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Panna cotta - Article & thoughts

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

HI All,


about to try my first panna cotta and I'm doing some research to maximize my chances of getting it right the first time :-)


I found this article which compares different recipes along three key variables:


(1) % of fat in dairy (instead of focusing on a thousand combinations of milk, cream, half and half, etc...): the author identifies 18% to 23% as optimal

(2) Gelatin amount: unclear, the recipe at the end of article contradicts the initial paragraph

(3) Sugar amount: 1 and 1/4 tbsp of sugar per cup of dairy (i.e., she recommends 5 for a recipe with 4 cups of cream and milk).


I would love to know whether you agree with the author's recommendations. In particular:


(a) 5 tbsp of sugar per 4 cups of dairy seems incredibly low to me (I've seen recipes with 3 or 4 times more sugar). What do you think?

(b) What if I prefer to use gelatin sheets vs. powder? I heard one package (i.e., one tablespoon) is the same as 4 sheets - but 4 sheets of what strength (there are different existing bloom numbers, 170, 230, etc...)?


Thanks all in advance!


Have a great day! Best

post #2 of 12

Aaaaaaah Panna cotta, I have experimented a lot with this recipe to obtain my ideal combination.  Like for most recipes, the perfect panna cotta recipe is what you think is ideal.  What you currently have are broad guidelines but you will easily find out that the product you end up with will not be ideal for you.


When I first came across a pana cotta in a restaurant, it was somewhat stiff and sweet. Like you, I searched for recipes to find out there's no real set in stone method but ideal characteristics rather.  I think the article has explained that well.  My ideal panna cotta stands up on the plate but is barely set so that you can cut out a spoonful but when it reaches your mouth it instantly melts like it was very think cream with a hit of sweetness.

That said I think the proportions are a good starting point although they differ from my recipe.


The lessons I have learn while developing my recipe is that powdered gelatin packs range in weight so I prefer to weigh my gelatin instead of measuring in tsp or by packets.  My recipe is tuned to powdered gelatine and I know that it would require a new set of experiments to switch to sheets.

here are nice articles that explain the problem:


The fundamental difficulty of this recipe is that (butter) fat  interferes with the gelling strength of gelatin i.e more fat requires more gelatin and vice versa. For very fat adjustment, a gelatin adjustment is required for setting, firmness and meltability.

My last advice, which also relates to fat-gelatin interaction, is make sure your panna cotta is properly set by refrigerating it at minimum overnight to 24 hours (longer may cause skin formation) because gelatin takes longer to set with fat.


I will post my ideal recipe separately below.

Luc H.

I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #3 of 12

Panna Cotta (with blueberries)


(a good precise scale is crucial here)

sprinkle 9g of powdered gelatin on top of 1 cup of cold whole milk. Rest 10 min.

(9 g is supposed to be 2 3/4 tsp of powdered gelatin)


heat the milk to 60C (135F approx) on stovetop (medium low heat). Stir to prevent sticking

add a small pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)

add 6 Tbsp of sugar

Stir to dissolve.


Take off the heat, pour mixture in 3 cups of cold 35% heavy cream in a stainless steel bowl.

add 1 tsp vanilla.


Using spatula, slowly stir mixture, while bowl is placed in cold (ice) water, down to 5-7C (40-45F)

At that temp the mixture will thicken and will appear to want to set (this step is a test to make sure all the ingredients are working correctly)


pour cold mixture in 8 ramkins with the bottom covered with one layer of (frozen) blueberries.


refrigerate overnight (minimum-crucial).


unmold by placing (8) ramkins in hot running tap water for 1 minute (using timer) take out then place in cold water on standby to unmold

Run a knife around to cut the panna cotta away from the ramkin walls.

Place inverted plate on top, turn assembly right side up. It should transfer to the plate, if not, hold the assembly tight together and tap it down on a board to loosen.


Luc H.

I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi Luc,


thanks so much for the detailed explanation!


I will try your recipe and maybe for this time I'll use powder, to make sure I build upon your experiments.


Thanks and have a great day!

post #5 of 12

Your welcome

I'm surprised nobody else chimed in.


For your sake, It's always better to have many point of views.


Luc H.

I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #6 of 12

It is always interesting to read blogs and cook via ratios, but sometimes it is much better to start experimenting by following recipes with a high probability of success. I'd recommend starting with Luc's recipe and not deviate from either process or ingredients until success is achieved. Sometimes experimentation and deviations too early in the learning process impede both learning and success.


In particular, I'd caution against substation of gelatin types - it is quite a complex topic. Check this guy out (I tend to trust him implicitly).  He's an accomplished chef and he can explain gelatin substitution... but in general is baffled when it comes to any "simple to understand" answers. 

post #7 of 12

The video is somewhat informative although his math is slightly off because the middle between 0.6 and 1.7 is not 1 but I understand him for trying to keep it simple.


For those interested in analytical science, the bloom test was a patented idea by Oscar T. Bloom.

It's the amounts of mass (in g) required for a 12.5mm round plunger to depress the surface of a gel by 4mm.  In the case of testing gelatin a 6.67% gelatin in water gel is tested @ 10C (50F).


So for example a 250 bloom gelatin requires 250g to depress the plunger by 4mm. So higher bloom means a stronger gel using the same amount of gelatin.


From a food R&D perspective, gels made with high bloom gelatins have nice cut-ability (easy to cut in square for example) or bite-ability as for gummy candies.

low bloom gelatin will make meltable and giggly gels.  I have heard that J-ello uses 175bloom gelatine to obtain a nice giggle while Knox gelatin hovers closer to 200 bloom for multiple application uses.


I would suggest low bloom gelatin when you start experimenting with sheets.

Although professional chefs use sheets, on an industrial level, gelatin is purchased in powder and come in standard bloom strengths: 0 bloom for protein supplements, 125, 175, 200, 225, 250 and 300 bloom for making capsule.


everything you want to know about gelatin in this handbook:

This link brings you directly to a pdf file:

Luc H.

I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #8 of 12

Thanks for that info, Luc.  Great stuff!  I hope others are as interested in the science/engineering aspects of food as I am.  :)

post #9 of 12

you're welcome....

something strange has happen to this site over the years, members are more interested in food science than ever before.

no complaints here.


Luc H.

I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hey All,


I realized that I never shared my results back in July.


Here is a movie of how much the panna cotta jiggled. It was a little bit stiffer than intended, but as it was the first time I tried it, I wanted to make sure there was no risk of it not setting.


The recipe I used is below (please forgive me for the length - I'm putting lots of details to ensure results can be perfectly reproduced by anyone reading).


  • 600ml of Heavy Cream and 400ml of Whole Milk, both from Straus Family Creamery (such mix corresponds to 22% fat overall).

  • 175g of sugar

  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

  • Bring to a boil for few seconds, then off heat

  • 2 tablespoons of Jack Daniels Whiskey

  • 7 gelatin sheets (PerfectaGel Silver, 170 bloom), previously soaked in cold water

  • Mix well, pour in steel molds up to the rim, let set for 24 hours


I served it in the middle of the plate, then made caramello sauce and poured over it, to coat the pannacotta and the plate, then sprinkled over some crushed macadamia nuts for decoration and texture. Turned out pretty well, but it did not melt in your mouth.


I'll try 5 sheets next time instead of 7.


Talk soon!

Edited by ZapoTeX - 11/8/15 at 12:47am
post #11 of 12

The ratio I like is 4 cups dairy (usu 3 heavy/whipping cream to 1 whole milk) to 2 and 3/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin (8.25 grams for conversion to sheets) with 6 tablespoons of sugar (not to sweet) and a vanilla bean with pinch of salt.

I think the really key is same day service.  The texture is ethereal when unmolded.  It can be served next day but the gelatin is a bit firmer.

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks rpooley!

I use sheets, then I'm not 100% familiar with your ratio. But I will try the early unmolding!

In the meantime, I tried 6 sheets instead of 7 for 1 liter of dairy and it still set. It was solid enough to unmold on a plate, but it did melt in your mouth more than my first attempt.

I'll try 5 next time - worst case I'll need to eat it from the mold
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