Lately I’ve been noticing passion fruit-based desserts. Passion fruit makes its very interesting presence known in gelato, sorbet, ice cream, chocolate, macarons, tarts, and even as a glaze over doughnuts.Why would passion fruit be used in desserts? It has an assertive and intriguing sweet-tart flavor. Passion fruit pairs beautifully with ice cream and cream, chocolate, and other fruits such as mango, orange, and banana. And since it’s grown in warm climates (and is native to South America), passion fruit-based desserts can make us feel as though we’ve escaped to the tropics, even if the trip lasts for just a few minutes.
I thought passion fruit was only very recently used in desserts, but that’s not the case. Jon Snyder of Il Laboratorio del Gelato, a high-end, producer and retailer of unique flavors of gelatos and sorbets, told me that he’s been in business for almost 11 years and has been offering passion fruit sorbet and gelato for 10 years. Another ice cream purveyor, Gaby’s Farm, in South Florida, has been offering passion fruit ice cream and sorbet even longer – since 1999. Her passion fruit varities now include: Pure Passion Ice Cream, Mango Passion Sorbet, Manago Passion Melange Ice Cream, and Passion Sorbet. What differentiates Gaby’s Farm from other ice cream vendors is she grows her own fruit. Gaby Berryer said passion fruit is the main crop at her farm and it’s hand pollinated.
There is interest in passion fruit desserts. A web search of “passion fruit desserts” brought up over 3 million hits. Earlier this year, Tootsie Roll Industries added a passion fruit flavor to its Frooties (soft chewy candies in fruit flavors) line. And Olivier Dessyn of Mille-Feuille, a high-end Manhattan bakery specializing in macarons and napoleans, notes that he has offered passion fruit macarons since he’s opened and this flavor macaron is a best seller.
And the increasing interest in Latin American cuisine also bodes well for the continued popularity of passion fruit desserts.
But what could negatively impact the popularity of passion fruit-based sweets? The lack of familiarity with passion fruit. Amella, a producer of artisan cocoa butter cararmels, introduced passion fruit into its line in 2009. However, Amella recently eliminated the passion fruit variety due to poor sales. (I’ve purchased these Passion Fruit Caramels and think they’re delicious; I’m sorry they will no longer be available.) Emir Kiamilev of Amella notes: “I don’t think passion fruit will be a very popular ingredient in chocolates because many people don’t know what a passion fruit is, and therefore will never even try it.”It is probably the more adventurous eaters, willing to sample exotic foods, who are driving sales of passion fruit-based desserts. Another macaron bakery, La Maison du Macaron, reports that its passion fruit macarons are popular. Yet, for this bakery, passion fruit macarons seem quite tame when compared with some of its other sophisticated macaron offerings – cassis, strawberry mint, rose, and kir royale.
Of course, like other crops, natural disasters can wipe out passion fruit production. (Thanks to Melissa Hunt of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services who provided great background information on the tropical fruit industry in Florida.)
But as someone who has recently become a fan of passion fruit in desserts, I certainly hope these desserts will be available for a long time!