The flavor of verbena, lemony tart and yet with a slightly bitter, herbaceous edge to it, is incomparable when used in haute cuisine. It lends the freshness of lemon without the resinous facets, while on the other hand it has a refined and uncommon profile. It's enough to use it in panacotta or crème brûlée once (or indeed as an enhancer of the meatier edges of meat or fish) to get hooked. The small, uppermost top leaves of verbena are the most tender, as are the small blossoms, handy when homegrown for the kitchen, easy to find in the grocer's, farmers' market and specialty super-markets or dried in spices & fine tea stores.
The joy of early autumn and of the harvest season is encapsulated in a filling and eye-catching crust tart, so different than the expected pumpkin pie, hereby filled with the pillowy lemon verbena flavored cream and strewn with blackberries and blueberries: the contrast between sweet and sour is a play on the taste buds like no other.
It would be wonderful to accompany this culinary duet with the iconic, classic L'Artisan Perfumeur fragrance Mûre et Musc (Blackberry and Musk) which juxtaposes the tartness of berries with the fruity facets of a specific musk ingredient. So here's to the perfect pairing of food and perfume!
Here is an appetising, gorgeous looking recipe adapted from pastry sous-chef Michael Brock's (of Los Angeles's Boule) Mara des Bois Strawberry Napoleons recipe:
0.5 pound/ 0.220kg cold, all-butter puff pastry dough
2/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh or dried whole lemon verbena leaves
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups approx. of fresh blackberries and blueberries
1. Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C.
2. Prepare the pastry: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry and then transfer to sheet. Chill for 10 minutes in the fridge. Then cover the pastry with parchment paper and top with another baking sheet (to prevent the pastry from puffing when baking). Bake for about 35 minutes. Remove sheet and parchment on top and let it cool completely off while you prepare the cream.
3. Make the cream: Bring the milk and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan. Add the lemon verbena leaves and the vanilla bean and seeds. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain into a measuring cup. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with cornstarch and flour and slowly whisk in the hot milk. Pour the mixture into the saucepan and cook until the pastry cream is thick and comes off the sides of the pan. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl.
4. In a glass bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until it becomes soft. Heat the gelatin on bain-mari until melted. Whisk the gelatin into the warm pastry cream until they're mixed well. Now chill the cream in the fridge.
5. Use your electric mixer to beat the heavy cream until it stiffens. Fold the the remaining whipped cream with a rubber spatula into the refridgerated lemon verbena cream and put in the fridge again for a few minutes.
6. When thoroughly chilled, pour the cream over the pastry and decorate with fresh blackberries and blueberries and a twig of verbena leaves.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Aromatic Cuisine, scented recipes and epicurean adventures