Sep 23, 2019 Last Updated 6:31 AM, Nov 9, 2017

Double Espresso Panna Cottas

Tish Boyle’s Double Espresso Panna Cottas. Photography by Andrew Meade.

Espresso panna cotta, espresso gelée and sambuca cream by Tish Boyle, Co-Editor of Dessert Professional.

This dessert was inspired by the shot of Sambuca with three coffee beans that is served after dinner at old-style Italian restaurants. The tradition is both practical and symbolic: A digestif, Sambuca aids the digestion, while the coffee beans represent health, happiness, and prosperity (the beans are not meant to be eaten). The bottom layer of my espresso panna cotta is a latte-colored cream with a flavor to match. The second layer is a dark and sweet espresso gelée. A cloud of Sambuca-spiked whipped cream tops the whole thing off. The single chocolate-covered espresso bean garnish, by the way, is meant to be eaten.


Makes 6 servings

Espresso Panna Cotta:

  • 1/4 cup (59 g/2 oz) cold water
  • 1 tablespoon (9.36 g/0.33 oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 1/2 cups (580 g/20.4 oz) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (242 g/8.5 oz) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (38 g/1.3 oz) espresso beans, very coarsely ground (about 3 short spins in a coffee grinder)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g/3.5 oz) granulated sugar

1. Have 6 serving glasses or wineglasses at hand. Place the water in a small cup and sprinkle the gelatin on top in an even layer. Set aside to soften for 5 minutes.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, espresso beans, and sugar and cook over medium-high heat until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

3. Stir the softened gelatin mixture into the hot espresso cream and cook over medium heat, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Prepare an ice bath by filling a larger bowl one-third full with ice and water, and set the bowl of espresso cream in it. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool, about 10 minutes. Divide the mixture evenly among the serving glasses and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until set.

Espresso Gelée:

  • 1 cup (240 g/8.5 oz) cold brewed espresso, divided
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons (3.5 g/0.12 oz) powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons (25 g/0.88 oz) granulated sugar

1. Place 1/4 cup (60 g/2.1 oz) of the espresso in a small cup and sprinkle the gelatin evenly on top. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften.

2. Place the remaining 3/4 cup (180 g/6.3 oz) espresso in a microwave safe cup and microwave on high power for 1 minute, or until hot. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the gelatin mixture until dissolved. Let the mixture cool, stirring occasionally, until it is at room temperature. 

3. Carefully pour a thin layer of the mixture (about 2 ½ tablespoons) over each espresso panna cotta and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours.

Sambuca Cream:

  • 1 cup (232 g/8.18 oz) heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons (24 g/0.84 oz) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g/0.5 oz)
  • Sambuca liqueur

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream at high speed until soft peaks begin to form. Add the confectioners’ sugar and Sambuca and whip until firm peaks just begin to form. (The cream should be made no more than 4 hours before serving the dessert.)


  • 6 chocolate-covered espresso beans

Spoon about 1/3 cup of the Sambuca cream on top of each of the dessert and garnish with a chocolate-covered espresso bean.


Click here to read more about this and related recipes in the article "Flavor of the Month."

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