Lavender Blackberry Panna Cotta

I've been going to Bar Italia, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the Central West End, since I was in college...OMG, has it really been 20 years!  I introduced Mike to Bar Italia while we were dating and now it tops of his list of favorites too.  We treat ourselves on special days like anniversary's, birthday's, or vacation days to memorable dinners there.  I invariably order the creamy, dreamy panna cotta for dessert. Have you ever eaten something so delectable that you wondered to yourself, "How could I make this at home, it has to be complicated"?  Well, that's how I viewed panna cotta...until now.  There are only 3 main ingredients {cream, sugar, and gelatin...that makes since, panna cotta means 'cooked cream' in Italian} plus your choice of flavors to add.  I chose lavender since the bush in my backyard was exploding with flower buds.  How about that for being simple!  No, I don't have plans to stop going to Bar Italia, but now I can have a self-indulgent, phenomenal dessert at home.   Mangia bene!

 

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Ingredients for Lavender Blackberry Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta (makes 4- 7oz cups) 

  • 500 mL of organic or fresh whole cream (about 2.25 pints)*
  • 80 grams of granulated sugar (about 7 tablespoons)*
  • 30 mL of Lavender-Blackberry Sauce (just under 1/4 cup; recipe below)*
  • 9 grams of gelatin sheets (3 sheets; purchase at Kitchen Conservatory in St. Louis) 
  • Peel of 1 lemon

Lavender-Blackberry Sauce (makes about 1/3 cup) 

  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 2 tablespoons of dried lavender buds
  • 1/2 pint of blackberries
  • 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice

Directions

  • To make Lavender-Blackberry Sauce- In a small sauce pan, over medium-high heat, combine water and sugar. Stirring until sugar dissolves and begins to caramelize.  Reduce heat to medium-low. Add lavender and blackberries, stir, then cover with lid for 5 minutes until berries soften and they loose their juice.  Turn off heat. Add to taste lemon juice to counterbalance sweetness.  Allow to cool slightly.  Strain through a fine mesh into a glass container with lid.
  • To make the Panna Cotta- Prep molds by lightly spraying with cooking spray, wipe out excess.  Place gelatin strips into a bowl with iced water to begin to soften.  In a medium sized sauce pan, over medium-low heat, stir cream and sugar until sugar dissolves.  Add lemon peel and 2-3 tablespoons of Lavender-Blackberry sauce {this flavoring is optional}. The cream mixture will turn from a light yellow to a tint of purple once sauce is added.  Once the cream mixture boils, turn off heat.  Remove lemon peels.  Squeeze water from gelatin strips and add to cream mixture.  Stir until gelatin dissolves.  Place cream mixture {panna cotta} into the molds and cover with plastic wrap (touching the cream) to avoid skins from forming.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.  To unmold, dip the mold in hot water for a few seconds, then invert onto a plate. If stubborn, use a knife along the edge.   Another option is to pour the panna cotta into a decorative glass, place a tablespoon of sauce on the top, then refrigerate with plastic wrap over the glass, not touching the panna cotta.
  • * This recipe was found on an Italian blog http://www.sicilianicreativiincucina.it , therefore measurements are in metric.  I'm beginning to love this simple weight system and it's reliability to reproduce exact measurements.  I definitely recommend adding a scale to your kitchen tools.  If not, hang onto this conversion: 12 grams = 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Be sure to check out this Italian blog, you'll be wowed by her creativity.
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