“Dessert” is not French for “butter, sugar, and cream,” but as far as most people are concerned, it could be. For centuries, the word itself conjured images of sweet macarons, decadent custards, buttery cakes, and picture-perfect pies. But there must be a healthier way to make dessert, right?
With its sweet, salty, and creamy components, this panna cotta dessert is a dish you can feel good about serving and good about eating. It also happens to include that all-time favorite flavor combination of banana, chocolate, and pecans, which basically makes this a banana split.
You will recognize the components of this dish, but set aside your expectations. Most panna cottas you’ve enjoyed have likely contained cream, eggs, and plenty of added sugar. This recipe contains none of those things, and while the result is shockingly delicious (no cream!), it won’t behave like other panna cottas in terms of texture and your ability to unmold it. We’ve given you some handling advice in the recipe.
We’ve plated ours like a snazzy restaurant dessert, but there’s no pressure for you to do the same. You can serve this dish like a classic ice cream sundae, if you’d like. Then, start experimenting.
Three Pleasures Chocolate-Banana Panna Cotta
Start to finish: 8 hours (Active time: 1 hour)
Pecan Butter (recipe below)
Chocolate-Banana Panna Cotta (recipe below)
Roasted Pecan and Chocolate Shards (recipe below)
Coconut-Banana Sorbet (recipe below)
Bananas, for garnish (optional)
Prepare the pecan butter for use in the chocolate-banana panna cotta and roasted pecan and chocolate shards.
Prepare the chocolate-banana panna cotta and freeze or refrigerate, as desired.
Prepare the roasted pecan and chocolate shards and refrigerate while you prepare the sorbet.
Prepare the coconut-banana sorbet mixture. Wait to process in your ice cream machine until as close to serving as possible (no more than 2 hours, for ideal results).
To serve as a plated dish: Place a round roasted pecan and chocolate shard on a plate. Unmold the panna cotta from its silicone mold and place on top of the chocolate round.
Scoop a portion of sorbet (about 2 tablespoons) and place it beside the panna cotta. Top with chocolate shards, and garnish with diced and puréed bananas and leftover pecan butter, if desired.
To serve in a container: Scoop a portion of sorbet (about 2 tablespoons) and place on top of the panna cotta. Garnish with chocolate shards. Top with diced and puréed bananas and leftover pecan butter, if desired.
Makes about 2 cups (about 32 servings)
8 ounces (about 2 cups) pecans
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake until they begin to brown, about 12 minutes.
Transfer the hot pecans to a food processor, add the salt, and blend until a butter consistency forms, about 3 minutes. The mixture will seem too dry to start, but with a few minutes, it will come together. Scrape the sides of the bowl, as needed.
Set aside until needed, and refrigerate leftovers in a covered container.
Chocolate-Banana Panna Cotta
Makes 12 servings
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (from about 1½ packets)
2 tablespoons cold water
8 ounces (about 1½ cups) chopped dark chocolate, about 56%
1 tablespoon Pecan Butter (recipe above)
1 1/4 cups coconut water
Set out 12 molds or serving vessels. For panna cottas that can be unmolded and plated on a dish, use silicone molds large enough to hold ¼ cup of filling. Otherwise, prepare bowls, jars, or other containers that are large enough to top with sorbet and chocolate pieces.
In a small bowl, combine the gelatin and water. Mix with a fork until the gelatin is moistened. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Place the chocolate and pecan butter in a medium heat-safe bowl and set aside.
Add the coconut water and bananas to a blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the soaked gelatin. Stir until it is completely melted.
Pour the banana mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
Pour 1/4 cup of the mixture into molds or containers. For silicone molds, freeze at least 6 hours or overnight, then unmold and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. If using bowls or other serving dishes, freeze for at least 3 hours (thaw at least 1 hour before serving), or refrigerate overnight.
Roasted Pecan And Chocolate Shards
Makes 12 servings
9 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) finely chopped dark chocolate, about 56 percent
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Pecan Butter
Prepare a hot water bath with barely simmering water. Place the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and melt over the hot water bath until about halfway melted.
Add the pecan butter and stir until the chocolate is fully melted and the pecan butter is incorporated.
Line a baking pan with a silicone baking mat. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the pan and spread into a thin, even layer. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
If desired, use a round cutter about the same size as your panna cotta mold to cut bases for your unmolded panna cotta. Break up the scraps to use as garnish. If serving in dishes, break up the chilled chocolate to use as garnish. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes 12 servings
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
Place the bananas, coconut, lime juice, and rum (if using) in a blender and purée until smooth.
Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Transfer to a covered container and freeze until needed. This sorbet should be made as closely to serving as possible. Due to its lower sugar content, it will become icy after about 2 hours.
Nutrition information per serving of pecan butter: 114 calories; 107 calories from fat; 12 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 80 mg sodium; 2 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 2 g protein.
Nutrition information per serving of the panna cotta: 120 calories; 67 calories from fat; 7 g fat (4 g saturated; X0g trans fats); 3 mg cholesterol; 7 mg sodium; 16 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 3 g protein.
Nutrition information per serving of the pecan and chocolate: 157 calories; 117 calories from fat; 13 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 0 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 3 g protein.
Nutrition information per serving of the sorbet: 117 calories; 66 calories from fat; 7 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 3 mg sodium; 12 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 1 g protein
This article was provided to The Associated Press by The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.