lavender-vanilla panna cotta tart, pie # 35 of 52

my life has been such a blur lately.  days pass by in what feels like minutes.  we watched both of our daughters cross the stage this summer, one from high school and the other from college.  we hosted celebrations with family members.  the carport never looked so festive.  there was a trash can turkey at one party and a barbecue at the other.  the girls beat a pinata to death and we all ate way too much!  somewhere in there, i went off to new york city and phili for media training and suddenly, my book has landed in nashville.  so, knowing very well that i am going to only get busier, i am even more determined to finish this 52 week challenge.  to prove the point, the 4 pies that needed to be made, are all done and have been for some time, all i need to do is get them posted here.  damn, blinked and lost another hour…

panna cotta has never been something that i just had to try.  but in an effort to keep this challenge interesting and varied, i decided to try it in a tart.  then i needed to make it different from every recipe i saw out there-that was the challenge.  a walk through my garden fixed that-with a hand full of lavender blooms and a fig tree full of ripe fruit, i had my inspiration; infuse the panna cotta with lavender and vanilla bean and serve it with fresh figs…

i decided to use buttermilk in the filling as well.  since it isn’t a good idea to heat buttermilk for long periods of time, i infused some heavy cream with lavender blossoms and vanilla beans.

 to make the crust, i toasted some almonds and chopped them finely and added them to a buttery crust dough.

 my absolute favorite trick for prebaking crusts-use large coffee filters.  if you can get them from a coffee shop or restaurant, you will not have to buy a huge quantity of them.  however, you can used several smaller ones to do the same job.  the filters are so strong that you can actually lift them out with your weights in them and not have to worry about it tearing.  but if you use marbles like i do, spoon them out just to be safe.

lavender-vanilla panna cotta tart
1 (6″) tart serving 4-6
tart dough
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons almonds, sliced or slivered
2 tablespoons water
preheat the oven to 350.  toast the almonds until lightly golden, about 5 minutes, cool them completely before proceeding with the recipe.  place all the ingredients except the water into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine and cut in the butter.  when it resembles a coarse meal with bits of almonds in it, add the water and pulse it until it comes together.  press the dough into a greased 6″ cake pan so that it is 3/4 of the way up the sides.  make sure the dough is distributed evenly around the pan.  line with a coffee filter, add pie weights and bake it until it is completely baked and lightly golden, about 30 minutes.  cool completely before making the filling.
panna cotta filling
1/4 of a vanilla bean
1 tablespoon lavender blooms-dried
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
fresh fruit for garnish
place the vanilla bean, lavender and cream in a very small sauce pan and heat until it almost simmers.  remove from heat and allow to steep for at least 5 minutes (can also be done in the microwave but be careful since it is quick to boil).  soften the gelatin in the water while the cream steeps.  strain the cream into a bowl and add the gelatin, stir to melt it-if needed, gently heat the mixture in the microwave to melt it.  with a whisk, gently whisk in the buttermilk and the sugar and then pour the filling into the prepared crust.  refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.  serve with your favorite fresh fruit, berries work best with the flavors in this recipe but you can also use figs or peaches.  if a sauce is desired, sweeten an extra cup of fruit and puree in a blender for a quick coulis.

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