Monday, August 6, 2012

Panna Cotta with Agar Instead of Gelatin

I found both our local health food stores sell agar but only one had some in stock.  A 50gm bag for $6.50 is competitive with what I could get on the internet so I bought some to try it out. A teaspoon of agar will set a cup of liquid.  All that it requires is heating the mixture above the melting point of agar, 50ºC or 122ºF, once it's all melted then cool it below the melting point and it sets. I used a glass dessert bowl for a mold and I didn't use oil or butter in it.

I measured a quarter cup milk and filled to a cup with whipping cream.  About a quarter cup sugar should be plenty but add less and taste then add more to your own tastes.  Then I added a teaspoon of agar and put it on the burner.  As soon as the mixture boiled I took it off the heat and added half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and poured it into the molds.  Since there was just two small dishes I put them in the freezer to cool down faster. That worked great, they were ready in no time.

I ran a knife around the sides of the mold and turned out the panna cotta. It plopped out in one firm piece, nice. I topped it with some failed raspberry gelatin candy for flavor and took a bite.  The agar sets  much firmer than gelatin and gelatin has a smoother mouth feel. I doubt most people would be able to tell the difference between the two. So if I have lots of time I would use gelatin and if I'm pressed for time I'd use agar. Also, agar is technically fiber so if you need more fiber in your diet then use agar.

On a side note I found the health food store had a one pound bag of gelatin for $10 and the grocery store only sells boxes of twelve two teaspoon packets for $6.50.  Needless to say I'll be shopping at the health food store more often.

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