This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Whether it’s flan, custard, a budino, or panna cotta, one thing I know is true…… the first spoonful is always the dreamiest.
Now that fall is here, you probably know that squash is on my mind – all the time. I prefer it over pumpkin for sweet applications, with a denser texture, and deeper flavor when roasted.
For the last few days, this Maple Butternut Squash Panna Cotta has been my indulgence as I detach myself from a big project that is coming to an end. Playing around with countless ways to serve and decorate these little pots of cream, letting my mind work in a different direction, was just what I needed.
Panna cotta is the perfect after-dinner delight in my mind – light, silky and decadent all at the same time. But I’ll be the first to admit that the whole “setting with gelatin” thing has always made me a little nervous. Yet in all honesty, it’s easier than any cake or pie I’ve ever made. You can do it, trust!
Most base recipes use cream, sugar (which I traded for maple syrup) and gelatin, creating a blank canvas for whatever addition or flavor you fancy. It’s silky smooth and just firm, with a gentle wobble. Grassfed heavy cream and buttermilk are simmered with pure maple syrup and roasted butternut squash (kabocha would be great too).
A dash of pumpkin pie spice brings warmth, and gluten-free ginger cookies crumbled on top give the perfect contrast to the lush custard.
It’s beautiful food that sings with the season. Almost too pretty to eat, but not quite.
Left in their tiny cups, they’ll snuggle into one hand quite nicely as you sit and savor. I like to layer some of the mashed squash and cookie crumbs alongside each other on top, giving them brightness, texture and curiosity. If you think the squash “evidence” might give a red flag to the vegetable adverse, it’s certainly not required.
Or you can unmold the panna cotta on individual plates and shower each with cookie dust and a drizzle of maple syrup. Their simple elegance is an eye catcher too….
They can chill in the fridge all day (and overnight, and the next night too), taste amazing, and lend themselves to endless variations. Is that reason enough to try them? Please say yes….. :) xo
tag @heartbeetkitchen on instagram and hashtag it #heartbeetkitchen
I have a half of a butternut squash in the refrigerator and am going to attempt a dairy-free version (my daughter can’t do dairy ?) with cashew cream and coconut buttermilk. I’ll let you know how it turns out!
What an interesting idea, I’ve never used pumpkin in a pan cotta. I’m going to have to give this ago.
GIRL. Seriously. You’re a wizard.
;) happy fall, friend. xo
If I knew where you lived in MN, I’d be stopping by your house to grab a bite of these! Haha, seriously though, these panna cottas are beautiful and rich and I can’t wait to try them sometime.
Next time you’re at the St Paul Farmer’s Market, stop on by! :)
wow this looks so yummy!! I love your food photography too. Also the name of your blog is so so cute! : )
Creamy desserts are the best! And they are even better when they are pretty like this one! I love that you used butternut squash in a dessert recipe, so creative!
agreed! they always seem to end a meal perfectly. thanks for stopping by izzy!
I too have been obsessed with squash lately…. (I had your book out last night!)
I should never make panna cotta or butterscotch pudding because I like to keep it all to myself… and it doesn’t last long :)
Amanda! These are totally beautiful – I love absolutely everything about them and I can’t wait to try this recipe asap!
thanks Kathryn :) sending love!
amanda this is brilliant – you brought the biggest smile to play across my lips today. what an amazing and inspired use of butternut squash. i agree that beautiful food doesn’t hesitate to sing with the season – it’s a love affair, yes? ♥
These photos are beautiful Amanda! And squash pannacotta? What a genius idea! Love it. <3
squash pannacotta is a straight-up genius idea! bravo!!!
squash FTW! :) xo
This is the most gorgeous panna cotta I’ve ever seen, Amanda. <3 The flavors sound wonderful!
aw, thank you Julie! i really did love the flavor combination, especially the maple with the warm spices. xo
This sounds wonderful! Butternut squash is my favorite squash. I’ve never made panna cotta before but this one sounds soooo scrumptious. Beautiful!
do it Sara! it’s so easy, and the perfect little dessert to keep on hand in the refrigerator. i was always nervous about gelatin, but all you’re really doing is softening it, then stirring it in. xo!
Dear Amanda – how delicious this is! Reminds me of creme brûlée, one of my all time favorite desserts. xo
Oh, this is stunning Amanda. And it sounds absolutely delicious. I so love the idea of using squash in panna cotta and the cookies sound like the perfect finishing touch! This is certainly on my must-make list. xo!
How well would this work with dairy-free like coconut milk? Maybe canned coconut so it’s thinker like cream?
Oh I adore these pretty pictures Amanda! I have to admit I didn’t like custardy desserts for a loooong time. After discovering how amazing things like a silky creme brulee are, I have absolutely changed my mind :) Vegan panna cotta is on my to try list in the near future!
Amanda, your photography is gorgeous!!! I want to dig in right now!