With unique presentation techniques and innovative flavours, desserts are still homely, decadent and extravagant, but definitely more creative.
Picture this: Gelato with spice marinated mangoes, layered with toasted lemon-glazed cashew shortbread and sprinkled with sea salt served in a high ball. Carrot semifreddo with poppy seed crumble and white chocolate served in a mason jar.
Desserts are no longer attractive looking pastries served on a plate or at best, a mousse set in a plastic container. From full-sized desserts, the transition was made to individual dainty portions and as if their diminutive appeal was not enough, desserts have begun to be served in avante-garde ways, if only to catch the fancy of discerning gourmets.
Samantha Nunes, Pastry Chef, Goa Marriott Resort & Spa, agrees, “People eat with their eyes first. So to make the dessert enticing enough, it has to look tempting. Presentation has undergone a change, as desserts have become smaller and more attention is placed on plating. The colour combinations, accompaniments and garnishing are as important as the main dessert itself.”
Quirky and Fun Elements
People want to experiment, but want something familiar and comforting too. Thus, while chefs take the plunge when it comes to innovation in presentation, some familiar flavours are kept intact. Chocolate and fruits are still common in desserts, as diners prefer these.
Chef Vikas Shrivastava, Pastry Chef, Le Meridien, New Delhi opines, “Today, guests are always waiting for a surprise element, so a chef has to come up with new concepts like fancy plates, mason jars, high ball glasses or shot glasses. These also give a sense of personalised attention. To survive today’s competition, one has to evolve regularly keeping the very essence of desserts intact.”
Individual portion desserts are an opportunity for the guest to experience a wider variety of flavours and textures as one cohesive dish without having to overeat. But adding a fun element to it, only enhances its appeal.
Master Chef Ranveer Brar says, “The dessert revolution started in India with mono portions and the reduction in portion sizes of desserts. It gained momentum with light and healthy desserts. Now, we have moved on to the experimenting space, where we are creating and witnessing the creation of inspired masterpieces.”
Blueberry-layered cheesecake, salted caramel brownie, banana parfait, apple pies and more, can be served in glass mason jars. But layered desserts look the best in these. In fact no-bake desserts are best, and one can prepare these in advance. Not only do these look attractive and appealing to the customer, but are very convenient. These jars are easy to handle.
A splash of colour adds life to desserts. So, vibrant fruit salads or granitas served in a cocktail glass, look like eye-candy. It also allows diners to keep a check on portion size and try a variety. However, chefs caution that one should not get so lost in the form, that the function involved in eating a dessert is forgotten. Similarly, shot glasses are preferred to serve layered desserts. Brownies, chocolate and whipped cream, is the typical dessert served in these, but variations like Butterscotch pudding may also be offered.
Practicality is key when serving desserts in extraordinary ways. Guests should find it easy to enjoy the dessert without the fear of spilling it. A slice of layered cake served upright, for instance, maybe wobbly and difficult to manoeuvre. Textures of the dessert must be taken into account when selecting the mode of serving.
Chef Ranveer Brar cautions, “Chefs should keep in mind that the sanctity and knowledge of the base dessert, should be true to its name.”
Fusion Is In
Variety prevents flavour fatigue and chefs are going all out to ensure that. So, while presentation offers a huge opportunity to play around, flavours and textures too call for innovation.
Molecular gastronomy, according to Chef Nunes, is a regular affair now and modern machinery and techniques help chefs reach that extra mile in innovation and execution. Gelled spheres, replete with flavours that burst in the mouth, are creating a stir. At Zorawar Kalra’s Masala Library, a jalebi is deconstructed into a caviar and served on pistachio rabdi along with puffs of saffron foam.
Using a distilling process to extract the essences from ingredients, along with liquid nitrogen, and creating a vapour, which hazes towards the diner and gives a teaser of the flavours they can expect from the dessert, is again being used to create drama at the table.
Chefs are infusing global flavours into Indian desserts and mithai too. Sweet potato and gulab jamun cheesecake, Pineapple halwa and hazelnut crème tart and Amrakhand cheesecake, are some of the unique offerings from English Vinglish, a newly opened dessert store in Mumbai, by Chef Ranveer Brar, with Gangour Sweets.
So while chefs are going all out to give a boost to that last, but important course in a meal, diners have never had it so good. Small portion sizes, attractively filled with delectable flavours and textures. Today, stylish desserts taste as good as they look.
Written by Mini Ribeiro