Lilac Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote

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This panna cotta is a spoonful of spring! The farmers markets have begun to open up around Chicago, and I scooped up a bouquet of lilacs and a fistful of rhubarb to bring you this delicate dessert.

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Is there a dessert more perfect than panna cotta? It comes together in just a few minutes, you can make it days ahead of time, you can proportion it to make exactly as much as you need, and now it’s infused with lilacs.

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I bought the flowers a few days before making this so we could enjoy them around the apartment. There’s nothing wrong with using wilted or even dried flowers for the recipe.

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Infusing the lilacs in the milk leaves a very delicate aromatic flavor to the panna cotta.

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There’s a trick to getting chilled panna cotta out of the custard cups: fill a bowl with hot water (just under simmering) until it reaches about an inch below the rim of the cup. Place the panna cotta in the water for about ten seconds so it loosens up. It’ll slip right onto your plate.

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The rhubarb compote lends a gorgeous color and a subtle tartness that goes well with the lilacs. It’s also a cinch to make.

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LILAC PANNA COTTA WITH RHUBARB COMPOTE for two

for the panna cotta

3/4 teaspoons of powdered gelatin

2 tablespoons of cold water

1/2 cup of milk (any kind is fine; I used almond)

2 tablespoons of sugar

1/4 cup of lilac flowers (fresh or dried, mine are just a bit wilted)

1/2 cup of cream

 

for the rhubarb compote

1 cup of rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces

5 tablespoons of sugar

a squeeze of lemon

For the panna cotta: Lightly grease two small ramekins and set aside.

Put water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let stand for about five minutes, until the water has gelled.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and lilacs over medium-low heat. Dissolve the sugar and bring it to a very low simmer–don’t let it steam! Strain the milk into a small bowl and whisk in the gelatin for about a minute, making sure it is completely dissolved. Whisk in the heavy cream.

Divide the liquid between the ramekins and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or until the panna cotta is completely set.

For the rhubarb compote: combine ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the rhubarb is completely soft and the sauce is slightly thickened. Cool.

To serve: Fill a small saucepan with enough water so it comes about an inch below the rim of the ramekin. Warm the water over the stove (it shouldn’t quite be simmering). Place the panna cotta in the water for about ten seconds to loosen it, then invert it onto a small plate. Spoon the rhuba compote over the top and serve immediately.

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