Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries tossed in a Brown Sugar & Rum Sauce

I’ll admit, I had no idea what panna cotta was until I heard a chef mention how good it was.  Thankfully there wasn’t much scouring for the perfect recipe – thank you Cooks Illustrated. I love you. Thanks for the perfect dessert the first time I ever had it.

Panna Cotta has a similar texture to flan, minus the eggy flavor. It’s light and ethereal — just like you ate nothing at all. Just the way I like it.

While Cooks Illustrated takes all credit for the panna cotta recipe, the concoction of a brown sugar and rum sauce tossed with raspberries and strawberries is my idea. Yes, I will take some credit. Curtsy.

Note: If planning to serve the next day, decrease the gelatin to 2 5/8 teaspoons (that’s 2 1/2 tsps + 1/8 tsp) and chill for 18-24 hours.


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 3/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 piece vanilla bean, 2 inches long , or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbs sugar
  • pinch of salt

Brown Sugar & Rum Sauce

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
  • Raspberries


1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan; sprinkle the surface evenly with the gelatin and let stand for 10 minutes to hydrate the gelatin. Meanwhile, turn the contents of 2 ice cube trays (about 32 cubes) into a large bowl; add 4 cups cold water. Measure the cream into a separate large measuring cup or pitcher. With a paring knife, slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the vanilla seeds into the cream; place the pod in the cream along with the seeds and set the mixture aside. Set eight 4-oz ramekins on a baking sheet.

2. Heat the milk and gelatin over high heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture reach 135F, about 1.5 minutes. Off the heat, add the sugar and salt; stir until dissolved, about 1 minute.

3. Stirring constantly, slowly pour the cream with the vanilla into the saucepan of milk, then transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and set the bowl over the ice-water bath. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens to the consistency of eggnog and registers 50F, about 10 minutes. Strain the mixture into a large measuring cup of pitcher, then divide it evenly among the ramekins. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap doesn’t touch the surface of the cream; refrigerate until just set (the mixture should wobble when shaken gently) about 4 hours.

For the sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup, 2 tablespoons rum, 2 tablespoons butter, the heavy cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. The mixture will foam, so be careful it doesn’t boil over. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. If the sauce begins to harden, microwave for a couple seconds until the sugar crystals dissolve.

To serve: Pour about 1-2 tbs rum sauce over each panna cotta and rotate until the sauce covers the entire surface of the cream. In a small bowl, combine strawberries and raspberries. Add sauce until the berries are gently coated (use your hands to mix the berries and sauce together). Place sugared berries in the center of the ramekin and serve.


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