Tomorrow is my mom's birthday, my lovely sweet mom . Instead of baking her a cake I made her Roasted Apricot and Lavender Panna Cotta. It's not that I don't like cake, we all know better than that (!) it's just that every time I think about my mom I think of apricots and lavender. From as far as I can remember my mom seemed to smell of apricot and lavender. Maybe it is because we only had to walk to the front yard and get the fruits right off the tree back when we were still in Provence. Maybe it is because you can't open one single drawer at our house without finding a little lavender sachet to perfume our clothes. I always thought it was strange that I was the only lavender smelling child at school but guess what...I keep the tradition going even now (but that should not be a surprise either).
By the way what is your favorite birthday sweet?
I thought about this all day long the other day as I was preparing the panna cottas and I was not surprised to hear my dad say when I called earlier today that my mom could not come to the phone right then because she was stirring her jam. Apricot jam. Ha! I knew it! I wanted to be there in the kitchen with her, stirring the fruits in her giant copper pot, skimming the foam, watching the bubbles, letting the fruits get caramelized, watching her crack some apricot pits to collect some of the kernels inside (because they taste just like almonds) that she adds to the jam for flavor and that we all fight over.
Now you understand why when it came down to celebrate her birthday, I immediately thought of apricots and lavender. Yes, I am very much a mama's girl, my dad being a more private and guarded individual. My mother is not my friend or my best friend, she is my mom. My mom did not raise me for herself, she raised me with the same contradictions that she possesses: a spirit for personal interactions as well as a need for private time, patience and tolerance stirred with a dose of hot temper, a thirst for knowledge and personal improvement mixed with an interesting set of Old World values. I think my mother is the best....of course I do...and to think that she smells as good as roasted apricots and lavender....well that just tops it all!
Happy Birthday Mom! Joyeux Anniversaire Maman Cherie que j'aime tres fort de la vie entiere! I know I am early but I won't have blog access on Tuesday.
The panna cottas themselves come together very easily, the cream is infused with edible lavender buds, strained and poured over roasted apricots. The fruits are sprinkled with a little sugar and roasted on medium heat, then pureed and spooned at the bottom of glasses or jars. When you dig into the panna cottas it feels and smells like your spoon is walking along fields of lavender and when you finally reach the bottom, the apricot puree adds a little tartness and texture contrast. I realized that this is another apricot dessert this month and I am not sure it won't be the last since my old chef gave me a case of these the other week after I helped him out with a pastry dilemma: too many sweets to make, not enough hands, he called, I baked.
I must add that this dessert was also a team effort of some sort. In the past couple of weeks I had the tremendous joy of meeting two great ladies that I only had communicated through email and phone until now. You might remember the Cassata Cake made with Chris from Mele Cotte when she came to visit. We had never met and still, from the minute we both opened our mouths it was like we already had...and boy can we both talk! She spoiled me with tons of little things for cooking and baking, among which a big tub of lavender buds that I immediately put to use with the panna cottas.
The other lady is Bina. This past Thursday we (yes, Bailey too) drove to Atlanta for business and we stopped for lunch at Bina's house for lunch before heading back. Bina is a reader who does not have a blog but loves to bake and is an accomplished cook, not to mention an incredibly thoughtful host. She has been very generous both in her words and gifts which made me want to meet her in person to tell her a proper thank you. We had such a great time and she made us the most delicious Indian foods, breads, chutneys and samosas. I even got a quick lesson on samosa making, yippee!! Before I left she gave me a little packet of silver leaves used in Indian sweets and I thought they were perfect to adorn the panna cottas for mom's birthday. A little edible bling never hurt anyone!!
Roasted Apricot and Lavender Panna Cottas:
For the roasted apricots:
1/4 cup of sugar
Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut the apricots in half, remove the pits and place them flesh side up in a large baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the apricot halves with the sugar and roast them for about 30-40 minutes (check at 30 to prevent them from burning) until they have released their juices and become soft and caramelized. Let cool to room temperature before pureeing the fruits in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Divide evenly among 4 glasses or ramequins.
For the panna cottas:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs edible lavender buds
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin bloomed in 2 Tb water (means to pour the water over the gelatin and let it sit while you prepare the panna cotta)
Combine all the ingredients, except the gelatin, in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let the cream to steep for 20 minutes. Pass the mixture through a sieve or a chinois, heat the gelatin in the microwave for 8 seconds and quickly stir it in the cream mixture. No microwave at our house so I set the cup with the gelatin in large saucepan with enough water to come up halfway up the sides of the gelatin bowl, on medium heat and let the gelatin melt that way. Let cool to lukewarm.
Slowly pour the cream over the apricot puree and let set in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
Decorate with apricot slices, chopped nuts, etc....