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Chocolate Almond Pana Cotta with Ginger Snap Tuile

Three chocolate panna cottas with some pear syrup jelly, over a black slate

Hi.  My name is Harmony and I’m a dairy addict. I dream about mounds of real dairy ice cream topped with fresh whipped cream, oozing milk chocolate. I cannot resist crispy butter cookies or a velvety custard. Yet I have often turned up my nose to many Parve desserts. ‘No, thank you. I’m full.’  A pastry chef who turns down desserts?  Say it isn’t so!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love dessert and I enjoy sampling all different kinds of confections, amusing my palate. It is just rare to find a Parve dessert that can measure up.  But I love a challenge and finding substitutions that taste just as great and sometimes are actually healthier can be thrilling. So my mission as a frum Jew has been to search for the perfect non-dairy dessert to pair with our meat meals, something light and creamy for that scrumptiously sweet bite after a satiating feast.

My favorite dairy dessert is Panna Cotta,a smooth clotted cream, thickened with gelatin and flavored to your heart’s desire. Panna Cotta originated in Northern Italy, born in the mountainous countryside, where the locals would thicken the fresh cream by boiling it with animal bones - a problematic recipe within the confines of a kosher diet.

I've been struggling for years to come up with the ideal substitute and have finally composed a wonderfully balanced and refreshing dessert, using almond milk instead of heavy cream.  Almond milk is actually not milk at all but made by brewing almonds slowly in water until the flavor and oils infuse the water. Almond milk is not only delicious, but also a healthier option as it’s lower in calories, has less sugar per serving and is cholesterol free. Almond milk is also a good source of calcium, vitamins D, E and A.  This recipe is thickened using a combination of rich dark chocolate and Kosher Gelatin. Kosher Gelatin can be made from vegetable gums, seaweed products, or even Fish bones. For this recipe I use Gefen clear Jello.

Panna Cotta can be topped with a variety of toppings, such as toasted nuts, fresh berries or chocolate cigars. My personal favorite is a crunchy cookie to complement the delicate cream, like a Ginger Snap Tuile.   This Chocolate Almond Panna Cotta is a wonderful end to a meal, requiring very little preparation and cooking time, With such a light and airy texture, I might even go for seconds!