Friday, December 11, 2015

Strawberry/Mango Panna Cotta with agar agar

Just looking at this dessert makes you want to dig in, doesn’t it? 

That’s what happened to me when I kept on seeing this dessert everywhere in the blogosphere sometime back. Well, it took me more than a year to decide to make it myself, that’s a different story :) 

I used agar agar in place of Gelatin. Figuring out how much agar agar was needed(that too agar-agar strands, and not powder), took me few experiments. But once you get the hang of it, making this dessert is easy. It’s a good dessert to take for a potluck and can be prepared well in advance. 


for the milk layer
Milk - 8 oz - 1 cup
Heavy Cream - 8 oz - 1 cup
Agar Agar strands - 2 and 1/2 to 3 tbsp (if using Gelatin - 2 tsp)
Sugar - 1/4 cup
Vanilla Essence - 1 tsp

for the strawberry layer
Strawberry pureed in the mixie - little less than 2 cups
Sugar - 1/3 cup or more (depending on the sourness of the strawberry)
Agar-agar strands - 2-3 tbsp (not in the original recipe)

or Mango Layer
Canned Mango puree - less than 2 cups
Agar agar - 2-3 tbsp 


Cream Layer
In a pot dissolve agar agar in just enough water and bring it to a boil. Make sure that the strands dissolve completely. Add room temperature milk and cream. Add sugar. Simmer till the sugar dissolves completely. Mix while boiling making sure that no cream is formed on the top of milk. Add vanilla essence. Let it cool for a while.

Pour it in the serving glass. If you want a slant texture lean it against something, as shown in the picture below. 

Refrigerate for at least 4 hrs (till the layer is set). You can tell if the layer is setting if it starts solidifying within the first 30 min. Otherwise dissolve some more agar agar, cool it a little bit and add it to the serving cups. (That is what I did, don’t know if it is right or wrong)

After the first layer is set make the second layer.  

Strawberry Layer
Puree strawberry, strain it and keep it aside. In a pot dissolve agar agar strands in water and bring it to a boil till the strands dissolve completely. Add strawberry puree and sugar and boil till the sugar dissolves. Adjust the sugar if necessary. Let it cool a little bit. Add it to the cream layer. Allow it to set another 3-4 hrs. 

Mango Layer
Same as above, but no sugar. If you are using fresh mango for the pulp, add little sugar according to the taste. Also make sure the pulp is smooth and not pulpy. 

Recipe Source
Notes and Tips
  • I used 5 oz cups to serve. The above quantity made about 5-7 cups. 
  • Make sure that the agar agar strands are completely dissolved. This is very important. 
  • Original recipe boils the cut strawberries with sugar and then purees the mixture. It is also not set in gelatin, and hence is watery. Doing it this way every bite of the cream layer gets the strawberry sauce and probably that is how it is supposed to be eaten. But I prefer a solid strawberry layer as it is easy to transport to a potluck, or just easy to serve in small cups as there is no worry of spilling it. The only drawback is that you should make sure that you eat both the strawberry and cream layer together.
  • I really loved the sharp contrast of tangy strawberry against the sweetened cream. With Mango panna cotta, somehow I felt that the mango flavor dominated the cream layer. 
  • Make a small batch to figure out the ratio of agar agar to the quantity of liquid. My estimate is - 1 cup of liquid needs a little over a tablespoon of agar agar strands. Start using more agar agar first, so that you can be sure of the mixture setting. Then as you get comfortable adjust the quantity. The texture should not be very thick either.  
  • You can powder sugar in a mixie so that the boiling time of milk/strawberry is reduced and also you can be sure that the sugar is melted. 

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