The world of pastries and desserts is a world of intrigue and craftsmanship. Desserts have been around for ages; and yet, they continue to evolve through time as chefs and dessert makers become more and more creative and daring in their ingredients and methods. Some of these creations are truly works of art, created from classic techniques to create a more unconventional end product. Others utilize the latest developments in technology to create awe-inspiring dishes that craft not only a delicious and visually exciting treat, but a memorable experience for the consumer. While each chef or dessert maker has his or her own approach to the consumer experience, there are certainly movements fueling the flames of these hot trends.
Twist on Classics
Undoubtedly, the largest trend in dessert making is offering a twist on treasured classics. This trend penetrated the industry a few years ago, but has held its momentum, expanding to the top of the list of some of the industry’s top names.Technomic, the leading fact- based consulting and research firm serving the food industry1, even made this its top pick in their ar ticle “Seven Leading U.S. Restaurant Trends for 2012.”2 These most often hold a special place in customers’ hearts, reminding them of past moments in their lives, family or maybe even a sweet, guilty pleasure. Around the globe, chefs are offering restaurant goers the chance to form new memories with dramatic presentations and enhanced flavor profiles. “Classic desser ts can only become timeless if they continue to evolve,” shares Chef Frederic Monti, corporate chef, PreGel AMERICA.These classic transformations range from the peanut butter & jelly sandwich becoming an elegant “grown-up” verrine to a transformed mint chocolate candy as a sophisticated petit four, which has been spotted in demos by renowned chef Michael Laiskonis.
More than just presentation, chefs are offering a new experience through unusual textures as another big trend. A simple realization of such is replacing simple chocolate cake elements with flavorful mousse and ganache. Not only are high-end restaurants cashing in on this trend, cafés, boutiques and even frozen dessert shops are joining in the hype. Purveyors are offering customers an unusual take on some classic snacks like cookies, frozen pops and even classic drinks like Shirley Temples and cherry cola, placing coated cookies on sticks and even offering common desserts like tiramisú as playful push pops that both kids and adults alike will enjoy.
Rethinking the Basics
Beyond the visual appeal, chefs are rethinking the basic elements of desserts to offer diners tastes and textures that may not be familiar, but are a catalyst to a new type of flavor experience. They say that people initially eat with their eyes, but then they do actually eat the dessert as well, so the ingredients are just as important to the overall success of the dessert. Even something as basic as milk is being revisited and transformed into crispy nuggets, accenting a cappuccino inspired dessert in an innovative presentation.3 Taking the transformation further, chefs are even renovating lesser thought-about elements such as air. In the finest of modern restaurants, gravy and sauces are becoming a thing of the past – being replaced with airs and foams.4 The span of possibilities using air is almost endless – even Parmesan cheese airs and foams are being created – and enhances the final product in a way that amazes patrons’ palates.These airs are created by using a submersion blender with cooking juices or fruit juices combined with a stabilizer – usually lecithin.5 Air is also being used as a vapor to entice more of the senses when the dessert is presented at the table, investing a greater commitment in the sense of smell. The idea is to bathe the diners in scents that cause a deepening of the flavors of food. From placing fresh, fragrant ingredients tableside to using a distilling process to extract the essences from ingredients, along with liquid nitrogen, and creating a vapor, which hazes towards the diner and gives a teaser of the flavors they can expect from the dessert.6
Tableside presentation is emerging as a trend in modern restaurants. Desserts such as Bombe Alaska and Bananas Foster give restaurant guests the proverbial “dinner and a show” as they watch the dessert be covered in rum and flambéed in front of their eyes – a spectacular the entire restaurant enjoys. During his 5-Star Pastry Series seminar, Chef Monti demonstrated a dessert that involved warm chocolate being poured onto a chocolate sphere, which melted on contact and revealed a beautiful dessert inside. This was not only a sight to behold, but fantastic to eat.
While front of the house spectacles are increasing, back of the house is experimenting with groundbreaking techniques that are just as intriguing to witness. Molecular gastronomy, or “Experimental Cuisine” as some chefs prefer, has curious chefs pushing the boundaries of invention and has become a favorite technique among rising chefs. The name and equipment used even lend themselves to something futuristic, like they are straight out of a science fiction story. Molecular gastronomy experiments have resulted in new innovative dishes like hot gelatins, airs, faux caviar, spherical ravioli, crab ice cream and olive oil spiral. The potential of molecular gastronomy is enormous. It is revolutionizing traditional cooking and transforming eating into a whole new emotional and sensory experience.7 Using this technique, restaurants are even serving up desserts such as gelled spheres that burst once placed in the mouth and cocktail concoctions made using liquid nitrogen, the most common process in molecular gastronomy and mixology.
Some restaurants are beginning to focus less on utilizing the latest techniques and technology to invent new items for their menus, and instead focusing on creating that one signature dish that separates it from any other restaurant.These signature dishes are usually received with industry buzz and positive word-of- mouth advertising and reviews – the greatest type for a restaurant. Although it is not groundbreaking, these chefs understand the fundamentals of the dining experience and choose to focus their skills and knowledge into one dish that is so well executed, it can stand up to any of the trendy pastries any day.
Whether it is reinventing a classic or inventing a future favorite, the world of desserts is pushing forward with the next wave of chefs moving in and introducing a new brand of creativity to the industry. Every day chefs are demonstrating these fresh ideas, both in and out of their restaurants. Industry events are featuring special presentations for chefs to reveal these new concepts to the world. It is exciting to think about the trends of tomorrow and what chefs will think of next. However, much like the future itself, no one will know until it is here.
2 Urban, Chris. (2011, November 11.) Seven Leading U.S. Restaurant Trends for 2012. http://www.technomic.com/Pressroom/Releases/dynRelease_Detail.php?rUID=125. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
3 Migoya, Francisco. (2011, May 7). Crispy Milk Revisited. http://www.thequenelle.com/2011/05/crispy-milk-revisited.html. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
4,5,6 Frater, J. (2008, December 15).Top 10 Unusual Cooking Concepts. http://listverse.com/2008/12/15/top-10-unusual-cooking-concepts/. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
7 Molecular Recipes.com. What is Molecular Gastronomy?. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
Tar, Amy. Pastry on the Curve: the latest Trends in Desserts. http://www.StarChefs.com.