Tiny, golden flowers so small but so intensely perfumed, Shanghai’s osmanthus season lasts only a few short autumn weeks, the last blossoms falling from the trees as November draws in. I returned from the far west to find it was almost over, with just a few of the topmost branches of the trees outside my window still holding flowers.
This year I was inspired to bring the gorgeous perfume of the osmanthus flower into a creamy dessert because osmanthus, Chinese as it is, is destined to be paired with cream. Osmanthus scented cream has a subtle honey floral scent and flavour, like the featherweight orange blossoms with rose petals. It’s incredible. So rather than get too tricky, this panna cotta is nothing but cream and flowers with a touch of vanilla. Sigh…
Osmanthus Scented Panna Cotta
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or half a vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and scraped or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup fresh osmanthus flowers or 1/4 cup dried osmanthus flowers (available from Chinese tea shops)
- 2 cups cream
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons gelatine
- extra osmanthus flowers for garnish
- Heat milk over low heat without boiling
- Add sugar and vanilla, stir until dissolved
- Add osmanthus flowers, stir
- Remove from heat and allow to steep for one to two hours
- Strain milk mixture to remove flowers
- Return milk mixture to heat, heat gently until warmed but do not allow to boil
- Sprinkle gelatine over water and allow to stand for several minutes until softened
- Add gelatine to milk mixture and stir until fully dissolved, remove from heat
- Add cream and stir to combine
- Pour into lightly oiled ramekins and chill until set, about four hours
- To serve, tease edge of panncotta gently away from side of ramekin then invert onto a plate
- Decorate with extra osmanthus flowers and drizzle with honey if desired
My lovely flowering osmanthus tree. OK, so it’s not my tree, and it’s not even in my garden. But if it’s quite dark who can tell if I’m sneaking around snipping off flowers, right? And the scent….
For extra sweetness, drizzle over some honey just before serving.
This post is dedicated to RB, a friend back home who has just bought her first osmanthus tree. Fingers crossed it grows well in Australia!