Chef sorting cacao after roasting

Sweet Collaborations from the Chocolate Lab and Hydroponic Farm at ICE

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.

Anise hyssop parfait
Sprig of Nepitella

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

Pâte Sucrée


  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2g salt
  • 90g confectioner’s sugar
  • 30g almond flour
  • 50g whole egg
  • 60g all-purpose flour (1)
  • 175g all-purpose flour (2)


  1. Combine and blend the butter, salt, confectioner’s sugar and almond flour in a food processor.
  2. Add the whole egg and first measurement of flour (1); process just until incorporated.
  3. Add the remaining flour (2); process just until incorporated – take care not to overmix. Wrap the dough and chill.
  4. 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
  • 15g honey


  1. Combine puree and honey in a saucepan. Bring just to a simmer.
  2. Whisk in the gelatin. Drop into small silicone half-sphere molds. Freeze.

Anise Hyssop Parfait


  • 200g whole milk
  • 30g anise hyssop
  • 60g egg yolks
  • 75g sucrose
  • 10g gelatin powder (225 bloom), hydrated in 40g water
  • 400g heavy cream (36% fat), whipped


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Anise hyssop parfait



  • 9g gelatin powder (250 bloom)
  • 45g water (1)
  • 120g sucrose
  • 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


  1. Hydrate gelatin in the first measurement of water (1).
  2. 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.
  3. Incorporate the gelatin, as well as desired color and scraped vanilla bean pulp, and emulsify.
  4. 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.

Add new comment