A quick and easy cherry compote topping a vanilla yoghurt panna cotta is the perfect combination of flavours. Sure to be a fruity fave, this simple make ahead dessert is perfect for a weekday treat but also elegant enough for dinner parties.
Easy Bourbon Cherry Compote Recipe
When I think of cherries, I tend to think of brandy. My bourbon cherry compote is inspired by my family's homemade brandy recipe and provides a great cherry topping to panna cotta.
How to make cherry sauce for panna cotta:
Unlike jams or jellies, compote is more of a thick sauce and doesn't need to set. Traditionally, compotes are fruit stewed in water and sugar, with spices. For my recipe, you only need:
The measurements for each of these can be to taste, but I found a ratio of 1½ cups pitted, halved cherries, 1½ tablespoons of brandy and an equal 1½ tablespoons of sugar created a sauce that was both sweet enough and thick enough with a light punch from the bourbon.
Tips for making this cherry topping:
- Cook low and slow for best flavours. The longer you allow your compote to simmer, the thicker it will become in reducing and the more flavour that will be packed into it.
- Make sure the sugar dissolves before boiling. Sugar that fails to dissolve in the bourbon and fruit juices can crystallise if cooked at too high a heat too soon.
- Add fresh cracked black pepper. The pepper will provide a lightly spiced depth to the flavour and compliments the cherries.
Panna Cotta made with Yoghurt
My panna cotta recipe is based off of the Barefoot Contessa's fantastic vanilla and balsamic strawberry panna cotta. Her's was the first panna cotta I ever made! After years of trying different versions, I stand firmly behind using a mixture of yoghurt and heavy cream.
Why make panna cotta with yoghurt
The yoghurt along with the heavy cream adds to the creaminess of the panna cotta and also the stability, without having to increase the amount of gelatine.
Using gelatine powder in panna cotta
Gelatine comes in either powder or leaves. You can use either in panna cottas to help set the dessert, but I prefer working with the powder as I find this dissolves more smoothly in the mix.
In order to you gelatine, you have to first 'bloom' this, which is a process of soaking the gelatine in water. This softens the gelatine and enables it to melt easily into the simmering liquid when it is time to add this.
It is important that gelatine should be sprinkled over the surface of a small bowl of water. Do not add the water on top of the gelatine. By sprinkling over the surface this allows the gelatine to absorb the water and soften.
Easy panna cotta process
This is essentially a one bowl and one pan recipe.
- You will need a bowl to mix the yoghurt, half the cream and the vanilla.
- The rest of the heavy cream and sugar is heated until simmering over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Then remove from the heat.
- Add the softened gelatine to the warm mixture to dissolve.
- Pour the gelatine mixture into the cool mix slowly, mixing well until smooth.
Easy to serve panna cotta
Panna cotta is frequently made in moulds, which require the set cream to be released and presented on a plate. An easier and no less elegant way to serve this is in glassware or tea cups. This eliminates the need to grease the moulds and worry about the mix releasing smoothly.
In order to prepare the panna cotta for this, decant it carefully into the chosen glasses. Don't worry too much about any drips as these can be wiped away with a damp cloth once the mixture is evenly distributed.
Tap each glass a few times on the surface of a table to help air bubbles come to the surface and use a toothpick to burst these.
Cover in cling film and chill. Once set, these can be topped with compote and served as they are, without additional plating, for my cherry panna cotta.
Alternatives to Try
Panna cotta is one of those desserts that offers infinite versatility. You can mix and match flavours and toppings to find new favourites all the time. Some suggestions I have:
- Try different fruit toppings. Peach compote, grilled pineapple or a salted caramel would all go well with the vanilla panna cotta recipe here.
- Alternative flavours for the panna cotta itself. Vanilla may be the most classic, but you can easily add spices or other flavours to the yoghurt mix.
- Panna cotta is a gluten free dessert by nature.
- Panna cottas can also be made vegan or dairy free, by replacing the dairy products with dairy free yoghurt and dairy free cream. You will also need to ensure that you are using an appropriate vegan gelatine powder.
Yes, you can make this recipe with single cream and/or low fat yoghurt, but this may impact the flavour and creaminess. The higher fat contents will yield a creamier panna cotta which sets more firmly.
Yes, absolutely - this recipe is easily doubled if needed (or scaled for more/less servings).
Vanilla bean paste is essentially a cross between a vanilla bean and conventional vanilla extract. It is vanilla bean preserved in a syrup. If you aren't able to find vanilla bean paste, you can either substitute for a similar amount of vanilla extract or a scraped vanilla bean. I would recommend using 1 scraped vanilla bean and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract as this will give the flavour along with the tiny vanilla bean specks in the dessert.
If you like this recipe, find some more panna cotta inspiration:
Cherry Panna Cotta
Ingredients for Cherry Compote
- 1½ cups cherries, halved and deseeded
- 1½ tablespoon bourbon
- 1½ tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Ingredients for Vanilla Panna Cotta
- 1 teaspoon powdered gelatine
- 1½ tablespoon water
- 1½ cups heavy (double) cream
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- 2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ⅓ cup sugar
Instructions for the Cherry Compote
- Place cherries, sugar and bourbon in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the cherries begin to break down.
- Once the mixture begins to boil, continue cooking over a medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh cracked pepper, stir to incorporate and then remove from the heat.
- Decant the compote into a heat proof bowl or jar and allow to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Instructions for Panna Cotta
- Add the 1½ tablespoon of water to a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine powder evenly over top. Set aside for about 10 minutes to allow the gelatine to bloom.
- In a large bowl, whisk together ¾ cup of the heavy cream with the yoghurt and vanilla bean paste and set aside.
- In a saucepan, heat the remaining ¾ cup of cream with the sugar over a medium heat, stirring until the mixture is simmering and the sugar has dissolved.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the softened gelatine and stir until dissolved.
- Slowly pour the heated mixture into the bowl with the yoghurt and cream, whisking to combine.
- Ladle the mixture evenly into four glasses or decorative tea cups. Cover these with cling film and refrigerate for about 4 hours (or overnight) until set.
- To serve, remove the cling film and spoon the chilled compote evenly on top of each.
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