Expert Recipe: Espresso con PannaPublished on 07/11/2023 · 5 min readCoffee & Espresso Expert Matthew W. shares how to make a delicious espresso treat, perfect for an after-dinner pick-me-up, plus some alternative flavorings to try!
Photo by Alexandre Brondino
Found in most specialty coffee shops, a caffe espresso con panna is a simple yet decadent marriage of a shot of espresso with a dollop of freshly whipped cream traditionally served in a demitasse glass. Translating from Italian to “espresso with cream,” it’s as simple and straightforward as that. In France and the United Kingdom, an espresso con panna is referred to as a café Viennois, café Vienna, or Vienna coffee. In Vienna, an espresso con panna is called a Franziskaner. And to further confuse things, there are slight variations to the drink's name and presentation throughout continental Europe.
The two ingredients create an easy and beautifully balanced flavor profile. Fresh whipped cream has a natural sweetness and enhances the nutty and chocolate flavor notes of a nice espresso roast. However, there are several ways that the whipped cream can be sweetened and flavored if it isn’t quite sweet enough. The most common way of flavoring and sweetening an espresso con panna is by using the velvety French Chantilly cream, and there are several delicious approaches to its preparation to try. Any way you have it, an espresso con panna is a velvety smooth treat, morning, noon, or night.
What Is Chantilly Cream?
The French Chantilly Cream class entered the fold as baristas explored espresso culinary pairings. It's a French-sweetened and stabilized pastry cream that sounds way more difficult to make than it is. Its classic, light, and silky texture is the perfect topping for decadent desserts, rich coffees, fruit pies, and sponge cakes. Because the vanilla in Chantilly pairs so well with the chocolate, nutty, and syrupy flavors and notes in an espresso roast, it quickly became the ideal preparation of the drink.
While you can sweeten cream simply by adding powdered sugar, French Chantilly cream takes your caffe con panna’s flavor profile to another level. Unlike powdered or confectioners sugar, Chantilly cream is sweetened with superfine sugar and flavored with vanilla bean and vanilla extract.
Another delicious twist on the classic Chantilly cream is an almond and vanilla-flavored cream, which uses both vanilla bean and almond extract rather than vanilla extract. This is particularly tasty when enjoying your espresso con panna with an almond biscotti. Substitute 0.5 teaspoons of almond extract for the vanilla extract, and enjoy. Maple syrup is often used instead of sugar in Chantilly cream among our friends to the North.
Chantilly Cream Ingredients
- ½ vanilla bean
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
- Using the tip of a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. While holding the pod open, scrape the vanilla seeds from each half using the flat, unsharpened side of the knife. Transfer the vanilla seeds to a large chilled bowl. Discard the pod or save it as a garnish.
- In the chilled bowl, pour the heavy cream over the vanilla seeds and add the superfine sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk the cream with an electric mixer on low speed to incorporate all ingredients. If you do not have an electric mixer, the cream can be whipped with a little bit of muscle power using a whisk.
- Increase speed to reach desired consistency. Whisk on medium to high for approximately two minutes until the cream thickens and aerates. Whip to soft peaks or slightly longer for stiff peaks.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Use fresh, whole coffee beans—preferably an espresso roast—dose, tamp, and pull either a single shot or a doppio (double) into a demitasse or small glass or cup of your choosing. Then, spoon a dollop of cream onto the espresso, letting it float.
- Cold cream is a must! For heavy cream to whip, it must be VERY cold. Keep cream in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Place the mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for faster whipping time.
- Watch closely as your cream starts to thicken. It will go from soft peaks to stiff peaks very quickly. If you whip too long, you will have butter!
- Soft peaks are great for dolloping on coffee. If you prefer piping and want the shape to stay firm, whip to stiff peaks.
- Chantilly cream can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and in the freezer for 2-3 weeks. The cream will start to separate after a day or two. Simply re-whisk to bring it back together.
How to Drink an Espresso con Panna
When served this decadent beverage, allow the cream to meld into the hot espresso. As it cools, slowly stir in the cream with an espresso spoon. There is a velvety, silky lip feel from the cream melding with the espresso's crema. The vanilla notes from the Chantilly enhance the aroma and flavor profile. Adding maple or almond extract gives two more unique flavor profiles to your espresso con panna. Sip and enjoy with a biscotti or almond cookie. Cheers!
If you’re interested in trying espresso drinks from around the world, check out this Curated article. Are you looking for a great recipe for an espresso martini? Try one of my award-winning recipes with your friends and family at your next get-together.
If you are someone that loves trying new coffee experiences, whether it be a type of drink or a new brew method, please reach out to myself or one of the other Curated Coffee & Espresso Experts for a helping hand. Additionally, if you are looking to up your espresso game with a new machine, grinder, accessories, or even the best beans from coast-to-coast, shoot one of us a message today! Cheers!