Garden Panna Cotta
Photos: Jeff Marini

A nearly foolproof Italian dessert, panna cotta doesn’t require much beyond heating cream with powdered gelatin. But if you’re Lula Cafe pastry chef Emily Spurlin, that’s just a blank canvas. For springtime, she steeps fresh edible flowers and herbs in the cream to impart subtle, complex flavors. In this version, she suggests using mint, tarragon, and lavender. “You can taste as you go and add more of something or steep it longer,” she says. “Stronger flowers like lavender and rose can overpower the dessert, so add them in small pinches.”

Emily Spurlin’s Garden Panna Cotta

Makes:Six 6-ounce ramekins
Active time:15 minutes
Total time:5 hours

2 cups Heavy cream
3 Tbsp. Each of chopped fresh mint and tarragon
2 tsp. Chopped fresh lavender
½ cup Whole milk
1 Envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
¼ cup Honey, plus more for garnish, if desired
  Pinch salt
½ cup Buttermilk
  Bee pollen for garnish, if desired
  Mixed fresh edible flowers and herbs for garnish, if desired


Starting the sauce

Heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming but not yet simmering, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, add mint, tarragon, and lavender. Let steep until the flavor reaches your desired strength, at least 20 minutes.

Strain cream through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding flowers and herbs, and set aside.


Mixing in gelatin

Pour milk into a medium bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Let mixture sit until grains begin to dissolve, about 5 minutes.

After gelatin has bloomed, pour mixture into a saucepan, and warm over low heat until the gelatin fully dissolves, 4 to 5 minutes. Do not let the mixture simmer, or the gelatin could become inactive.


Finished panna cotta

Whisk in honey, salt, and infused cream and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk.

Pour mixture into ramekins and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until set, at least 4 hours, or overnight. Serve with a drizzle of honey, a dusting of bee pollen, and a sprinkle of flowers and herbs.