01 June 2008

Passionfruit Vacherin with Blackberry Sauce

Vacherin aux Grenadille avec Sauce aux Ronce Commune
Passionfruit Vacherin with Blackberry Sauce (with title)
A lot of recent occurrences have once again reminded me that health and happiness are extremely fragile and fleeting. Briana Brownlow of the wonderful food blog Figs with Bri (friend to me and my blog and yet another victim of my incessant KIDDING!s and weird comments) has been diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer, only two years after her initial treatment for her newly-diagnosed breast cancer, for which she endured surgery and chemotherapy. When she broke the news on her blog a few months after a hiatus, my heart sank. Just yesterday we were laughing, and now, very suddenly, the skies have darkened.

I'll tell you about a belief of mine. I believe that all human beings are born with an enormous capacity to do evil, selfish things. It's only with that first caress to a mother's breast, or a warm embrace from a kind stranger as the case may be, that a seed of love is planted in the heart of an infant. And with learning about the world that exists outside your own sphere, the friendships we form, and undertaking the crises that we face together, the seed grows into caring, and genuine goodness and concern for other people. You might think I've suddenly gotten all Phoebe Buffay hippie on you, but I'm not at all naive about human nature. It's so easy not to care for others, effortless to be selfish. It's much more difficult to be a good person, something I struggle with everyday.

That's why even with the temporary nature of health and happiness, goodness and kindness are not quite so easy to destroy, because it takes a lot of hard work to be there for others. Three very kind bloggers have taken the initiative to raise funds for Bri's treatment, Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi and Manisha of Indian Food Rocks. From their efforts, several other bloggers have followed and put up fantastic items as raffle prizes (I want so many of them, and I want to win one so bad!). This month's Click Food Photography event hosted as always by Jugalbandi is for Bri, and the theme is yellow. This isn't yet my entry, as I want to come up with something that can really stand a chance among other really fantastic and experienced photographers. You may also visit here to find out how to contribute.

Passionfruit Vacherin with Blackberry Sauce
Hardheaded me insisted on making meringues in 32°C (90°F) heat and amazing humidity, so their stability suffered as they held on to moisture as long as they could. But flavor- and texture-wise, they were still very good. It's the local passionfruit (here, they're baby shit yellow instead of purple) that disappointed me most. I took a heaping spoonful, preparing to be taken aback by undeniable tartness, but crap, it tasted like butter, eggs, and sugar. I might as well have put water in it. I couldn't taste even a little bit of passionfruit-ness! I am never buying these again. I wish I had made lemon curd instead. I also planned on making chocolate fans on top, but I wasn't using my head, and apparently melted chocolate will NEVER set with an ambient temperature of 32°C (90°F). Duh!

Vacherin Shells

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature

  • 150g (3/4 cup) superfine sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 120°C (250°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a stainless steel mixer bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until frothy. Add a third of the sugar and all of the cream of tartar and beat at high speed until it becomes opaque and no longer grainy when rubbed. Add another third of the sugar and continue beating until it holds soft peaks, then add the rest of the sugar and beat until it holds stiff, glossy peaks. Load into a large piping bag fitted with a 1/4" plain tip and pipe 3" filled circles of meringue (I was able to make 12). Pipe two bands of meringue stacked on top of each other on top of the circumference of each round to form a nest. Bake in the oven for an hour, then open the door for a second to let the steam out, then close the door, turn the oven off, and leave the nests in the warm oven to dry for at least an hour.

Passionfruit Curd
  • 120g (1/2 cup) passionfruit juice, from about 10 passionfruit

  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 112g (1 stick or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan filled with simmering water, combine the passionfruit juice and the sugar. Whisk together until all the sugar is dissolved. Add in the eggs and whisk thoroughly until combined. As the mixture thickens, add the butter pieces in one at a time, whisking after each addition and waiting until the last is fully incorporated before adding the next. Continue cooking for 4 minutes, when the whisk starts leaving a trail as you stir. Take off the heat and let cool at room temperature, then place cling film flush against the surface and store in the refrigerator.

Blackberry Sauce
  • 225g (1/2 pound) blackberries

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 90g (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until combined. Pass through a fine sieve to remove all seeds and debris.

To serve, have 120g tempered dark chocolate on hand (instructions for tempering using a hair dryer are here-- the temperatures to follow are to cool between 27-28°C (80-84°F) then take it back up to 30-32°C (86-90°F)). Load it into a small plastic bag or cornet, then snip off the tip and pipe out designs onto parchment paper. Allow to cool (obviously I did that in the fridge as I had no other choice). Pipe an enclosed design onto the serving platter then pour raspberry sauce into the design a little bit at a time, using a spoon to guide it into the dam formed by the chocolate. Place a vacherin shell on top then pipe in some passionfruit curd, then finish it off with a chocolate design.

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