White Chocolate Panna Cotta is a holiday host’s best kept secret. It’s a creamy, eggless custard that can be made ahead for convenience. Dark chocolate sauce dazzles as a topping with a shot of orange liqueur.
Unlike last Christmas, I’m planning to do a little entertaining this year. Nothing too grand, but just a few more than my immediate family. Good holiday hosts know that even a small party can be stressful if you’re not well organized. That’s why I love recipes like this one. This white chocolate panna cotta comes together in minutes and looks elegant in stemware. You can make it a day (or two!) ahead and store it in the refrigerator until party time.
Start by melting some white chocolate morsels with heavy cream in a saucepan. After it’s heated and consistently mixed, add in bloomed gelatin – that’s the lumpy-looking stuff in the bowl up there. Stir until melted then whisk in half-and-half (or whole milk, your choice!).
Divvy the mixture up into stemware. I used some miniature martini glasses that hold exactly 1/3 cup and got 12 servings. Serve this amount for a small cocktail party or a dessert tasting. Or, if you’re hosting an intimate dinner, portion them into larger glasses for a heartier serving size.
A simple sauce.
Make the chocolate sauce with just three ingredients! Use an orange chocolate bar to impart more orange flavor, as I did. Or, if you can’t source one easily, use a regular dark chocolate bar.
Add a splash of Triple Sec (or Cointreau) to liven things up! However, this can be an optional addition. Or switch up the flavor with your favorite liqueur.
Top each glass with a little of the sauce. You won’t need much! Add just enough to contrast the creamy white chocolate custard.
Garnish the glasses with candied orange peel. I used some Callebaut Crispearls, too. You can find them here. They are little dark chocolate beads with a tiny biscuit inside for crunch. I keep them on hand to use as a dessert garnish.
These little White Chocolate Panna Cotta cups are decadent and so smooth. The creamy white chocolate custard perfectly contrasts the dark chocolate topping. The hit of orange gives them a bright citrusy note that tastes celebratory.
If you’re looking for more panna cotta recipes, another of my other favorite seasonal panna cotta recipe is this Eggnog Panna Cotta with Spiked Cranberry Sauce. The recipe is so well-loved it’s usually my most popular blog post in December.
White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Orange-Chocolate Sauce
- 1/4 oz. powdered unflavored gelatin 1 envelope
- 1 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk cold
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup white chocolate morsels or 3 oz. white chocolate bar chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
Orange-dark chocolate sauce and toppings
- 3 oz. orange dark chocolate bar finely chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon orange liqueur
- 2 tablespoons Callebaut Crispearls chocolate beads or other chocolate caviar
- 12 pieces candied orange peel 2-3” lengths
Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over 1/4 cup of the half and half in a small bowl. Stir briefly and let stand 2 minutes. The mixture will be lumpy.
Combine the heavy cream, white chocolate, and sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook while stirring until the chocolate is melted and the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lumpy gelatin mixture into the hot mixture until dissolved. Stir in the remaining 1 1/4 cups half and half.
Divide the mixture evenly between six 8 oz. stemmed glasses or ramekins. Or, portion them into smaller glasses for more servings (I used 2.6 oz mini martini glasses for a yield of 12). Cover and chill the glasses until set, about 4 hours or up to two days ahead of service.
Orange-dark chocolate sauce
In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate and cream on high power for 1 1/2 minutes until melted, stirring every 30 seconds between heating. When the mixture is smooth stir in the orange liqueur. Cool mixture until just warm but still pourable. Pour a little of the dark chocolate sauce on top of the set panna cotta. Serve extra sauce on the side in a small syrup pitcher.
Garnish each glass with a few chocolate beads and a candied orange peel before serving.
- Look for white chocolate morsels that contain real cocoa butter, which will be listed in the ingredients. These will melt best and impart the best white chocolate flavor. Or, chop a 3 oz. white chocolate baking bar to use in this recipe.
- I used Theo 70% orange dark chocolate bar for the sauce, but an unflavored dark chocolate bar will work just fine.
- This recipe is easily scales up or down to serve as few as 6 people, or as many as 12. It’s a rich dessert, so even small servings pack a big punch. If hosting an intimate dinner, portion into 6 servings. Finger foods and cocktail party atmosphere call for smaller servings or even shot glass-sized portions.
- The panna cotta can be made up to two days ahead. You can also top the set panna cottas in glasses with chocolate sauce ahead, but do not garnish. The candied orange peel may weep. Wait to garnish an hour or two ahead of serving.
- If molding these into ramekins for a plated dessert, serve the chocolate sauce on the side, or drizzle just before serving.
- The chocolate sauce will be liquid and pourable just after it is mixed. If you pour the sauce over the set panna cotta and store in the refrigerator, the sauce will set slightly, yet not as firm as ganache.