Custard Apple Panna Cotta

Friday, August 14, 2009

custard apple side view
custard apple top view
I always think the custard apple looks a little bit dangerous – like a hand grenade maybe (not that I’ve seen a hand grenade up close before). But looks can be deceiving because it’s a big softie at heart.

What am I going on about? Custard apples (or Nona as they are known in Malaysia) are one of those fruits that you can eat only when it’s gone all soft and squishy. When it's ready, the pale green outer skin starts turning black and there is a slight give to the fruit when pressed. I used to have a little Nona tree when I was growing up, and we’d know the fruit was ripe when it split a little near the stem end.

The flavour is quite mild and sweet, with an underlying earthiness. Texture-wise, it’s creamy yet occasionally fibrous in parts (especially around the seeds), with some graininess similar to a pear thanks to sclereids (stone cells). There, I knew my biology degree would come in handy one day - if only to show off on a blog!

Usually we just eat it “straight”, but after consulting my Cook’s Companion (Stephanie Alexander) and getting some flavour inspiration, I decided to try using the custard apple to make a panna cotta.

And because my first attempt at tuile making had gone so well, I decided to try some lacy tuiles to sit atop the finished panna cotta.

custard apple panna cottaCustard apple panna cotta and lacy coconut tuile

Custard Apple Panna Cotta

(A TWS original)

(Makes 4 small pots)

300ml thin cream
200 ml milk
¼ cup sugar (or less depending on taste)
Flesh from 1 medium custard apple, seeds removed
Finely grated rind of 1 lime
1 tsp lime juice
2 titanium strength gelatin leaves (you can also use gelatin powder – read instructions on packet to work out how much to use – the gelatin leaves I used had a ratio of 1 leaf per 250g liquid).

Soak gelatin leaves in cold water.

Whizz custard apple flesh and 1 teaspoon lime juice in food processor till fine. Push the resulting mixture through sieve to remove the fibrous bits.

inside custard appleInside the custard apple

Put cream, milk and sugar into saucepan, stir to dissolve sugar then scald (bring to just below boiling point). Remove from heat.

Squeeze gelatin leaves and add to hot cream mixture, stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Put a spoonful of the cream mixture into the custard apple flesh and stir to loosen. Put the flesh into the cream mixture and stir well.

Pour into lightly oiled panna cotta moulds (I didn’t have any, I just used 200ml custard pots), stirring between each mould to prevent the custard apple flesh from sinking to the bottom.

Refrigerate for 3-4 hours until set (if shaken, it will have a slight wobble).

Dip briefly in hot water to unmold. Serve with lime slices and coconut tuiles.

I found this dessert best eaten on the day it is made. The longer it is refrigerated, the “tougher” it gets. The flavour of the custard apple is noticeable, and also the graininess of the stone cells can be felt – not in an off-putting way, but it gives a bit of character to the panna cotta.

I also found the dessert a bit sweet, which is why I served it with lime to help cut the richness.

lime slices
Lime slices
Slice a lime thinly, sprinkle a tiny bit of caster sugar onto the lime slices and set aside until needed.

For the tuiles, I used a recipe from

The tuiles make great snacks on their own too.


Megan@Feasting on Art said...

Ohh lovely! i have never had a custard apple and now I am going to have to keep my eye out for one.

Anh said...

So lovely! I normally just eat custard apple plain. You have used it to create a lovely dessert!

Elizabeth said...

I've had custard apples before (cherimoyas to me), but they looked seriously different on the outside> I wonder how many kinds there are? Anyway, fab recipe! I love Panna Cotta and I love custard apples...winning combo!

macha said...

fantastic - what a creative way to eat custard apples!

Lisa Michelle said...

I've also never tried a custard apple, and using it in a panna cotta is SO intriguing to me! It looks beautiful, as do your the little holes, as it adds to the presentation! Gorgeous!

Julia @ Mélanger said...

I LOVE custard apples. I never eat them enough. I would have never thought to use thiem for panna cotta. Great idea!

shaz said...

Thanks everyone!

Megan - they're in season now, so keep an eye out for them.

Anh - I usually eat them plain too, but sometimes it's good to have a change:)

Thanks macha

Elizabeth - i think there must be lots of different varieties, the ones I had as a kid were smaller and rounder, and I've even seen purple ones

Thanks Lisa Michelle - the tuiles are surprisingly easy to make and they go all "holey" by themselves. Super quick to cook too as you can see;p

Julia - I got the idea of pairing the custard apple with something creamy from The Cook's Companion. Stephanie Alexander makes it into a fool with cream, icing sugar and lime juice.

grow a best friend said...

I've never seen a custard apple before but it looks similar to a fruit from Taidong, Taiwan called "shijia (釋迦)." Do you know if it's related? It's got that pear-like inside with a pineapple-ly flavor to it.

Are you living in Malaysia now? Or can you get a custard apple in other countries?

TasteStopping said...

I have never heard of or seen a custard apple, unless I have been passing them by at my local Whole Foods. Now I will pay closer attention. Your recipe looks wonderful, and I couldn't help but get a chuckle out of your description of the fruit (a big softie at heart) and the Malaysian word for it, Nona, which can be a nickname for Grandma. I think they must be related, somehow!

Anyway, I found you through TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


Navita (Gupta) Hakim said... first time here and love the title of the blog :p

this recipe..esp the coconut tuiles is very interesting...thanks for sharing

btw love that pic of the custard apple 'behind'....almost looks like a porpcupine and is one of my fav fruits...

Anonymous said...

It's been ages since I have had a taste of custard apple! A favorite of mine especially during steamy, hot summer days - I roughly smashed it with a sprinkle of sugar, few grains of salt, then mix it with shaved ice... a quicker, simpler way of making it into a smoothie, if you will!

Your recipe definitely intrigues my senses! Thanks for sharing and for posting!

shaz said...

Hi grow a best friend - I googled shijia and it looks really similar, the smaller, rounder bumpier fruit looks like the ones I used to have as a kid. I'm living in Sydney now, and the custard apples we get come from Queensland (it's a tropical fruit).

Thanks TasteStopping - Nona - Panna Cotta, goes together don't you think? I think the word Nona actually comes from the genus name Anona (there I go showing of again)

Hi Navita - welcome! Thanks so much for visiting and for leaving such lovely comments, you're welcome back anytime! he he - I think of armadillos when I look at the "behind" ;P

Hi Anonymous (don't be shy) - custard apple smoothie sounds awesome and I like the idea of adding a pinch of salt.

delightfullysweet said...

I have actually never had a custard apple before or even knew they existed!
They look amazing yet complicated!

isa said...

Gorgeous Apple Panna Cotta - very creative!
Your coconut tuiles are beautiful and so delicate!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Hehe it's so true, they do look like lethal weapons but they're all big softies at heart lol. You know I never thought to cook with them so thanks for enlightening me! :D

KyotoFoodieのPekoPeko said...

I love panna cotta but I too have never heard of a custard apple. I will have to try one next time I am in Malaysia! Thanks!

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Ooh Shaz, you are an adventurous soul! How long did it take to get the seeds out? I love panna cotta & I love custard apple...never dreamt of the two together! WOW!! And tuilles too. Hat's off!

shaz said...

Cheers Lorraine, I'm sure you'd be able to come up with some amazing recipe if you end up cooking with them :)

Hope you find one KyotoFoodie - love your blog

Thanks so much Deeba! The seeds didn't take too long to remove, I used my hands, but I did get a bit too engrossed in the task and ended up burning a tray of tuiles :)

Lady_fireproof said...

That is not a picture of the Custard Apple, sorry. That is a young Sweet Sop, also called Sugar Apple.
Google will help you with pictures.
Your recipe looks delicious.

shaz said...

Hi Lady_fireproof, Thanks for stopping by. This fruit is known by many, many different names and there are many different varieties. In Australia, it is called a Custard Apple - The sweetsop/sugar apple looks like Annona squamosa and the ones we call custard apples look like a cross between A. cherimola and A. squamosa ( Cheers Sharon