This was dessert on a cooking class menu the other night. At the end of classes, I like to go around ask people what they now know that they didn't before. A couple of people mentioned that they were no longer afraid of using gelatin, and another said that she'd never really known how to use figs. Usually it's the lavender in something that people find unusual. Whatever, getting people past fears and opening their palates to a new flavor is just the best!
For those of you "afraid" of lavender, go be afraid of tornadoes, earthquakes, global warming. The relatively small amount of sweetening via honey lets the herbal notes of the lavender and rich fruitiness of the figs shine. Between the lavender and figs, also, the color is lovely. And the sour cream renders a very gentle texture. —boulangere
envelope unflavored gelatin
Pinch of sea or kosher salt
teaspoon dried organic lavender buds
dried figs, stems removed, sliced thin OR 2 fresh figs stemmed and sliced
In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the cream, honey, salt, and lavender blossoms to a scald. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes for the lavender to infuse the cream.
If using dried figs, place slices in a bowl and cover with very hot tap water. Set a plate over the bowl to keep the heat in. Let figs steep for 15 minutes to fully soften.
While lavender and figs are steeping, measure the cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface to let it bloom and set aside.
When the lavender's 15 minutes are up, pour cream through a sieve into a mixing bowl. Discard lavender. Add gelatin whisk until completely dissolved. Dip the tips of your thumb and index finger into the cream and rub them together. If you feel any grittiness, return briefly to heat (DON'T let it boil!) while whisking. When gelatin is fully dissolved, the cream mixture should feel perfectly smooth.
Measure sour cream into the bowl of a food processor or a mini-chop. Strain figs and add them as well. Purée until figs are as incorporated as possible - they won't purée completely, and that's fine. Add sour cream and figs to the cream mixture and whisk to blend.
Divide panna cotta among 4 ramekins of any shape. You can also use shallow coffee cups, even wine glasses. Be aware that the deeper the container, the longer the panna cotta will take to set up. Generally, it should be ready to serve in about 3 hours. It can certainly be prepared a day in advance.
Serve garnished with a dollop of whipped cream and a few of whatever berries are in season.