Espesso versus Layered Espresso and Orange Panna Cotta
20 Sep 2006

Also published on WellFed Network's A Nice Cuppa.

Much ado has been made of the new Espesso, gelatin/foam-like espresso dish that you eat with a spoon, created by Ferran Adria and served in the Lavazza cafes in Chicago. But, really, nothing is new about espresso in semi-solid form. While the Espesso recipe isn't exactly known, Moveable Feast has an approximate recipe for the dessert which frankly sounds an awful lot like a whipped up espresso mousse recipe... a little espresso, some cream, sugar and powdered gelatin popped into a whip canister and foamed into a cup.


I decided to give it a shot with some of my home brew. The first attempt, I followed the recipe and included gelatin, despite the fact that my iSi Whip says that it doesn't support "espumi." As a result, when I went to spray out the foam, I got nothing but the gas. The gelatinous goo stayed in the bottle, far more Jello pudding texture than a nice light foam. Still, dumping it out into a pastry bag, I was able to pipe it into a dish and give it a taste. The result: ugly but light, smooth and tasty... like gelato without the cold.

I decided to try again, but this time leave out the gelatin since I postulated that if the thing can whip cream, why not cream with espresso in it? The result was an even lighter foam that still held up for enough time to scarf it down. Of course, the foam melts quite quickly, so you only have about 5 minutes to serve it before it will become liquid, but it's better than the goop that I got with the gelatin. Chilling the dish first will help.

Overall, I loved the texture and flavor... but it's really a lot less impressive than all the news would make it out to be. (Caveat: I haven't tried the real-deal. Perhaps I'll like it better.. but I can't imagine it's the cost of a flight to Chicago better).

In fact, The Last Course has a much more elegant and challenging layered Espresso and Orange Panna Cotta that caught my eye a while ago before all the Espesso hullabaloo.


The Last Course

Did I mention this was a challenging recipe? The food stylist for this dish must be a goddess. Getting the layers smooth and even is very tricky, and requires a level of patience and attention to detail that I find it hard to be bothered with.

I'll say I like it messy, but it's really because I'm simply uncoordinated... if my panna cottas could look as beautiful as those in the book, I'd be not-so-secretly thrilled. During the process, I did learn a few tricks and my two of my cups turned out good enough, if nowhere near perfect. And anyway, you don't really notice wobbly lines and smears when the dish is licked clean.

So, Espesso or Panna Cotta... which wins out? I'm pretty happy saying yes to both!

Cold Coffee Espuma
(by Ferran Adria)

Ingredients converted to standard American measurements
1 1/4 cup cold espresso
1/2 cup heavy cream (33% fat)
1/2 cup sugar
2-2.5 sheets gelatin (see notes above)

For the rest of the recipe, see the article on Moveable Feast

Layered Espresso and Orange Panna Cotta
(adapted from The Last Course by Melissa Clark, p 186)
Makes 6 parfaits

Espresso Panna Cotta Layer
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk yogurt
1 t unflavored powdered gelatin
3 T casters sugar
1 T finely ground espresso

In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over a 1/4 cup of cream. Let sit for 5 minutes for the gelatin to soften.

Combine the remaining cream, yogurt, sugar and espresso in a small saucepan and whisk lightly over medium low heat until it starts to give of steam. Then, remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the gelatin mixture to the cream espresso mixture and whisk until smooth over low heat for about 2 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve to make sure there are no chunks of gelatin.

Carefully pour about 1/4 cup of the mixture into clean glasses (whatever you want to serve in). To help with this, place a spoon at an angle in the glass, the back of the spoon facing upwards, the bottom just touching the bottom of the glass. Pour the mixture from a cup with a spout slowly onto the back of the spoon. This may help you avoid unnecessarily splashing the sides of the glass. You should have enough to split the mixture evenly into 6 cups.

Place cups flat in the refrigerator, lightly cover with plastic, and chill for at least one hour, or until set. Setting times may vary based on the temperature of your refrigerator.

You will follow the same basic steps for the next two layers.

Espresso Gel?ɬ©e Layer
1 t unflavored powdered gelatin
1 1/2 T finely ground espresso
3 T sugar
1 cup water

Sprinkle the gelatin over a 1/4 cup of the water and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Combine the remaining water, espresso and sugar and whisk to combine. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture, and whisk together over low heat. Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve, lined with cheesecloth. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the glasses carefully from the refrigerator. Wipe off any splashes that may have dried on the side of the glass, being careful not to mar the surface of the panna cotta.

Using the same spoon technique, carefully pour about 1/8 cup of the gel?ɬ©e on top of the panna cotta layer. Try to hold the spoon towards the center of the cup as close as possible to the panna cotta layer without touching it (if you touch a little, it won't matter... just try not to put any pressure on it).

Return the cups to the refrigerator, recover and chill for at least 1 hour. I found that this layer set more quickly than the panna cotta layers.

Orange Panna Cotta Layer

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 t gelatin powder
3 T sugar
1 T orange zest
1 T orange juice

In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over a 1/4 cup of cream. Let sit for 5 minutes for the gelatin to soften.

Combine the remaining cream, sugar, orange zest and orange juice in a small saucepan and whisk lightly over medium low heat until it starts to give of steam. Then, remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the gelatin mixture to the cream orange mixture and whisk until smooth over low heat for about 2 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve to make sure there are no chunks of gelatin and to remove the orange zest chunks. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the glasses carefully from the refrigerator. Wipe off any splashes that may have dried on the side of the glass, being careful not to mar the surface of the gel?ɬ©e.

Using the same spoon technique, carefully pour about 1/4 cup of the cream on top of the gel?ɬ©e layer. Try to hold the spoon towards the center of the cup as close as possible to the gel?ɬ©e without touching it (if you touch a little, it won't matter... just try not to put any pressure on it).

Return the cups to the refrigerator, recover and chill for at least 2 hours. Dust with dark chocolate cocao if desired just before serving.
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