Caramel macchiato panna cotta

Easy dessert inspired by a popular coffee shop beverage!

It’s a good thing I didn’t know about panna cotta as a kid, because there’s no way I would have eaten a single spoonful of instant pudding made from a box if I did. Panna cotta – the name means cooked milk – has a silky, creamy texture and delicious flavour; it somehow manages to be satisfying without being too rich or cloying. While I’m a big fan of panna cottas made with fruit (check out my blackberry mint and strawberry rhubarb versions), I really love this one that’s modelled after a popular beverage at lots of coffee shops. If you’re like me and don’t have a fancy machine at home to make espresso, instant espresso powder (available at most grocery stores or Italian food shops) works extremely well in desserts. Use 3/4 teaspoon of powder and 3 oz (1/3 cup or 90 mL) of warm water to make the appropriate quantity of strong espresso for this dish.


  • 1 cup (250ml) milk, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (1/2 packet)
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) heavy cream, warmed
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) strong espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of flaky salt (I use Maldon)


  • Pour 1/2 cup (125ml) of the milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin powder evenly over top; set aside to allow the gelatin to bloom (soften).
  • Make the caramel. Scatter the sugar in an even layer in a medium, heavy-duty skillet or wide, deep saucepan. Warm the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt then swirl the pan gently until the sugar is uniformly melted and beginning to turn light amber in colour. Continue to cook until the colour deepens and the sugar is almost (but not quite) starting to smoke. Turn off the heat and gradually add the warmed cream, stirring with a heatproof utensil. If it is lumpy, stir until these melt (you may need to return the pan to low heat for a minute or two). Sprinkle salt over top and stir once more.
  • When the caramel has cooled for a few minutes to the point where it is hot but not scalding to the touch, stir in the bloomed gelatin until it has dissolved, then stir in the remaining milk, espresso, vanilla and stir until dissolved.
  • To make it easier to pour into serving vessels, transfer the caramel, milk and espresso mixture to a pitcher with a good spout (or a 4 cup / 1L glass measuring cup) then pour equal amounts into four serving dishes (ramekins, little bowls, martini glasses or wine glasses are all good options).
  • Place the serving dishes in the fridge and let cool one hour then place beeswax or plastic wrap on top and continue chilling for 6 – 72 hours.
  • Serve cold, garnished with whipped cream and a pinch of flaky salt.

Serves 4.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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