While French pastry chefs like Philippe Le Corre traditionally turn out high-style desserts with sophisticated ingredients, it was the humble American breakfast of Wild Blueberry pancakes that inspired Le Corre’s latest innovation, developed for Sysco’s Cutting Edge Solutions platform.
Wild Blueberry Flapjack Cake—three, pancake-like layers studded with flavorful, nutrition-dense Wild Blueberries, and sandwiched with a smooth maple cream—answers the growing customer demand for Wild, authentic foods, says Le Corre, the senior corporate chef for Dianne’s Fine Desserts in Minneapolis. Sustainable and cost-effective, Wild Blueberries fit the mission of Cutting Edge Solutions to showcase ingredients that are on-trend, plant-based, and versatile. The Wild Blueberry Flapjack Cake also responds to a surge in breakfast foods being served throughout the day. “We’ve seen this craze all over restaurant menus in the past year,” Le Corre says. “Our idea was to create a dessert that would be a good reflection of breakfast home cooking.”
Having started his professional training at the celebrated Gaston Le Nôtre pastry shop in Paris, Le Corre is a Certified Master Baker and Executive Pastry Chef whose 40-year career includes training the USA baking team that won the 1999 World Cup of Baking in Paris. At Dianne’s Fine Desserts, a leading provider of frozen, thaw-and-serve desserts, he focuses on new product development for national foodservice accounts. “One of the key things for me as a pastry chef is creativity,” Le Corre says. “My challenge is to bring my knowledge of quality desserts to the process of producing them on a large scale.”
Le Corre’s first hurdle in creating the Wild Blueberry Flapjack Cake was replicating the pancake flavor experience in the cake layers. “Pancakes have that little bit of buttery crust around the edges; to duplicate it, we used brown butter extract,” he says. “Another important component is nonfat yogurt—a very strong breakfast item.” Maple for the creamy filling was an obvious choice, not only due to its perennial connection to pancakes, but also because maple is the fastest growing flavor in desserts, according to data provided by Sysco.
“After we designed the cake, the perfect match was Wild Blueberries,” says Le Corre, who became convinced that Wild was the way to go as a participant in an “Eating on the Wild Side” event hosted by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America in Maine. “One of the primary reasons we wanted to use Wild Blueberries is for the nutrition benefits,” he says. “Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, as well as the high-fiber content were very important to us. We also like the acidity and the complex flavor profile, which brings a sweet-tart component to the product that is a perfect combination with the buttery, caramel-y elements of the cake.”
In the process of making the Wild Blueberry Flapjack Cake, the individually-quick-frozen Wild Blueberries are sprinkled on top of the batter as the unbaked cake layers travel along a conveyor belt. “This is to make sure they don’t sink in, but also to add another rustic, artisanal dimension to the product,” says Le Corre. “Wild Blueberries are all uneven in color and shape; no two taste or look the same, and the tops of the cakes look just like a pancake you would make at home.” The artisanal element of the dessert extends to the various ways it can be plated, customization LeCorre encourages with an enticing list of serving suggestions on Sysco’s Cutting Edge Solutions web pages. “You can make your own caramel sauce with orange zest and plate the cake with organic vanilla bean ice cream, or use more Wild Blueberries and ginger to make a sauce,” he says. “It’s a platform for creativity.”
Included in the annual “Eating on the Wild Side” event, which introduces top-level foodservice chefs to the tiny but powerful fruit, is a visit to Maine’s Wild Blueberry barrens. For LeCorre, the experience of seeing how Wild Blueberries are managed as a crop was another factor in deciding to feature them in his desserts. “I like the fact that it’s a two-year growth cycle, and nobody’s trying to push that,” he says. “It brought back memories of growing up in France and the importance of respect for nature.”
Neil Doherty, Sysco’s Senior Director of Culinary Development, is instrumental in leading Sysco’s food service strategy and worked alongside Chef Le Corre’s team on this project. Doherty is always looking for opportunities to add authentic, natural ingredients, like Wild Blueberries, to the company’s menu offerings. He has visited Maine’s wild barrens during harvest season and experienced the terroir of this tiny Superfruit.
“Wild Blueberries are sustainable, attainable, and affordable,” says Doherty. “They’re a crop from the beginning of time.”
Available nationwide through Sysco and selling well, the Wild Blueberry Flapjack Cake’s trajectory has Le Corre’s creativity wheels turning in the direction of his next product. He’s thinking Wild Blueberries and citrus, an “upscale bar with Meyer lemon and Wild Blueberries,” for example or a dessert that combines Wild Blueberries, caramel, and orange. We can’t wait to see the next innovation from this pastry chef gone Wild.