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For the past year, I’ve kept a notebook filled with random ideas for boozy gelatin molds. (Or in this case, non-boozy agar agar molds.) Some of these ideas result in recipes I post, others turn into unfortunate globs of goo, while the majority remain quirky figments of my imagination. Anyway, last week, when looking through my notebook, I decided to knock out three separate ideas in one recipe: herb-infused panna cotta, vegan panna cotta, and coconut milk panna cotta.  Hence, I present the Lemon Basil Vegan Panna Cotta.

I didn’t realize it until after I tasted the final product, but coconut milk, basil, and lemons create a brilliant palette common in Thai cuisine. At once creamy, sweet, and tropical, the hint of basil adds a splash of unexpected herby brightness – typical of many Asian desserts.

If you’re interested in agar agar, a vegan alternative to gelatin, checkout my other agar agar posts: Blood Orange, Blackberry and Tea, Hibiscus Mint, Gelatin Tips and Tricks.

Recipe for 2 cups

  • ¾ teaspoon agar agar
  • 1 ½ cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup water
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 5-7 fresh basil leaves

In a saucepan, bring the coconut milk, water, and sugar to a boil. Take off heat, add lemon zest and basil, and steep for 10-minutes. Strain to remove leaves and zest, and return liquid to the saucepan. Add agar agar, and bring to a low boil for 15-minutes. Pour into molds and let cool.

To remove agar agar, put mold into a bowl or sink full of hot water for a few seconds. Gently shake the mold side to side to loosen, or run a knife around the edge of the mold. Put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process.

See this mold featured on Relish Austin, Addie Broyles food blog on austin360.com.

Flavored simple syrups, like the ones described in this article by Addie Broyles in the Austin American Statesmen, are the key to creating complex and unique gelatin molds from scratch. Here I combined homemade basil simple syrup, 100% blueberry juice, blueberries, lemon juice, sugar, water, club soda, and vodka. The resulting taste was like summer in gelatinous form – tart, sweet, and herbalicious.

Recipe for 3.5 cup mold

  • 2 packets gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming*)
  • ¾ water (for syrup)
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of one lemon (approx. ¼ cup) with zest reserved
  • ½ cup 100% blueberry juice
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • ¾ cup vodka
  • ½ cup club soda
  • ½ cup blueberries

Put ½ cup of water in a small bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside. (*This is called “blooming.” Blooming allows gelatin to absorb water and thus dissolve easily when added to hot water.)

Put water, blueberry juice, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add lemon zest and basil leaves. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon/basil syrup, and return to saucepan. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and add the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in cold vodka and club soda.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the blueberries. Stir in berries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

My lovely friends enjoyed this tart and boozy mold.

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