Vanilla-Kirsch Panna Cotta with Cherry Compote

Vanilla-Kirsch Panna Cotta with Cherry Compote

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From: EatingWell Magazine, June/July 2006

These panna cottas (Italian for cooked cream) are smooth, light and mild molded desserts set off by a bright, intensely flavored cherry compote. The recipe calls for a vanilla bean, which yields the best flavor, but you can use extra vanilla extract instead; just be sure it's top quality. The compote is also delicious spooned over slices of angel food cake or scoops of vanilla frozen yogurt. Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.

Ingredients 6 servings

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Original recipe yields 6 servings
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  • Panna cotta
  • ¼ cup kirsch (see Ingredient Note)
  • 2¼ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 3-inch-long piece vanilla bean (see Substitution Tip)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream, well chilled
  • Compote
  • 2 cups fresh dark sweet cherries or frozen (thawed; see Tip), pitted
  • ⅓ cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cup cherry preserves
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice


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  1. To prepare panna cotta: Coat six ¾-cup (6-ounce) custard cups, ramekins or decorative nonreactive molds (see Note) with cooking spray.
  2. Combine kirsch and vanilla bean in a small heatproof glass bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on High until hot but not boiling, 20 to 30 seconds. Let stand until the vanilla bean infuses the kirsch with flavor, at least 30 minutes and preferably longer. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve it to add to the compote. Sprinkle gelatin over the kirsch; stir to mix. Let stand for 5 minutes. Microwave, uncovered, on High until the gelatin has completely dissolved but the liquid is not boiling, 20 to 40 seconds. (Alternatively, bring ½ inch water to a gentle simmer in a small skillet. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture in the simmering water until the gelatin has dissolved completely.) Stir the mixture until smooth. Stir in sugar.
  3. Whisk yogurt, vanilla and almond extract in a medium bowl. Thoroughly whisk in the gelatin mixture. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until the mixture just begins to thicken, 15 to 20 minutes. Beat cream in a small deep bowl using an electric mixer or whisk until soft peaks form. Whisk the cream into the yogurt mixture just until smoothly incorporated. Divide the mixture among the prepared cups. Cover and refrigerate until the panna cottas are chilled and set, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.
  4. To prepare compote: Stir fresh (or frozen, thawed) and dried cherries, preserves, cinnamon stick, lemon zest and juice in a medium non-reactive saucepan (see Note). Split the reserved vanilla bean piece in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into the pan and add the split bean. Boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the dried cherries are softened and the juice is somewhat reduced, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.
  5. To serve: Run a knife around the cups to loosen the panna cotta. One at a time, set the cups in hot water for 30 to 40 seconds, then invert onto a serving plate, holding the cup and plate tightly together. If they don't unmold, break the vacuum by carefully pushing the knife under the edge of each cup, lifting up slightly, then inverting again. Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean pieces from the compote and serve the compote with the panna cottas.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 4 and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If desired, thin the compote with 1 tablespoon hot water before serving.
  • Equipment: Six ¾-cup custard cups, ramekins or decorative nonreactive molds
  • Ingredient Note: Kirsch (also called kirschwasser) is clear cherry brandy, commonly used as a flavor enhancer in fondue and cherries jubilee.
  • Substitution Tip: Increase the vanilla extract in Step 3 to 1½ teaspoons and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to the compote when it is removed from the heat.
  • Tips: Be sure to measure frozen cherries while still frozen, then thaw. (Drain juice before using.)
  • To pit a cherry: Halve it with a paring knife then pry out the pit with the tip of the knife or use a cherry pitter, available from Williams-Sonoma at, (877) 812-6235.
  • Find frozen, canned and dried sour cherries at King Orchards, (877) 937-5464,, and The Cherry Stop, (800) 286-7209,
  • Note: A nonreactive pan—stainless steel, enamel-coated or glass—is necessary when cooking acidic foods, such as lemon, to prevent the food from reacting with the pan. Reactive pans, such as aluminum and cast-iron, can impart an off color and/or off flavor in acidic foods.

Nutrition information

  • Per serving: 298 calories; 8 g fat(5 g sat); 2 g fiber; 49 g carbohydrates; 6 g protein; 12 mcg folate; 29 mg cholesterol; 45 g sugars; 354 IU vitamin A; 5 mg vitamin C; 170 mg calcium; 0 mg iron; 67 mg sodium; 320 mg potassium
  • Carbohydrate Servings:
  • Exchanges: 1 milk (fat free), 1 fruit, 1 other carbohydrate, 1½ fat

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