Step-By-Step Recipe: Healthy & Lazy Tofu Panna Cotta (Vegan/Vegetarian)

As I’m writing this now, I’m actually in the midst of revision for the big Finals (examinations). It’s really universally painful to be a Law student… The readings, they just don’t stop coming. The cases, they just don’t plant themselves into your heads when you need them. The intelligence, where did it all go when I finally decided to start studying proper? Sigh, there’s too little time left!

You might say “serve you right” since I spend so much time idling in the kitchen over the stove. You’re right. But I don’t always have the luxury of time to stir kaya religiously over a low flame, sad to say. And the recent frozen pizzas I’d been munching on just leave me feeling so empty… It’s like my stomach is full, my tummy is spilling all over but my soul is bare. I think that’s when Tofu Panna Cotta came into the picture and rejuvenated my life!

Panna Cotta and Tofu isn’t the most conventional combination when it comes to making the famed Italian dessert, but it works just as well! Even better if you’re trying to shave off the calories incurred from over-indulging (and in my case from fat-laden frozen pizzas). Tofu Panna Cotta follows a fabulously easy and lazy recipe, and is surprisingly smooth and addictive considering how guilt-free it is (compared to most other sinful desserts that is). Vegans will be pleased to know that I have also come up with a Vegan variation this time. Enjoy the pictures and short recipe below!

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Ingredients for Tofu Panna Cotta: Serves 2

Healthy & Lazy Tofu Panna Cotta 

1/2 packet of fresh Silken Tofu, approx 250g
1/4 cup Heavy Cream / Double Cream
1-2 Gelatin Sheets (I used 1 for a more wobbly one but use 2 for a firmer texture)
2 tablespoons Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
Icing sugar, to serve

Coconut & Tofu Panna Cotta (Vegetarian/Vegan)

1/2 packet of fresh Silken Tofu, approx 250g
1/4 cup fresh thick Coconut Milk (powdered form will do fine too)
1-2 Vegan Gelatin Sheets (I used 1 for a more wobbly one but use 2 for a firmer texture)
2 tablespoons Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
Icing sugar, to serve

Feel free to experiment with the toppings and sauces! I used a simple drizzle of Greek Honey to exude the simple elegant flavour of the Panna Cotta pudding, but go ahead with your Blood-Orange caramel, fresh raspberries, roasted nuts et cetera!

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The brief steps to making Tofu Panna Cotta:

Disclaimer: The photos below were taken when I made the non Vegan/Vegetarian version of the Panna Cotta. I’d tried the Vegan version another day and it worked just as well, albeit with a heavenly fragrance of coconut milk – Coconut milk lovers rejoice! 

For our non-Asian readers, do take note that there are many different types of Tofu and we’re really only interested in Silken Tofu. As its name suggests, it has a much higher water content and hence it is really smooth and silky and suitable for making Panna Cotta. If you choose something like a Egg Tofu out of spite, you might want to make a Hotplate Tofu instead… Just sayin’.

There is an old Chinese saying that only the gentlest ladies are able to flip silken tofu from its box successfully without ruining any inch of the tofu. As you can see I have failed terribly in being a gentle woman. Not like I’d been known for being gentle anyway, so I guess I am resigned to reality.  It’s really not easy getting the soft, mushy and wobbly tofu out!

By the way I was kidding about the saying. I don’t think there is such a saying… Or is there?

Manhandled tofu cut into cubes. I now understand why all our Asian chefs love to use a long thin string to slice their silken tofu – Cutting tofu with a knife is unnecessarily difficult (that is, if you’re concerned about the aesthetics of your resulting tofu. If not just ninja ahead if you so desire). Use a string if you can!

I gave up cutting after a while and just threw the big blob in.

This is where all the fun starts. If you’d like to make a more authentic, smooth and creamy Panna Cotta, please proceed to put your tofu into the blender or food processor for a smooth and silky Panna Cotta pudding. Put it through a fine sieve if there’re still small lumps in the tofu mash.

Alternatively, if you have no blender like me, have some fun mashing it. Caution: It will still be lumpy even if you mash it for 2 hours non-stop! This is the reason why I named it the Healthy & Lazy Tofu Panna Cotta. With emphasis on LAZY with a capital L.

Isn’t my baby blue masher lovely? I’d been dying to use it since I bought it a sale sometime ago.

It’s starting to look a bit like gruel or thick porridge after some mashing.

I decided to stop mashing here. Still very lumpy but I was lazy… But don’t be like me! Just use a blender really.

I grabbed some cream… Note that I specified Heavy Cream or Double Cream for a richer taste and thicker consistency. I couldn’t find suitable Double Cream in my supermarket on the day I was making this so I opted for an Extra Thick Single Cream. Works fine too!

Have you prepared your gelatin? I used Gelatin Sheets instead of Powdered Gelatin. Soak your sheets in cold water for 5-15 minutes until they turn soft. Then slowly dissolve softened sheets in a saucepan in warm water, over very low heat. Until they completely dissolve and you seem to see nothing but water in the saucepan (like in the picture). Use 1 cup of water for every sheet of Gelatin!

Mix the cream, tofu mash, vanilla essence and gelatin thoroughly.

Poured them into the versatile ramekins I’m super fond of. Note that there are some bubbles in the pudding. Try to remove them as quickly as possible, before chilling! It’s just a cardinal sin to see bubbles in Panna Cotta.

I’d been having an unhealthy obsession with Greek Honey, which is, well, rich and intense stuff. It’s less sweet than conventional honey but has a lovely floral scent. Luckily for me I’m unhealthily obsessed with something that is actually healthy (does this make sense?)

Of course I had to eat the Panna Cotta with more than just a dose of Greek Honey!

I see ’em pesky bubbles. Oops. Negative demonstration!

Cover with cling wrap then chill in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours. It’s necessary because you’d want the gelatin to set properly and sufficiently. Ideally it should be chilled for 24 hours because the gelatin would have all set by then!

De-mould them by driving a small sharp knife at the sides of the ramekin, slowly carving the puddings out. Then eat with any toppings you like – The sky’s the limit! I hereby apologize for forgetting to take a photo of the end-result… I only recalled that I had to take photos after I’d demolished the Panna Cotta. My priorities all mixed up again.

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Note: Gelatin sheets, powdered gelatin, vegan gelatin or even agar-agar mixture can all sound a bit foreign. Mere mortals like us, we are not food scientists, so how do we know how to use each correctly? The amazing David Lebovitz has a very comprehensive guide regarding the usage of gelatin, do drop by http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/04/how-to-use-gelatin/ to be enlightened! Hope you’d enjoyed today’s recipe as much as I did. Cheers :)

Posted by #phangchewfat

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