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Mascarpone Pannacotta

Mascarpone Pannacotta, Salted Caramel, Pears and Hazelnuts

I would love to say that the salted caramel with this dessert may steal the limelight, but you just cannot beat the creamy vanilla-scented panna cotta. It has just the right amount of sweet, fruit and crunch.
Prep Time 30 mins
3 hours refrigeration 3 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6


  • 250 gm mascarpone
  • 250 ml milk 1 cup / 1 US cup +3 Tbsp
  • 125 ml cream thickened or heavy (1/2 cup ) 1/2 US cup +2 Tbsp
  • 40 gm caster sugar 2 tablespoons |2 3/4 US Tbsp
  • 2 sheets gelatine 10 gm total gold or titanium
  • 1/2 scraped vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Salted Caramel

  • 250 gm caster sugar 1 1/4 cups | US x 1 3/4
  • 40 ml water 2 Tablespoons | 3 US Tbsp
  • 2 drops lemon juice drops. add to water
  • 150 gm butter chopped cold can be salted but watch the amount of salt you add later on
  • 125 ml cream thickened ( 1/2 cup) 1/2 US cup + 1/2 Tblsp
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt maldon or 1/2 of this for granulated salt

Poached Pears

  • 200 gm caster sugar (granulated), 1 cup | 7.1 oz or appox 1 US cup
  • 250 ml water 1 cup | 1 Us cup + 1 Tblsp
  • 250 ml wine white is best or red
  • 30 ml lemon Juice juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teasp vanilla extract
  • 2 Pears large firm


  • 100 gm lightly roasted peeled hazelnuts approx 1/2 cup
  • 40 ml oil or less if you prefer, 2 Tablespoons
  • 40 gm caster sugar granulated, 2 Tablespoons

Chocolate bark

  • 100 gm chocolate I like dark ( preferably 70 *) 3.5 oz


  • You will need 6 moulds approx 150 ml (3/4 cup) size. If you want to turn out the pannacottas as the picture shows you will need to grease them lightly with oil spray or rubbed on. It is easier to work with flexible mould but if fully set you will be able to release the pannacottas from an alternate mould or ramekin too. If not serve in a ramekin or mould of your choice

To make the Pannacotta

  • Soak the gelatin in cold water until soft then squeeze out the excess water.
  • Put the milk, mascarpone, cream, vanilla and sugar into a pot and heat, stirring to combine and stop any sticking, until the sugar has just melted. Do not boil, just gentle heat.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and add the gelatine, stirring until it has dissolved. Strain into a jug and pour into pannacotta moulds. For best results refrigerate overnight and no less than 3 hours in a very coold refrigerator

Salted caramel

  • Put the sugar (250 gm), water and lemon drops into a pot and mix only until the sugar is moistened and combined. No need to stir further.
    *The lemon helps prevent the sugar from crystalizing. Stirring once starting to boil will cause crystalization- this is where the sugar suddenly turns grainy. Just shake and swirl the pot
  • When the sugar is a deep golden brown and bubbling, remove from the heat and add the cream and let it cool down a little bit. It will be bubbling furiously so stand back when adding. Whisk in the salt and couple of pieces of butter at a time, until all of the butter is incorporated. Taste to check the salt level and adjust if necessary, don't add too much as the salt will take a little while to melt through. You can always add more if you need to. If you use salted butter you do not need to add as much salt. Pour into a container and let it cool. This can be kept in the fridge for weeks. Warm it or let it come to room temperature.

Poached Pears

  • Peel the pears and dice into even cubes. Only use the most square and perfect ones. Set aside in water that has a squeeze of lemon juice added (This will keep them from browning). I use very crisp to hard pears
  • To poach the pears put the sugar, water, wine, lemon and vanilla into a medium pot and bring to a boil
  • Turn right down and then add the diced pears. Simmer on very low until the pears just become translucent and are tender. Test with the tip of a knife. Pour into a bowl and cool in the syrup. These can be made a day before you need them

Roasted hazelnuts

  • Preheat the oven to 200C ( 400F). Toss the nuts in the oil and sugar and lay on a lined tray. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool. These can be made a day before needed.

Chocolate shards

  • Set up a baking paper lined flat tray. Melt the chocolate gently over a double boiler, stirring until just melted. Spread onto the tray with a pallet knife and cool. Break into pieces and keep in the freezer in an airtight container until needed.
    *Untempered chocolate shapes can melt easily. These shards keep brilliantly well in the freezer- even better than in the refrigerator

Putting it together

  • Take the caramel out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature (or warm just slightly. Drain the pairs reserving the liquid for something else. Unmould the pannacotta by dipping it into warm water, briefly. Gently run a knife around the outside. Turn the panna cotta onto a plate just to one side, and give it a shake. if it doesn't release put the tip of a paring knife into the side of the pannacotta mould the break the seal and try again.
    Smear a tablespoon of caramel on the plate. Sprinkle 3-4 pieces of pear and hazelnuts around the plate and finish with a chocolate shard.


A word about gelatine
  • Gelatine is available in different strengths or "blooms". It's a bit of a minefield to be honest. Powdered and leaf gelatines all come in different strengths
  • If you can't find leaf gelatine either on line or at a supermarket you will have to substitute it for powdered. There is no exact substitution conversion and the only foolproof way of knowing what the "bloom" or setting quality is is to read the suggested setting instructions on the packet.
  • Just like leaf gelatine powdered gelatine needs to be soaked before using. 
  • Gelatine's setting qualities diminish when it is boiled so always add it to the hot liquid when it has been taken off the heat. Stir well to make sure it is dissolved and then strain before using to remove unmelted lumps or bits.
  • Sheet gelatine is preferred as it dissolves easier
  • Always put gelatine into cold water. For sheets make sure you don't crack it into tiny pieces as these disappear into the water and you lose it. try to soak whole and squeeze out the excess water as soon as it has softened. Put into a bowl and set aside until needed.
  • As a very rough rule, you can substitute approximately 1 teaspoon of gelatine to 2 sheets of gelatine, HOWEVER best to read the packet instruction on how much to use.
  • This recipe is approximately 500 ml of liquid
Keyword cold desserts, mascarpone, panna cotta