By Michael Laiskonis, Creative Director
When ICE moved into its current facility at Brookfield Place, staff and students were treated to new features like the Chocolate Lab – my home base – as well as our indoor hydroponic farm. This innovative space focuses on unique varieties of culinary plants grown for flavor, and their efforts benefit our students in the teaching kitchens as well as chefs and restaurants throughout the city. Every time I walk past the brightly lit farm, I can almost taste the dozens of flavors growing within and my imagination immediately starts to stir. This first in a series of posts traces some inspired ideas that emerge when we crossbreed these amazing raw materials with advanced pastry projects in the Chocolate Lab.
The farm features several staple herbs — varieties of basils and mints, for example — plus new and exciting crops rotating into production on a weekly basis. During a recent tour and tasting of the hydroponic farm’s offerings, two items stood out: anise hyssop and purple oxalis. The former was an old friend, a sweet expression of licorice and mint. The latter, however, was something I was unfamiliar with. A relative of the sorrel family, the deep violet leaves of the oxalis resemble the flapping wings of a butterfly and provide an interesting tartness. More surprising was the flavor that came from its stem — a refreshing acidity that called to mind delicate young rhubarb stalks. To highlight these herbs, I began constructing flavors and textures in my mind. Sweet apricot, aromatic vanilla, honey, cream…with these building blocks in place, I picked my hyssop and oxalis and then headed into the lab.
As I assembled ingredients, the dessert’s architecture materialized. The anise hyssop would infuse an airy mousse, or parfait. The apricot would be lightly sweetened with honey and provide a fluid liquid center inside the parfait. A shiny glaze speckled with vanilla would enrobe the parfait, which would find its place atop a crunchy, buttery pastry base. Still enamored with the oxalis stems, I considered lightly candying them to preserve their slender form and to balance their flavor. The format of a petit gateau, an individual dessert often found in boutique pastry shops, offered the perfect format in which to condense these flavors and textures for maximum impact.
Stay tuned for more sweet collaborations with the hydroponic farm at ICE!
Anise Hyssop Parfait – Apricot, Honey, Vanilla and Purple Oxalis
Yield: Makes 16 individual desserts
120g unsalted butter, softened
90g confectioner’s sugar
30g almond flour
50g whole egg
60g all-purpose flour (1)
175g all-purpose flour (2)
- Combine and blend the butter, salt, confectioner’s sugar and almond flour in a food processor.
- Add the whole egg and first measurement of flour (1); process just until incorporated.
- Add the remaining flour (2); process just until incorporated – take care not to overmix. Wrap the dough and chill.
- Chill or freeze. Allow a minimum of one hour resting period before use. Roll or sheet very thin, to a half sheet pan sized rectangle. Transfer to mesh silicone mat and par-bake sheets for five minutes at 150°C/300°F to set; cut 7cm (2 ¾ in.) discs and continue baking approximately five to ten minutes, or until golden brown.
Honey Apricot Coulant
0.5 sheet gelatin, hydrated
200g apricot puree
- Combine puree and honey in a saucepan. Bring just to a simmer.
- Whisk in the gelatin. Drop into small silicone half-sphere molds. Freeze.
Anise Hyssop Parfait
200g whole milk
30g anise hyssop
60g egg yolks
10g gelatin powder (225 bloom), hydrated in 40g water
400g heavy cream (36% fat), whipped
- Place the milk and anise hyssop in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, remove from heat, cover and allow the mixture to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain.
- Prepare a crème anglaise with the infused milk, egg yolk and sucrose; cook to 84°C/183° Add the hydrated gelatin. Strain and cool to 25°C/77°F.
- Fold the crème anglaise base into the whipped cream and deposit into silicone ‘stone’ molds. Allow to stand at room temperature for five to ten minutes, insert the frozen apricot coulant centers, top off the mold with additional mousse if necessary and continue to freeze completely.
9g gelatin powder (250 bloom)
45g water (1)
75g water (2)
150g glucose syrup
160g white chocolate
100g condensed milk
Orange color, as needed (water-soluble, powder)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- Hydrate gelatin in the first measurement of water (1).
- Combine the sucrose, second measurement of water (2) and glucose in a saucepan and cook to 103°C/217° remove from heat and add to the white chocolate and condensed milk.
- Incorporate the gelatin, as well as desired color and scraped vanilla bean pulp, and emulsify.
- Chill, utilize glaze at 30-32°C/86-88°F
White chocolate décor
Anise hyssop, leaves and flowers
Purple oxalis, leaves and candied stems
- Place the frozen, unmolded parfaits onto a wire rack and glaze with the warmed glaçage. Briefly chill to set.
- Transfer each glazed parfait to the baked sucrée discs and allow to temper. Finish with the white chocolate garnish, anise hyssop, purple oxalis and nepitella flowers.
Want to explore the Chocolate Lab and hydroponic farm at ICE? Learn more about our Pastry & Baking Arts program.