It was Good Health Magazine that first wrote, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but for anyone with a job, kids or a warm bed in winter, it’s also the most likely meal to skip. While there’s no shame in grabbing a banana while you jet out the door, there’s also no denying the beauty of batched breakfasts, prepped and planned for the week. Interested? Behold, breakfast panna cotta.
Let’s say you’re already familiar with traditional panna cotta, that velvet custard dubbed “perfect dessert” by The Kitchn and considered fancy enough “to wow your guests,” according to at least one West Virginia news channel. If you’re relegating panna cotta to the dessert category, however, you’re missing a morning marvel. Panna cotta, literally cooked cream, is a smooth and silky custard originating in Northern Italy that ranks high on the list of desserts dressed to impress, right next to soufflés, tiramisu and flan. But swap the heavy cream with Greek yogurt and add some granola, and you’ve got a new reason not to hit the snooze button.
According to food writer Russ Parsons, in his 2012 L.A. Times article, “3 Keys to Perfect Panna Cotta,” “Panna cotta perfection comes down to three factors: the jiggle, the cream and the sweetness.” The jiggle, panna cotta’s trademark move, comes from the gelatin; it only takes a quarter of an ounce to give a batch of panna cotta dishes their bounce. Ideally, Parsons says, you want the custard just barely firmed. It should wobble when you touch it, rather than sit unmoved.
The cream, traditionally, means heavy cream, not an unwelcome breakfast choice but an indulgent one. Enter Greek yogurt. Strained and thickened from ordinary yogurt, Greek yogurt has the thickness to compare with heavy cream yet half the fat content. More importantly, it has twice the protein of regular yogurt, alongside high probiotics, calcium, potassium and vitamin B-12.
Lastly, there’s the sweetness. For a breakfast twist, this panna cotta gets kissed just enough honey to cover the yogurt’s tartness, but not enough to dissuade you from adding jam, granola and fruit on top.
You can make a big batch of panna cotta in less time than it takes to fry a few eggs and toast bread. The process is basically softening gelatin, warming milk and honey, combining ingredients and pouring them into containers. The results are gluten-free, convenient and special enough to brighten your mood before another work day.
Want something to look forward to tomorrow morning? Make breakfast panna cotta. Want to treat your family or overnight guests to a little luxury when they wake up? Make breakfast panna cotta. There’s never been a better argument for pulling back those cozy sheets.
Breakfast Panna Cotta
I’ve long loved traditional panna cotta with its decadent cream, but someone’s Instagram shot of a menu with “breakfast panna cotta” on it got me curious. A few recipe trials, a Google Drive spreadsheet comparing ratios and a few containers of Greek yogurt later, I had this. My breakfast panna cotta recipe is pretty basic, flavored only with honey and vanilla extract. However, the best part of morning panna cotta is the dressing: top yours with jam, granola, fruit, nuts, coconut, hemp seeds or whatever you like.
A note on containers and serving options: anything from mason jars to dessert dishes works. I tested 6-ounce, 8-ounce and 16-ounce containers and, personally, liked the 8-ounce size best. In the morning, you can slide a knife around the sides of your container to upend a panna cotta onto a plate–or, if you’re rushed, simply grab and go with a spoon.
1/4 ounce (about 1 heaping teaspoon) gelatin (ideally grass-fed bovine gelatin)
1/4 cup water
1.5 cups milk, divided (ideally whole milk)
1/2 cup honey
Dash of salt
1 24-ounce container (3 cups) Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and stir to combine. In a small saucepan, warm 3/4 cup milk with honey and a dash of salt. Stir until honey totally dissolves into the liquid. Pour this mixture through a strainer into the gelatin bowl, and stir to combine. Add Greek yogurt and vanilla extract, and stir everything together.
Pour mixture into serving bowls. If you want a work week’s worth of meals, divide evenly between five bowls, small mason jars or other containers. Chill at least four hours or, preferably, overnight. To eat, top with fruit and granola and eat in the container; alternatively, run the tip of a butter knife around the sides and upend the custard onto a plate, topping it there.