As recently as a few years ago, passion fruit was a novelty ingredient being menued largely by fine-dining chefs with a particular passion for the tart tropical fruit. Now, to the delight of diners, chefs in various segments of the are putting passion fruit in desserts as a way to add complexity to familiar items or to create treats with uncommon flavor combinations.
“Passion fruit is one of my favorite flavors, and I love using it in the winter because it is a momentary transport to somewhere tropical,” said Sarah Osborn Blue, executive pastry chef of Niche Food Group.
At Sardella, Niche’s seasonal Italian restaurant in Clayton, Mo., Blue offers a passion fruit semifreddo served with coconut consommé and a macadamia tuile.
“We say that we make the old new again in Italian cuisine, so this is a classic Italian dessert with a new twist,” Blue said.
She added that she likes pairing the tropical fruit in semifreddo because the frozen dessert “dulls the tartness and brings forward all of the underlying flavors.”
Chef Christina Kaelberer of Edwards Dessert Kitchen in Minneapolis is serving a vegan passion fruit chocolate mousse with macadamia nuts and cocoa nibs. The mousse is made with aquafaba, the water in which chick peas are cooked; the liquid’s high-protein viscosity allows it to whip up well, so it can be used as a substitute for the cream and egg whites that would normally be in a mousse.
For Alisha Ivey, pastry chef at Il Solito, the “East-coast Italian” spot in Portland, Ore., passion fruit is a go-to ingredient for its tart-yet-sweet flavor. Ivey likes to use it to create less common combinations. For example, she recently added passion fruit puree to a chocolate cheesecake for Valentine's Day, as a way to balance the strong chocolate and cheese flavor and at the same time add more complexity to the dessert.
Currently on her menu are Italian doughnuts called bomboloni with passion fruit mousse, sponge toffee — a light, airy and crunchy brown sugar-based treat — and caramelized pineapple.
“I really like how it adds vibrancy in not only color, but flavor, especially during the winter months,” Ivey said. “Another great feature of this fruit is that it helps make dense desserts feel lighter and more refreshing.”
Passion fruit in fried dough was also recently on the menu at Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, a fast-casual mini chain with locations in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Inspired by Valentine’s Day, in February chef Chris Kujala created a doughnut glazed with mango and passion fruit and studded with white chocolate pearls.
“Passion fruit tends to be popular, and matches well with mango,” Kujala said. “It enhances the mango with just the right amount of tartness. [It has a] bold and refreshing flavor and [I] love the bright color it brings to the glaze.”
The rice pudding at L’Artusi, an Italian small-plates restaurant in New York City, is served with a tropical fruit salsa of pineapple, mango and passion fruit, as well as a mango sorbet, urfa biber (a Turkish chile pepper) and cinnamon.
“A big inspiration behind this dish is the fact that it's winter and there isn't much going on in local produce,” said Jessica Craig, L’Artusi’s executive pastry chef. “The combination of those three fruits with a bit of lime and mint pairs very well with the rice pudding, lending acid, and crunch from the passion fruit seeds. It's a simple dish with a unique twist.”
In the summertime, the bakers at Lady M, a luxury cake boutique with nearly a dozen locations in New York, California, Boston and Chicago, offer a mille-crêpes cake made with passion fruit-infused pastry cream between 20 layers of handmade crepes.
Meanwhile, at 189 by Dominique Ansel at The Grove in Los Angeles, Ansel offers The Well, a dessert in keeping with the Cronut inventor’s signature creativity. A nod to the start of most pastry doughs, this atypical dessert is made with a well of milk granita and a “yolk” of passion fruit gelée and wildflower honey at the center, all atop a fennel meringue.