks once again.


Viviane January 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Hi Sreeram, I tried to buy agar agar flakes at my local health food store a couple of days ago, just so that I could test this dessert with them… but alas they didn’t have them, they only carry the powder. I’ll have to look further a field, and unfortunately there’s no time for me to do this before my kitchen renovations start! So I am sorry that I won’t be able to help you with this for a few weeks. But have no fear we will get to the bottom of making these agar agar flakes work properly!

Now to answer your questions:
1/ Yes, as describe in Step 2 of the recipe. Pour the custard in the molds and let cool to room temperature before you refrigerate them.
2/ Do not worry about the skin that forms on the custards. All milk-based custard will do this and there’s no way to prevent it. It will not affect the flavor or texture in any way. This is on of the reasons I like to unmold the panna cotta and serve them up-side-down.

Thank you… and stay tuned!


Donna Ford February 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Viviane, I love everything about this recipe and I look forward to tasting it! Thank you! Have a great weekend.


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