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Espresso Panna Cotta

by Mitch Tonks from Chefs at Home in aid of Hospitality Action (Jon Croft Editions / Bloombury)

Photography:  Chris Kirkham

I’m not too good at desserts, but this is one I can make nice and easily.  It looks great served in a small expresso cup, and it’s all I need after a meal – a nice shot of coffee.  I usually up the booze element for this one – here I’ve used brandy, but I’ll often use whatever I have left in the spirits’ cupboard.  Everything works: Baileys can be quite nice, as can Tia Maria or Grand Marnier (that’s when you are right at the back of the cupboard).


Makes 12 espresso cups



220ml expresso or very, very strong coffee

220ml whole milk

120ml caster sugar

4 gelatine leaves

100ml brandy

360ml double cream

For the syrup

300ml caster sugar

125ml espresso or very, very strong coffee

25ml brandy



Heat the espresso, milk and sugar gently in a pan.  Soften the gelatine leaves as per the packet instructions, then squeeze out the water and add them to the pan.  Stir until completely dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brandy.  Leave the mixture to cool.

Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks, then gently fold it into the coffee mixture, trying not to knock out all the air.  Divide the mixture equally into the espresso cups, or moulds and transfer to the fridge for about 3 hours to chill until set. (Nigel did overnight).


Make the syrup.  Warm the sugar in a saucepan on a low-medium heat, until dissolved, then let it bubble away until it has boiled down to a sticky caramel – take care that it doesn’t burn.  Stir in the coffee and the brandy and remove from the heat.


Serve the panna cotta with the syrup drizzled on the top (like the crema on an espresso).


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