My Writing Process Blog Tour & Coconut-Chocolate Panna Cotta (Gluten-Free)

This entry is part 236 of 271 in the series Chocolate Mondays

Coconut Panna Cotta & Choc-Rum Sauce; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Have you heard of the “My Writing Process Blogging Tour”? It is a way to share with others some of the inside stories about how food bloggers think, the way we approach our work, and to introduce some of our favorite other writers. 

The lovely and talented Angela of Spinach Tiger invited me to join the tour. Angela and I met through the Secret Recipe Club and earlier this spring Angela was one of the people who guest posted for me. She wrote this beautiful article on French macarons that had everyone swooning! Take a look at her writing process post from June 9th, it is so inspiring!

Each Monday a new group of bloggers post their articles and continue the virtual tour. As this spreads across the nation and world, more and more people are discovering what drives us to spend hours making, photographing, and sharing our culinary creations with all of you. Thank you!

Coconut Panna Cotta & Choc-Rum Sauce; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Ready for chilling

As part of this blog “tour”, there are four questions that everyone is asked to answer …

What am I working on?

 It has been a busy and exciting spring for me. I went to the Big Traveling Potluck with Gourmet Garden, Las Vegas with Char-Broil, and was a presenter in Miami for BlogHer Food. I just got qualified to judge Kansas City BBQ Society events! I am also developing recipes every month for Char-Broil and Gourmet Garden. In my spare time (cough, yeah right LOL) I am a member of the board of directors of the San Francisco Professional Food Society. If you live in the Bay Area and haven’t joined yet, come to one of our events and check us out! It is a great group, fantastic for networking, and we always have something fun on the front burner.

Oh, and I’m also helping my husband, The Artist, get his blog up and running and getting his artwork photographed and posted. He is incredibly talented and I am thrilled the rest of the world finally gets to see what he creates. Yep, I live in a museum, all of the art on our walls are originals! :-)

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Unlike many people these days, I was extremely fortunate to have had a grandmother who loved to cook and bake and taught me. It is sad that these family traditions are not being passed on to future generations as often as they used to be. Thanks to Mimi’s guiding hands, I do everything from scratch. I used to make pulled taffy, cinnamon twists, chicken and dumplings and more with her. Before I could develop insecurities, I was already making food that adults wouldn’t dream of. I’ve never been afraid of baking or trying to make anything and that is an incredible blessing she gave me.

As of two years ago, I was diagnosed with gluten-intolerance and every recipe posted since then includes both a regular and a gluten-free option. It has been a journey learning to bake all over again. It’s like I was a post-graduate student in baking and after having to go gluten-free, I was back in Kindergarten again. I am about high school-level now with many more adventures ahead of me – and I’m looking forward to each one!

Coconut Panna Cotta & Choc-Rum Sauce; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Panna Cotta made in a ramekin & inverted onto plate

Why do I write what I do?

I recognize how lucky I was to have a grandmother who loved to cook and was willing to share that passion and her skills with me. I wish everyone could have a “Mimi” in their lives. I saw how easy it was for her to create delectable meals to our family loved. I couldn’t wait for her next visit (they lived in Indiana and we were in California) because it meant I was going to learn how to make something new.

 I hope that my recipes and explanation of techniques will help those who are just starting out to be more comfortable in the kitchen. If you want to learn how to bake and cook, come on along and cook with me! I am always here if you have any questions – I love to help!

I hope that my recipes and explanation of techniques will help those who are just starting out to be more comfortable in the kitchen. If you want to learn how to bake and cook, come on along and cook with me! I am always here if you have any questions – I love to help!

If I can help someone become a more confident, creative, and experimental cook, then I have accomplished my goal. 

How does your writing process work?

Before I even knew what an editorial calendar was, I had built a spreadsheet to track and plan my posts. I usually have ideas set up for two to three months in advance, noting on the spreadsheet when holidays land so I can schedule appropriate recipes. I regularly move recipes around as needed when an ingredient catches my eye, I get a brainstorm, or I find a recipe I really want to try.

I usually don’t get around to cooking until late in the day because I am usually serving whatever I make for dinner. In the beginning, I would serve The Artist so he had a hot meal, and then do my photography. He now waits until I am done photographing so we can still eat together. After we are done and the kitchen is cleaned up, I settle down to write. I like it when the house is quiet and few people are sending emails or posting on social media. When the distractions slow down, my creativity comes out.

Coconut Panna Cotta & Choc-Rum Sauce; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Here’s who is coming up next!

I don’t measure the value of the conferences I attend by the amount of swag I collect or number of sessions attended, but by the friends I make and connections made that may lead to future projects. I saw all of these gals at one or more of the food conferences I went to this spring, and all are absolute gems. They will each be posting their stories on June 23rd. I am honored to know them and know you will love them as much as I do!

Carrie Vibert – Poet in the Pantry 

Carrie is a mom on a mission to find moments of bliss in the kitchen and share her love of food and writing with all of us. While she is more of a baker than cook, her mad scientist experiments keep her constantly on her toes. While her recipes don’t always turn out the way she thought they would, she enjoys making new discoveries. She loves going to food events in the New York/Connecticut area near her home. I love that she was able to spend two days at the CIA in Hyde park with Jones Dairy Farm, one of my favorite vendors who carries great gluten-free meats! Carrie and I met each other during an event at BlogHer Food in Miami. How lucky am I to call such a smart, clever, creative and talented woman my friend!

Fabiola Donnelly – Not Just Baked

A California girl who spent her summers in Mexico with her Spanish family and now lives in Portland, Oregon, this is a woman who appreciates good food and knows how to prepare it. Fabi is a trained pastry chef who loves to teach people how to bake and cook on Not Just Baked. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be good, it just needs to be balanced; eating healthy vegetables to offset the butter and sugar for dessert. With a huge smile always on her face and an even bigger heart, I knew instantly that we would be friends when we met in SoCal at Big Traveling Potluck. Fabi is the kind of person that everyone gravitates to in a crowd, a natural instigator of fun times. The fact that she is incredibly talented, a skilled chef, and smart as a whip just enhance the total package that is Fabi!

Rose McAvoy – Our Lady of Second Helpings

Rose and her husband have lost more than 300 pounds so they can live happier, healthier lives together with their growing family. Rose shares that journey on Our Lady of Second Helpings, an homage to celebrating life’s many good things. I love her philosophy of changing her eating habits a little at a time and never feeling like she is on a “diet”. Including lots of colorful vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, Rose shares the delicious and healthy recipes she makes for her family. Rose and I met a year ago at BlogHer Food in Austin. When we were chatting about upcoming conferences early this year, she decided to fly down to SoCal from Seattle and join me at Big Traveling Potluck. It was wonderful to see her looking radiant and much more slender than the last time I saw her … she had given birth to her son in the interim, LOL! Rose inspires us all to be better people, make smarter food choices, and fill the world with kindness and laughter. She is an absolute joy!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Coconut Panna Cotta & Choc-Rum Sauce; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

And now a little about today’s recipe … Do you love island life? Is the Caribbean your idea of the perfect vacation? Do you dream of spending every evening watching the sunset on your lanai? If you answered yes to any of these, today’s dessert is perfect for you!

Panna cotta literally means cooked cream in Italian and it is pure heaven to me. This version is made with coconut cream, coconut milk and heavy cream. So creamy and smooth, it really complements the chocolate-rum sauce. With the sprig of mint perfuming the air as you take each bite, you will swear you can hear the waves of the ocean!

Coconut Panna Cotta & Choc-Rum Sauce; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

The miracle of gelatin!

If you’ve never worked with gelatin, it is another one of those ingredients that creates magic in the kitchen. You pour a silky powder into a bowl, add a little water, and in about 10 minutes you have a semi-solid disk. When you add this to hot liquids, it dissolves and then firms up when it is chilled. It is what makes Jell-O turn from a liquid in the jiggly fun that kids love.

Even though it looks heavy, it is actually quite light and perfect on hot summer nights. I really appreciate that it can be made ahead so I don’t have to worry about dessert while putting together the rest of dinner. And if I am hosting a party, it’s even better. Make the panna cotta and the chocolate sauce a day or two in advance. Store them separately and when you are ready to serve, reheat the sauce enough so it pours easily, and put the two together either on plates (if you invert the ramekins) or in glasses. They are both beautiful and delicious.

Coconut Panna Cotta & Choc-Rum Sauce; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

This cream has a fairly delicate coconut flavor. If you want it more potent, you can add about 1/4 tsp of coconut extract. Depending on who you are making this for, if they have a really big sweet tooth, you may want to add a little more powdered sugar. Taste the cream before chilling and whisk in the extract and/or sugar if needed.

Be sure to check out Carrie, Fabiola and Rose’s posts next week and Happy Chocolate Monday!! Coconut Panna Cotta & Choc-Rum Sauce; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Gluten-Free Tips:

This recipe is gluten-free as long as you use GF chocolate chips and avoid “colored” alcohol. Gluten is killed during the distillation process but most manufacturers add caramel coloring for appearances, which contains gluten. If you get a reaction when you have bourbon, dark rum, scotch, etc, it probably is because of the added coloring.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Chocolate-Rum Sauce (Gluten-Free)
Yields 6
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Panna Cotta
  1. 1 tbsp powdered gelatin
  2. 3 tbsp cool water
  3. 1 (15 oz) can coconut cream, such as Coco Loco or Coco Lopez
  4. 1 (13.5 oz) can sweetened coconut milk, very well shaken
  5. 2 cups cold heavy cream
  6. 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, or to taste
  7. Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
Chocolate-Rum Sauce
  1. 10 oz semisweet chocolate chips (gluten-free if needed)
  2. 3 tbsp rum or prepared coffee (potato vodka is gluten-free)
  3. 1/2 cup coconut milk, well shaken, or more as needed
  1. Place a very large, wide bowl on the counter. Select another bowl that will fit easily inside the larger bowl and set it next to the first bowl. Add about a dozen ice cubes and 1 to 2 cups of water to the larger bowl. Set out 6 (1-cup / 8 oz) ramekins. If you don’t want to turn these out onto serving plates, you can use clear serving dishes instead.
Prepare the Panna Cotta
  1. Place 3 tbsp cool water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir to moisten the gelatin and set aside to allow it to absorb the water. As it sits it will become a solid mass that releases from the bowl easily. Break it into several smaller pieces.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the coconut cream and coconut milk together over medium heat to just under a simmer. Stir it often to avoid scorching. The cream needs to be hot enough to dissolve the gelatin. When it is ready there will be wisps of steam rising from the surface, small bubbles around the edge of the pan, and a few small bubble breaking the surface occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the moistened gelatin. Whisk constantly until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  3. Place a fine wire mesh sieve over the second bowl (set next to the larger bowl with the ice water). Pour the coconut mixture through the sieve and into the bowl. Carefully set the bowl with the cream mixture into the larger bowl with ice water, making sure that the water does not splash into the cream. It took a little nestling to get all the ice cubes around the outside of the bowl and not under the bottom so it would float evenly level.
  4. Stir cream mixture occasionally with a flexible spatula, moving the cream on the sides back into the center. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to thicken. When the cream is cooled, remove the bowl from the water bath and set on a clean kitchen towel.
  5. In another large bowl, combine the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar. Stir together with a whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Pour in the cooled coconut mixture and gently whisk until evenly blended. Taste and add more sugar if you think it needs it. Whisk it in until completely dissolved.
  6. Ladle the panna cotta mixture into the ramekins and set them on a baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill them until firm, at least 4 hours. These can be made a day ahead. Cover and store in the refrigerator.
Make Chocolate-Rum Sauce
  1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the chocolate together with the rum and coconut milk. Watch the mixture carefully and stir it regularly until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy. If the mixture looks curdled, whisk in a little more of the coconut milk until smooth. Taste, and if needed, add a little powdered sugar, whisking until smooth.
  2. The sauce can be made up to a week in advance. Pour into a jar with an airtight lid and store in the refrigerator. Rewarm slightly before pouring over the panna cottas.
To Serve
  1. Run a sharp paring knife around the inside edge of the ramekins and invert each panna cotta onto a serving plate. If they don’t release, you can serve them upright in the ramekins. Drizzle some of the chocolate-rum sauce around each panna cotta, garnish with mint leaves and serve immediately.
  1. Yield: 6 servings (1 cup each)
Adapted from Panna Cotta recipe adapted from Daisy Martinez, Food Network
Adapted from Panna Cotta recipe adapted from Daisy Martinez, Food Network
The Heritage Cook ®

Create a New Tradition Today!

Let’s connect! If you love The Heritage Cook, you can follow me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. If you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, need to alter a recipe for gluten-free, or want recipe suggestions, don’t hesitate to email me ( Thanks for reading! 

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This site is not intended to provide medical advice. The suggestions here are not intended as dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. It is the reader’s sole responsibility to determine which foods are appropriate and safe for their family to consume. Always consult your doctor. The author makes no claims regarding the presence of food allergens and disclaims all liability in connection with the use of this site.

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    • Jane Bonacci says

      Carrie, you are delight! It was my absolute pleasure to have you join in the fun. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next week!!!

    • Jane Bonacci says

      I am so excited to read about how you come up with your amazingly creative recipes too Susan! This tour is a wonderful way to discover all kinds of new people to follow!!

  1. says

    Jane, I absolutely loved learning even more about you! I wonder if your grandmother could have even imagined what a powerful impact she would have on not only YOUR life, but on the lives of so many others: the ones you are influencing through your writing!
    Your photography is breathtaking!
    I think you and I are destined to meet, and become friends.
    Wishing you all the best!!!

    • Jane Bonacci says

      Oh Susan, there was definitely something happening when we were teamed up for this week’s tour! Mimi was an amazing woman and I wish I had had more time with her – she passed when I was only ten … but she had already left her legacy in my hands. :-) Thank you for your incredibly kind words. We all hope that we are making a difference in the world and touching someone with our words. But we seldom hear that feedback. I appreciate you, your story, and your fantastic sense of humor!!

  2. says

    I love this gorgeous dessert, and your sweet words. They go together perfectly! Your writing is beautiful, and inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to share with us your process and story.

    • Jane Bonacci says

      Ah sweet Fabi – I am so thrilled you are joining us on the tour and I can’t wait to read about your process! What a lucky day it was when I met you!!

  3. says

    Jane, it was so wonderful to learn more about your, your grandmother, and your process! You are incredibly busy! Thank goodness for supportive spouses, eh? I love this panna cotta – I make a very similar version, but have never thought to pair it with a chocolate rum sauce – that is brilliant!

    • Jane Bonacci says

      Thank you Liren. I’ll bet your panna cotta is amazing! After writing Chocolate Mondays for about three years, I automatically think about ways to add a chocolate component, LOL!

  4. says

    Gorgeous pictures, and wonderful words. Learning about your grandmother and your true passion for cooking (and teaching) was delightful. Thank you for joining me in this process. I’m so glad I said yes and you said yes.

    • Jane Bonacci says

      Thank you so much for including me Angela! It was a little intimidating at first, I’m not used to sharing about my life as much as some people. But it was a great way to break out and try something new! I loved yours as well and this whole process is amazing!


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