Chef’s Tables: Pumpkin-Spice Panna Cotta

Chef-owner of Coolinary Cafe, Tim Lipman, shares his recipe for the Italian dessert, panna cotta.Save room for dessert: Inspired by his grandmother’s treasured Italian recipe, chef-owner Tim Lipman of Coolinary Cafe in Palm Beach Gardens prepared this pumpkin-imbued panna cotta with a custardy mix of gelatin, brown sugar, vanilla bean, and spices, then substituted warm caramel for a decadent vanilla-bourbon sauce. 

“When I was growing up, my Sicilian grandma would make a big bowl of panna cotta for all the kids. It has a special place in my heart.”

Pumpkin-Spice Panna Cotta with Ginger Snap and Pecan

Serves 6


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 1-inch vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 tbs. apple-cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup quality bourbon
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Panna Cotta

  • 1/4 oz. envelope unflavored powdered gelatin (2¼ tsp.)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 whole vanilla-bean split and scraped
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup steamed fresh puree of pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans

Sauce directions

  1. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3-quart saucepan.
  2. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan, and then drop in the bean. Stir until the sugar is wet and sandy.
  3. Cook over medium-high heat without stirring until the sugar begins to turn golden around the edges (about 8 minutes). Swirl the pan occasionally until sugar is dark golden (3 to 5 more minutes).
  4. Remove from the heat. Slowly stir in apple cider, apple-cider vinegar, and bourbon, followed by a pinch of salt.
  5. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a small heatproof bowl. Quick-chill sauce by putting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water, stirring occasionally until cool.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (sauce will keep for 2 days).

Panna cotta directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the gelatin with water and set aside.
  2. Whisk the cream, milk, brown sugar, salt, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat until just beginning to boil.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin. Whisk in the pumpkin, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl or 2-quart liquid measure. Divide among six 6-oz. ramekins.
  4. Refrigerate until firm to the touch, covering with plastic wrap once cool (between 4 and 48 hours).
  5. Unmold the panna cotta by dipping the bottom of each ramekin in hot water for a few seconds and then running a paring knife around the edge all the way to the bottom to loosen it.
  6. Cover with a dessert plate and invert. Give it a good downward shake, then remove the ramekin.
  7. Top with sauce and toasted pecans, and serve.


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Photography by Libby Volgyes

Styling by Janderyn Makris, Earth and Sugar 

Flowers by Flower and Fringe

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