Lavender Panna Cotta with Honey Poached Pears

Lavender Panna Cotta with Honey Poached Pears is an autumn twist on a classic Italian dessert.

About a month ago, I had a fabulous dinner with some fellow bloggers at Oasis Cafe in Salt Lake City. It was a wonderful dinner and great introduction to a restaurant I hope to patronize over and over. As good as the dinner was (poached halibut with grilled veggies – amazing), my dessert was the most memorable part of the evening.

Honestly, I don’t order dessert all that often when I go out to eat. Most of the time it’s because there’s nothing gluten-free on the menu. Also, I make plenty of desserts all the time and sometimes I get tired of all the sweets. (Yes, that can happen!) However, when I tasted their Lavender Panna Cotta, I darn near died. It was incredible. It was topped with juicy berries and strawberry sauce. Everyone else had apple pie and ice cream, which I’m sure was delicious, but I felt kind of special with my panna cotta sitting in front of me. I passed my plate around so everyone could take a bite and we all agreed it was the best thing we’d tasted in a long time. So, that brings me to my rendition, Lavender Panna Cotta with Honey Poached Pears. I wanted to put an autumnal twist on this fabulous dessert. It worked even better than I imagined.

I make panna cotta fairly often. It’s one of my favorite desserts. It’s SO easy to make. No baking involved, easy to infuse with different flavors, silky and creamy. It’s a perfect dessert in my book. The fancy part, which actually isn’t that fancy, is the honey poached pears. Basically I sliced up some pears and put them into a pan, drizzled some honey over the top, added lemon juice and strips of lemon peel, water, lavender and a vanilla bean and let it cook until it was syrupy. Lemon and lavender together is always magical. I added a fun texture to the dessert by candying the lemon zest in the poaching liquid. Let me just say this – I’m going to start candying lemon peel this way forever and ever. It’s such a tasty little treat.

Don’t let this frighten you away. It’s a lot easier than it seems and will seriously blow people away. I love desserts like that. Don’t you?

5.0 from 2 reviews
Lavender Panna Cotta with Honey Poached Pears
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
The perfect fall dessert - creamy panna cotta infused with lavender and topped with sweet honey-poached pears.
Ingredients
  • For lavender panna cotta:
  • 3 Tablespoons cold water
  • one package gelatin
  • 1¾ cups heavy cream
  • 1¼ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or ½ vanilla bean, scraped)
  • For honey poached pears:
  • 3 slightly under-ripe pears, cored and peeled, cut into quarters
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • Peel of one large lemon cut into strips (I used a vegetable peeler to create long strips and cut them into thinner strips with a sharp knife)
  • 1 teaspoon lavender buds
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise down the middle
  • pinch sea salt
  • For candied lemon peel:
  • Reserved poaching liquid, only pears removed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar or evaporated cane juice
Instructions
  1. For panna cotta: Have ready 6-8 custard cups or ramekins. (You can lightly oil them if you plan on turning them out onto a plate, it helps them release better.) Place the ramekins in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. Place the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let soften for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine heavy cream, milk, sugar, and lavender in a medium saucepan. Heat gently, stirring to dissolve sugar, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin. Place back on the stove and heat gently until the gelatin is completely dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the vanilla and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout. Pour about ½ cup of the mixture into the ramekins. (There might be some leftover depending on the size of the ramekins.) Let stand until cooled to room temperature, then cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for several hours to chill until set.
  5. For honey poached pears: Place the pears, water, honey, lemon juice and peel. lavender and vanilla bean in a small sauce pan Bring to a simmer and cook until pears are just tender, stirring occasionally and making sure the bottom doesn't burn. (If it does start to burn, the heat is way too high. It should just barely simmer.) The pears will probably need between 30-45 minutes to properly poach. Check for doneness by inserting the tip of a sharp knife into one of the pears. If it goes in easily, then the pears are done. If not, cook for a few more minutes. Remove the pears and place them in a bowl to cool. Reserve the poaching liquid and other ingredients.
  6. For the candied lemon peel:
  7. Bring the poaching liquid to a boil and then lower the heat a bit and continue cooking until the liquid reduces and become syrupy, an additional 15 minutes or so. Remove the lemon peel from the syrup, letting as much of the syrup drip back into the pan as possible. Reserve the remaining syrup to use as a sauce when serving. Place the sugar in a shallow bowl and add the lemon peel to the bowl and roll until coated. Set the zest aside to finish cooling. You may need to roll them in the sugar several times. Set them aside until serving time.
  8. To serve:
  9. Either serve the panna cotta still in the ramekin, or carefully loosen it from the mold with a thin knife and turn upside down on a plate. Top with 3-4 pear slices and drizzle with some of the syrup and top with a few strips of candied lemon peel.

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17 Comments

  1. Hi Lindsey, One of my all time favorite desserts was a saffron panna cotta I had many years ago. It was such a surprising combination served with tropical fruits! I can’t wait to try tis recipe. Where do you find lavender?

    1. That sounds lovely, Maureen! I bought my lavender in bulk at a natural foods market near where I live. I have also bought some from Penzey’s and McCormick. I’m not sure where you live, so I’m not sure which stores are by you. I’ve seen lavender at Whole Foods. But online might be your best bet! Check Amazon!

  2. I just made this recipe and it was fabulous!! I used a yogurt based panna cotta but added the teaspoon of lavender as she suggested, then poached the pears with the ingredients listed. It was delicious! While I was poaching the pears I was afraid it was too lemon-y for my taste, but once it was topped over the pears on the panna cotta it was absolutely divine! The candied lemon peels were a total hit too. The entire dessert got rave reviews from my guests. Will be making your eclair recipe tomorrow for a party…cant wait!

  3. I have been baking/making a new dessert every weekend for the last year or so, and this last weekend I made this after I came across the recipe on Pinterest. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is not only the best panna cotta I have ever made, it may be the best dessert I have ever made. And everybody who got to taste it–about 18 people (I tripled the recipe)–were very vocal in their agreement. :)

    What is so brilliant is that the lavender works in it almost the way salt works in savory dishes. Rather than registering as distinctly floral, it brought out the vanilla and cream and added complexity. I love the taste of lavender, but even people who otherwise hate lavender loved this panna cotta. I liked it so much I just made a batch for me and my family.

    So all that is to say, thank you! Awesome recipe. ;)

  4. Hi Lindsey!

    Your recipe looks divine. I was hoping to get some advice – I’d like to substitute agar agar for the gelatine – would you have any advice on how much agar agar powder to use? I am fairly new at using it so haven’t figured it out yet and not get consistent results online!

    Can’t wait to try this!!!

    xx Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah! Awhile back I made a vegan panna cotta recipe when I was a writer for Babble.com. You can see it here. For this particular recipe, I would suggest starting with 1 teaspoon for a “looser” texture more like panna cotta made with gelatin. If you like a firmer panna cotta, you could probably do closer to 1 1/2 teaspoons. I wish I could give you a specific amount – I kind of go back and forth on the texture I like best. Agar agar does set up fairly quickly, so if you do need to add more agar agar or more liquid to get the right texture you’re looking for, it won’t be too hard to play around with it. I hope that helps!

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