Panna cotta looks hard to make, but it’s really just a gelatin. Unlike traditional custards and puddings, there’s no need to work with egg yolks because most panna cotta recipes do not contain eggs. Another beautiful thing about panna cotta is you can flavor it any way you like. This recipe for lavender, brown sugar panna cotta with lemon sauce is perfectly sweet and refreshing for hot summer days.
When I lived in Boston, I used to visit this little Italian restaurant called Bella Verona. It was a cozy little place, which always had a chalkboard full of daily specials. I had their panna cotta for dessert every time I ate there. It was light and creamy and sat on a bed of warm wild Maine blueberries. For this recipe, I wanted to use some of my Green Acres culinary lavender I bought when I visited Atascadero, CA. Lavender grows all over California, but you don’t see it in South Florida very much. You can use fresh lavender instead; just don’t add too much or it may taste bitter.
Lavender and lemon are a classic combination. The herbal flavor of the lavender works wonderfully with cream, and the tart sweetness of the lemon makes the perfect accent. I also used brown sugar instead of white because I love the touch of molasses flavor. I use it in whipped creams and frosting too. You won’t get perfectly white results, but it’s worth it for the extra flavor. Substitute white sugar if you prefer. To garnish this dish, try making some candied lemon peel. It’s easy to do and you can save the extra for later.
Yield: 4 servings
Recipe adapted from Vanilla Panna Cotta , by Michael Symon for Food Network Magazine
Heat the cream and sugar in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Split the vanilla bean down the center with a knife and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the vanilla pod to the warm cream. Add the dried lavender and heat until the mixture comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
While the cream is heating, “bloom” the gelatin in the cold milk in a small bowl for 10 minutes.
Pour the cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the lavender and vanilla pod and return to the pan.
Stir the gelatin mixture into the hot cream and incorporate the mascarpone (or yogurt). Allow to cool.
Pour into individual ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours. To remove from the ramekins, dip them ¾ of the way up into hot water and invert onto a serving dish.
Total Time: 7 minutes
Recipe for Lemon Sauce by Diana Rattray
In a small saucepan, mix egg, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest over low heat. Stir constantly until thick and the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Be careful not to overheat as the egg will curdle. Add butter at end and stir to combine.