Softly sweetened coffee-infused cream makes for deeply flavored panna cottas (Italian custards) that are as silky and light as they are rich. A vanilla-flecked caramel sauce balances the slight bitterness of the coffee. Present them as a delightful dessert course before the cake, or serve alongside it as a creamy counterpoint.

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Ingredients

Directions

  • Whisk together cream, sugar, and coffee in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover, and let stand 1 hour. Pour into an airtight container, and refrigerate overnight (up to 3 days).

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  • Set six 4-ounce ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet, and coat with cooking spray; set aside. Put 6 tablespoons cold water into a small bowl, and sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand until gelatin has softened, about 5 minutes.

  • Pour coffee mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Add gelatin mixture; whisk until gelatin has dissolved. Simmer 1 minute. Whisk in half-and-half. Return to a simmer; remove from heat. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a liquid measuring cup. Divide among prepared ramekins. Let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours (up to overnight).

  • To unmold, briefly dip ramekins, one at a time, into hot water, making sure water does not reach rim; run a knife around edge of each panna cotta, and invert onto a plate. Serve with vanilla bean caramel.

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