DELICIOUS, CREAMY AND WITH A TOUCH OF SHERBET! THEOBROMA GRANDIFLORUM.
Cupuaçu really is a strange fruit. Outside of Brazil its largely unknown.
A cupuaçu tree can reach 20 metres (65ft) but its more likely to range from 5 to 15 metres (16-50ft) in height. As the tree matures, its leaves change from pink-tinted to green leading to the eventual production of fruit. Within its range the fruits become ripe from January to April during the rainy season. The fruit it bears have a very distinctive oblong and brown shape with a fuzzy texture. Reaching 20cm (8in) in length and 1-2kg (2-4lb) it’s size can be compared to a medium sized watermelon. The cupuaçu fruits contain a soft white pulp found within a hard exocarp of 4-7mm. This creamy interior is considered the only edible part.
Pronounced ‘coopwa-soo’, this member of the Cacao family is often considered to be the emblematic fruit of the Amazon and a national fruit of Brazil. It is a tropical rainforest tree found throughout the Amazon basin, cultivated between a huge range from Colombia all the way south to Bolivia and to the Northern states of Brazil.
THE FLAVOUR PROFILE
Trying to describe the taste of cupuaçu is not easy. Its not really like anything else. It can be sweet to sour depending on its ripeness. A complex mix of pear, banana, a sharp hint of pineapple, chocolate notes, passionfruit, melon and a sherbet like kick. Its aroma is an intense mix of chocolate and pineapple with hints of the yeasty smell of the custard apple family. The interior is smooth and creamy and in juice form very pulpy.
SCIENCE OF CUPUAÇU
Cupuaçu has a caffeine like effect giving an synergistic impact when consumed. It contains theacrine in contrast to the xanthines (caffeine, theobromine & theophylline) found in the cacao bean which is also a Theobroma species. It has been speculated that it has possible superfruit qualities due to high amounts of phytochemicals. It is heavy with vitamin b1, b2, b3, fatty and amino acids, at least 9 antioxidants and a high flavonoid content.
HOW TO USE IT?
Cupuaçu is considered to have a delicious flavour profile. It is very rare to see it used in any other form other than as a raw pulp as heat can alter its consistency and taste considerably. Brazil is the centre of Cupuaçu consumption where it is loved as a fruit juice, as an ice cream flavour or simply scooped out of the hard exocarp and eaten fresh. Other uses include in sweets, jams and desserts.
Creating ice cream or gelato involves the fine balance of fat content, the amount of air and temperature. The vast majority of ice cream is actually water which form ice crystals as the temperature of the mixture drops. We have all tried low quality ice cream where the ice crystals have not been minimised leaving an unpleasant crunchy cold surprise. What sets the best ice cream from the mediocre is a rich blend of fat and ice crystals that are as small as possible.
Essentially ice cream is the mix of emulsifying fats that surround and stick to water molecules preventing the formation of large ice crystals. Combined with this the addition of sugar also hinders crystallisation.
A water/sugar solution forms a syrup that has a lower freezing point than water on its own.
This base forms the initial part of the process. The incorporation of air during the churning process creates a final product that is well aerated, light and creamy.
Ice cream stored at a lower temperature will be more solid. Ever opened an ice cream tub to find it a soft unappetising mess? Just take of the lid and leave it in the freezer to harden up.
The fundamental difference between ice cream and gelato is that the former has a higher fat content and more aeration during the freezing process.
Gelato is actually the italian word for ice cream. This does lead to some confusion how to separate it from what we consider ice cream. Gelato often has milk rather than cream added as well as a lesser amount of egg yolks. To get the familiar and much loved ‘lightness’ of ice cream the churning process is pretty fast compared to that of making gelato. In contrast, Gelato is churned slowly creating a denser result than ice cream. Rather than being served a brick of gelato, temperature control allows for an elastic soft texture. Gelato is stored at a warmer temperature than ice cream. Usually around -12c while ice cream is stored as low as -20c.
So Ice cream or gelato?
The reality is that both can give as much pleasure as the other. Sugar content varies in both, some ice creams are richer than gelato, while others are the total opposite. Gelato has the reputation to be fresher, greater attention to its ingredients and usually more artesanal but excellent ice cream is readily available just as much as gelato.