Wednesday, 23 September 2015

White Chocolate, Lavender & Blackberry Panna Cotta with Blackberry Poached Pears and Blackberry-Cassis Sauce

Panna Cotta is one of our very favourite desserts. There is something incredibly decadent and pampering about the silky smooth creaminess, which feels soft and luxurious as it melts on the tongue.

Italian in origin, Panna Cotta is naturally gluten free and its gentle sweetness works beautifully against fruits, especially those with a slight tartness to them. I have been meaning to try making a lavender Panna Cotta for some time..... wondering how the delicate floral notes would play against the velvety, milk-jelly.

With Autumn well and truly upon us and the abundance of blackberries now beginning to diminish, I also thought I had better get in quick and make something with them before the hedgerows were stripped bare. I thought blackberry might pair well with lavender, so decided to combine them in a white chocolate Panna Cotta base, with a home-made blackberry jelly and sauce.

There are also some incredible pears around right now...... they are definitely at their best. Wanting to contrast both flavours and textures I poached a couple in apple juice with some blackberries to set alongside the Panna Cotta. The pears were crisp enough when poached that they held a good firmness and added a little bite against the softness of the Panna Cotta.

The pears would have been divine alone and shone in their own right with their beautiful purple-tinged hue and their alluring fruity aroma. They looked so pretty on the plate and added an extra dimension to the dessert making it that little bit more special.

Lavender can be a tricky customer and getting the balance right can be the difference between deliciously exquisite and down right disgusting. I hope the former has been achieved here..... The lavender infused in the cooked cream gives distinct floral notes, but is (I think) subtle enough not to overwhelm the palate. The longer you leave it standing in the milk of course, the stronger the flavour will be. But lavender needs to be gentle in my book and I didn't want it to overpower, so was careful to limit its soaking time.

The sharpness of the blackberry against the sweet vanillary Panna Cotta was lovely. The home-made jelly is dark and tart and rich with the taste of this beautiful wild fruit. I loved the contrast, but if you wanted to keep things more straight forward, the blackberry sauce (which is slightly less forceful) would add the same harmonious contradiction and the jelly layer could just as easily be left off.

I am not particularly happy with the photographs..... but as the dessert was so special, it seemed a shame not to share.....

This month, We Should Cocoa, the fabulous chocolate challenge established by Choclette over at Tin and Thyme is being hosted by The Veg Space. September has an autumnal theme of blackberries. Sounds a perfect share to me!  

I am also sharing with the Shop Local challenge with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. The blackberries were the free hedgerow variety and the pears were produced in the local Kent orchards and found at our favourite farm shop.

Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.

Cook Blog Share with This Is Not My Home.

Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.

White Chocolate, Lavender & Blackberry Panna Cotta with Blackberry-Poached Pears and Blackberry-Cassis Sauce (makes 6)


Panna Cotta
10g gelatine leaves
220 ml whole milk
½ tablespoon dried culinary lavender
400 ml double cream
80g caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla paste
100g good quality white chocolate - chopped into small pieces

Blackberry Jelly & Blackberry Sauce
5g gelatine leaves

500g fresh or frozen blackberries
100g caster sugar
5 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons Creme de Cassis

Blackberry-Poached Pears
3 firm pears - peeled, cored and cut into slices
1 tablespoon lemon juice
120g fresh or frozen blackberries
200 ml apple juice
40g soft brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

chopped white chocolate & fresh blackberries to decorate


  1. Panna Cotta - place the Panna Cotta moulds in the freezer to chill.
  2. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes as per packet instructions.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the lavender to just below simmer point and then remove from the heat and set aside (do not boil). Leave the lavender in the milk.
  4. Drain the gelatine and add to the hot milk. Stir until completely dissolved. 
  5. Pour the cream into a larger saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla paste. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly. As soon as it starts to boil, immediately remove from the heat. 
  6. Add the chocolate to the hot cream and stir until melted and smooth.
  7. Pour the milk-gelatine mix into the cream-chocolate mix and stir to combine.
  8. Remove the moulds from the freezer.
  9. Pour the Panna Cotta mix through a tea strainer into the moulds to about two-thirds full (leaving space at the top for the blackberry jelly layer).
  10. Cool in the fridge until fully set.
  11. Blackberry Jelly & Sauce - While the Panna Cotta is setting, make the jelly and sauce. Put the blackberries, sugar and water in a clean saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, pushing the blackberries against the side of the pan as they soften to release the juice. 
  12. Whilst cooking the blackberries, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes as per packet instructions.
  13. When the blackberries are soft and thoroughly crushed, take the pan off the heat and push the mixture through a sieve into a jug so that you have a smooth puree. You should have about 500 ml puree. If the measure is slightly below, just add a little water to make up to 500 ml.
  14. Remove 300 ml of the puree into a clean small saucepan. Bring back to the boil and then turn off the heat.
  15. Drain and add the gelatine to the pan and stir until completely dissolved. Set aside to cool (but not set), stirring frequently.
  16. When cool but still liquid, take the Panna Cottas from the fridge and top with the blackberry jelly mixture. Place back in the fridge to set.
  17. Rinse out the pan and return the remaining 200 ml blackberry puree to it. Place over a low heat with the Creme de Cassis and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly. Set aside to cool completely, stirring from time to time.
  18. Blackberry-Poached Pears - Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down so that the mixture is only just bubbling slightly. Poach for 15 minutes until the pears are tender but not mushy, turning them half way through to ensure they are completely coated with the apple-blackberry liquid. 
  19. Drain the pears from the liquid and set aside to cool. (You can save and drink the liquid).
  20. Serving : When ready to serve, gently warm the outside of the Panna Cotta moulds and tip out onto your serving plates, so that the blackberry jelly is at the base. Add some poached pears and top with a drizzle of blackberry sauce, a fresh blackberry and some chopped white chocolate. Yum!
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  1. I have never made panna cotta, but definitely feel inspired to try now! Thank you for linking to #cookblogshare

    1. Thanks Beckie. If you like panna cotta, I would recommend trying your own. So worth it!

  2. Oh I love panna cotta and this one looks just divine! A perfect way to end a meal x #CookBlogShare

  3. I can't say I am a fan of panna cotta which is not naturally vegetarian but I would love the pears poached in blackberries (and I would love to share this dish with my partner who would love the panna cotta but not the fruit). When you said about your photos, I was surprised as I love your photos but I did look more critically and decided it would be a great gory-looking halloween dish :-)

    1. The pears were delish and I will definitely be making them again (with or without panna cotta!). I can think of lots of other ways to serve them and would love to try them in some tarts and even on pavlova!
      Good job halloween is on its way! I hadn't penned anything in the post, but it was my thought too! xx

  4. You are so right! Panna cotta is such a fantastic dessert and utterly addictive.
    I picked some lavander a couple of weeks ago thinking of pairing it with fruit or dessert but I never did. I think it would be interesting to try it with the panna cotta but you are right it can be overpowering sometimes.

    1. Thanks Alida. I was really excited by the lavender flavour in the panna cotta. But yes.... subtlety is crucial!

  5. I am a huge panna cotta fan too and I am very interested by the idea of mixing it with fruit, especially pears - yum! I definitely need to try this.

    1. Thanks Kat. I don't think pears were a very usual pairing, but they seemed to work really well. Mind you give me panna cotta with pretty much anything and I would be in heaven!

  6. so I'm really not a fan of panna cotta but then i'm not really a set custard kind of guy... but with your fruity pear sauce I could be convinced and it's so pretty too!

    1. Shame! But hey...... we can't all love everything! You could always have the pears?! They are pretty yum!!! xx

  7. It looks stunning and I love the deep fruity flavour of creme de cassis. Such beautiful presentation, very autumnal. I can almost taste it

    1. Thank you Katie. Creme de Cassis does add a wonderful depth of flavour I agree. Hope you are well!

  8. Ooh how wonderful do these look, if a little ghoulish - but then it's the season ;-)

    Love your addition of lavender, which works wonderfully is appropriately ministered. I was hoping to get one more picking of blackberries before they're gone, but with the forecast wet weather, it may not be possible. Thank you so much for another stunning entry to We Should Cocoa :)

    1. Thanks Choclette. I have to admit, they would be perfect for Halloween! The lavender was lovely though.
      Somehow, the blackberries came and went in a flash this year. We almost missed them! I hope you managed to get one last pick x


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