My favorite holiday is almost here! I love fall because of all the cooking and baking done around this time, but I enjoy Halloween the most. I love dressing up, watching horror movies and making spooky treats. Throughout the years, my treats have grown with me, from the classic Halloween Pillsbury sugar cookies to this white chocolate panna cotta “eyeball.” 

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Panna cotta is a creamy cooked dairy dessert, usually flavored with vanilla. I will use white chocolate to add an extra layer of flavor. The cherry “blood” sauce will add a layer of texture to break through the smooth custard-like dessert. 

Utilizing Halloween-themed molds for this is highly encouraged! The mixture will be white; so try ghosts, skulls or a skeleton. I will be using a half-dome silicone mold and kiwi to make an eye covered in blood, perfect for a horror feast. Just bear in mind that panna cotta can take at least four hours to set and, if your mold is bigger, it could take longer. So plan ahead to make sure your spooky panna cotta “witch eyes” with cherry “blood” sauce are ready for Halloween!

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Witch’s Eye White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Cherry Blood Sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 4 to 24 hours

Yields: 6-8 servings, depending on mold sizing

Cookware needed:

  • Something to set the panna cotta in
  • A fine-mesh strainer

INGREDIENTS:

For the panna cotta:

  • ½ cup water 
  • 2 envelopes of gelatin 
  • 2 cups half and half 
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 8 ounces good-quality white chocolate 
  • ¼ cup sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced

For the cherry blood sauce:

  • 3 cups dark cherries, pitted (frozen is OK!); for a more sour flavor, use sour cherries 
  • ½ – ¾ cups sugar (depending on your preferred sweetness) 
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest 
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar 
  • ¾ teaspoon cornstarch 
  • 1 teaspoon water 

A note on what to use to set your panna cotta:

To make fun shapes, silicone molds are the way to go. But the panna cotta does not need to set in a silicone mold. You can use a ramekin, bowl or Mason jar. If you use these methods, you will not need to remove the panna cotta and can just eat them directly out of the dish.

If you decide to use a silicone mold, follows these tips: 1. Be sure to wipe the inside of the mold clean; make sure it’s dry. 2. Set silicone mold on a stable surface that can fit into the fridge — for instance, a baking sheet or cutting board. 3. When ready to remove from mold, use hot water. Fill a bowl or dish halfway with warm water. Hold mold one at a time in water for 5 seconds and flip onto a plate. Rub your hand over top of the mold, and start to gently push or manipulate silicone to get panna cotta out. Depending on the type of mold you have, you may want to start with the mold flipped onto a surface and lay a warm dish towel on top for 5-10 seconds. Slowly manipulate the mold to get it loose. Do not let silicone mold come into contact with heat for too long or the panna cotta will start to melt. 

STEPS:

To make the panna cotta “eye”:

  1. In a small bowl, add ½ cup water and sprinkle contents of the gelatin packets. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring half and half, heavy cream, sugar and white chocolate to a simmer. Heat only until white chocolate is melted. Use a rubber spatula to stir occasionally. 
  3. Once melted, remove from heat and add gelatin mixture. Whisk until the gelatin is melted and the mixture is smooth. 
  4. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer; I recommend transferring into a large measuring cup with a pour spout; this will help with pouring into molds. Whisk in the vanilla. Pour into serving dishes or molds; cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  5. Top with a slice of kiwi and serve with cherry “blood” sauce for a spooky delicious eyeball. Some other suggested topping favorites: honey, nuts or fresh berries.

To make the cherry “blood” sauce:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring cherries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice and cinnamon to a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Mush up cherries with a fork every so often. 
  2. Add balsamic vinegar.
  3. Mix cornstarch and water together and add to mixture. Stir with rubber spatula; let simmer until it thickens. Dip a spoon into the sauce — if the sauce coats the spoon, it’s ready. 
  4. Remove from heat and let cool and serve with your panna cotta “eye.”