Panna Cotta is a ridiculously simple dessert made with sugar, cream, milk, gelatin, and an optional flavoring. Lavender Panna Cotta is delicately flavored with lavender buds and makes for stunning presentation when served with raspberry sauce. Gluten Free
Panna Cotta is one of the most elegant desserts around. Often the beautiful presentations make cooks shy away from making this simple dessert. Yes, it is ridiculously easy to make this dessert. No baking, no complicated measurements, no fancy gadgets, or complex chemical reactions to worry about. Read on to find out more.
What is Panna Cotta
Panna Cotta in Italian means cooked cream. To be honest there is not much cooking involved and too much cooking will ruin the dessert. All one has to do is heat sweetened cream, mix with melted gelatin and pour into molds, and chill till set.
A variety of molds are used to serve this dessert – anything from pudding cups to ramekins to small glasses. Unmold it into a plate and serve with fresh or stewed fruit or a sauce of your choice. Alternately set it on a pretty glass container and layer the sauce and fruits on top. This dessert can be made ahead of time and can easily be plated right before serving.
Lavender Panna Cotta
The simple nature of Panna Cotta makes it easy to add a variety of flavors. To infuse lavender flavors heat the cream with lavender buds and let it seep for at least 10 minutes. If you prefer add a drop of purple food coloring. I like to leave it white and garnish with a few lavender buds.
Cooking with Lavender
There are over 20 variety of lavenders and while all are edible the intensity of flavors vary. Most cooks prefer to cook with English lavender varieties as the flavors are milder. If you have a lavender bush in the backyard (or indoors) you will be able to find out the potency after a few tries.
You can get the culinary lavender in specialty food stores, spice sections, or online. These lavender buds are harvested from varieties that that are grown and processed for cooking rather than for essential oils. These are different from lavender found in the floral or craft isles. Those are meant for essential oils or ornamental purposes and might contain contaminants not desirable in cooking.
Here is a good article on what classifies lavender as culinary lavender.
Remember lavender can get overpowering easily, so start with small amounts and adjust later.
Making lavender Panna Cotta
This is recipe is one of the simple proportions. I use 1C whole Milk, 2 C heavy cream, 1/3 C sugar, and 1 tsp lavender buds, and 1 packet of unflavored gelatin. These proportions are easy to remember. You can substitute 3 C half and half if that is what you have.
Step 1: Heat the dairy mix
Heat the milk and sugar mix with lavender buds until hot – to the point when you start to see steam leave the surface. It does not take long, 2 to 3 minutes over medium/low medium heat for 3 C of liquid. Keep stirring while heating to facilitate even heat distribution and prevent the mix from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Once hot take the pan off the heat and let the lavender flavors seep into the mix. Keep aside for 10 minutes to 30 minutes. When making for the first time check to see if you have the desired flavors at 10 minutes, if not let it seep longer.
Step 2: Bloom the gelatin
Take 3 tbsp of cold water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let it sit for a few minutes. The moisture is absorbed into the gelatin and it becomes translucent. If there are white granules left on the top at this point sprinkle one or two drops of water on top. Just before mixing microwave for 10 seconds to melt the gelatin completely
You can also keep the gelatin bowl in a double boiler to achieve the same results.
Step 3: Mix and Set
Strain the cream mix to remove the lavender buds. If the mix is cold heat it till it is warm. If you are doing this remember to keep stirring. I usually leave the mix to seep near the stove, or warm oven so it does not cool completely.
Stream the melted gelatin into the cream mix slowly while stirring the mix continuously. Mix for about 1 minute and pour into molds and chill for 2 hours for soft set and overnight for a firmer Panna Cotta
Step 4: Serve
You can serve it molded or unmoulded. If serving unmolded add the toppings and serve.
To unmold dip the molds in hot water (don’t immerse) for a few seconds. Place the serving plate on top of the mold and invert it.
Do not put the mold in the hot water for long, it is easy to melt the gelatin completely.
I love to serve it with berries and sauces. Here is the recipe for the easy raspberry sauce used in the pictures here.
Mix 2 containers of raspberries with ½ C sugar, 3 tbsp water, and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Heat till the sugar is melted and the berries have softened. Mash with the back of a spoon and turn heat to low and let it simmer for 1 -2 minutes. Take off the heat and strain the mix to remove all the seeds. Let puree cool before using.
The recipe is simple, but then it is easy to make mistakes. The most important thing is heat control.
- Heat control – Heating the cream to boiling will cause it to curdle. So if you have to walk away turn off the heat and take it off the burner. Also, too high heat (212 F or boiling point of water) reduces the thickening capacity of gelatin. At this point, you will need to add more gelatin to achieve the same results
- Blooming Gelatin – Adding gelatin to hot liquid will cause it to clump as the outer layer expand rapidly preventing the particle inside from accessing water. Hence introduce it to cold liquid before adding.
- Stir not whip – Keep the dairy warm and stirring while adding gelatin. Just keep stirring and don’t whip the mix. The intent is to keep the liquid moving so that the mix is uniform. Whipping adds more air into the mix and the more air in the mix the less clear the gel is.
Is there a vegan substitute for gelatin?
There are vegetarian thickeners you can use in place of gelatin. But these work on different principles. Gelatin is a protein used to thicken while the vegetarian versions – agar-agar and carrageen are both carbohydrates. They react differently to heat and the thickening abilities are different too. A simple ingredient substitution will not work in this case.
Lavender Panna Cotta
- Heavy Bottomed pan
- Ramekins / Molds
- 2 C Heavy Cream
- 1 C Milk
- 1/3 C Sugar
- 1 Tsp Culinary Lavender buds
- 3 Tbsp Cold Water
- 1 Pkt Unflavored gelatin 7g or about 2 ½ tsp
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 Tbsp Lemon juice
- 12 Oz Raspberries Frozen / Fresh
- Mix the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and lavender buds in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat stirring often until hot – steam begins to leave the surface. Do not let it boil as high heat will curdle the cream.
- Take off the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Place 3 Tbsp water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Try not to clump the gelatin. In a few minutes, the gelatin will absorb the water and become translucent.
- Strain the sweetened cream to remove the lavender buds. If it has cooled to room temperature heat until it is hot to touch (do not boil).
- Microwave gelatin for 10 seconds (or place over any heat source) to just liquify it. Add to the hot milk stirring continuously to avoid forming clumps. Whisk until all the gelatin is dissolved. Transfer to containers. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.
- When ready to serve dip the containers in hot water to release the panna cotta from the sides and invert into a serving platter.
- Serve with raspberry sauce (or any sauce of your choice).
- Mix all ingredients for the sauce in a pan and heat till the sugar is melted and the raspberries are soft. Mash with the back of a spoon and let it simmer for 2 minutes over low heat
- Place in a blender and blend till smooth (Optional). Pass the mix through a strainer and press through to separate all the seeds. Cool before serving.
- Do not boil cream or gelatin
- Keep stirring gently while boiling the milk and adding gelatin
Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.