White Chocolate-Lavender Panna Cotta
A slightly more conservative, but equally tasty, spin on my orange-scented White Chocolate-Basil Panna Cotta!
Yield: About five 1/2- to 3/4-cup servings
Prep Talk: Either fresh or dried lavender buds will work just fine. Expect some trial and error to adjust the lavender strength to your liking.
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (less than 1 package)
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- About 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon fresh or dried lavender buds (Note: I use dried buds from Penzeys Spices. Feel free to adjust the quantity of lavender to taste.)
- Zest of 1/2 orange, cut into long strips with a channel zester or paring knife
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons finely minced orange zest (less than 1 orange)
- 4 ounces premium white chocolate, finely chopped and melted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Whipped cream, fresh lavender sprigs, and/or fresh orange twists, for garnish (optional)
1 | Prep your serving containers. Clean and dry five 8- to 10-ounce dishes, wine glasses, or other serving containers. (I use rustic Mason or other canning jars, like those pictured right, whenever I serve these desserts alfresco!) Set aside.
2 | Hydrate and melt the gelatin. Pour the cold water into a small bowl that fits a double boiler. Sprinkle the gelatin uniformly over the water and let the mixture sit 5 to 10 minutes until the gelatin is completely hydrated. Do not stir, no matter how tempted. If you do, the gelatin will form lumps that will be very difficult to remove. Set the bowl over simmering water in the double boiler and melt over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, but leave the melted gelatin over the warm water, while you complete the panna cotta.
3 | Infuse the cream and milk with lavender. Combine the cream, milk, lavender buds, and orange zest in a nonreactive (i.e., stainless steel or coated) saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and scald the cream. Remove from the heat and let the lavender and orange zest steep in the liquid about 30 minutes.
Photo by Susan Jackson
4 | Finish mixing the panna cotta. Strain the cream into a bowl to remove the lavender and orange zest. While the cream is still warm, whisk in the melted gelatin, powdered sugar, and remaining minced orange zest. Allow the mixture to cool completely at room temperature; then gently whisk in the melted white chocolate and vanilla extract. Cover the surface flush with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate about 1 hour, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Remove the plastic wrap and gently whisk to evenly distribute any orange zest that may have settled to the bottom. Note: Do not scrape the mixture clinging to the wrap into the bowl. Any cocoa butter that rose to the surface has now accumulated on the wrap, and if it is added to the mixture, it can recrystallize and result in grainy panna cotta. Yick!
5 | Divide, chill, and serve. Transfer the mixture to a container with a pouring spout and divide it evenly among the reserved serving containers. Cover each container tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 3 to 4 hours until the panna cotta is completely set. Note: Panna cotta is best eaten within a few hours of reaching this point. If chilled too long, it can take on a somewhat rubbery consistency. Garnish each dessert with a dollop of whipped cream, a fresh lavender sprig, and/or an orange twist, as desired.