Dessert Trends Encourage Chefs to Cross Traditional Boundary Lines

Mousse Filled Florentines with Quenelles of Chocolate

One of the best parts of any meal is the dessert. A good dessert ends a meal with panache but a great dessert ends the meal and leaves the guest wanting more. Many really good restaurants serve imaginative, inspired dishes at every course and then finish with a predictable bread pudding, cheesecake, or lava cake. The newest dessert trends look like they will change all of that and push culinary professionals and diners alike out of their comfort zones in a big way.

Culinary Trends, an online magazine for executive chefs (and the writers who like to keep up with them) reports that slightly savory, vegetable based desserts are increasingly featured on the menus of some of the top restaurants in the United States.

Putting Vegetables in Desserts Isn’t a New Idea

This trend has its beginnings long before it was commented on in the New York Daily News in 2011. People have been using vegetables in desserts for centuries.

  • Zucchini cake
  • Sweet potato pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Carrot cake
  • Corn ice cream

Each of these can be found in a savory side dish on almost any summer table but they also show up on dessert plates. Diners eat them happily — without ever thinking about the fact that a vegetable is the main ingredient. The same can’t be said for some of the newer combinations.

  • Corn creme brulee
  • Chocolate beet cake
  • Tomato sorbet
  • Mushroom cake

Pastry chefs are using eggplant in place of apples and pears in pies and cobblers, avocado to add richness to ice creams and mousse, and even eggplant and chocolate combinations to delight their guests with unique, fresh, and trendy desserts. Mario Batali’s restaurant Del Posto, offers a celery and fig sorbet while Murray Circle in San Francisco has had a candied beet and pear ice cream.

Have American Diners Lost their Taste for Sweet?

These new veggie based desserts are not what would have been acceptable as a dessert 50 years ago. They are often more on the savory side, with complex flavors and textures. These fresh from farmer’s market desserts are more likely to be enjoyed by those who consider a beautiful cheese plate a fitting end to a five star meal. Still, Americans will never give up their chocolate cakes, coconut cream pies, and other sweet treats. The taste for sweet things is too deeply ingrained in society. Warm peach pie with a scoop of melting vanilla ice cream will never step aside for baby pea creme brulee, nor should it have to.

Be Prepared to Encourage Timid Palates

Chefs would be wise to introduce these innovations slowly and deliberately, first adding a familiar vegetable based dessert, then building upon that foundation with variations. Carrot and zucchini cakes are familiar and comfortable so it is likely that a shredded beet cake in the same vein would be a good choice.

Don’t change the menu completely but add a more savory dessert right along with that perfect chocolate mousse or blackout cake. Change the menu up often and introduce the newest desserts as a complimentary amuse bouche — diners are more likely to try one bite of something unusual that they are a full size serving.

Keep It Seasonal

These new, savory desserts are perfect for seasonal menus. Using any food at the peak of its season is the best way to get every bit of the flavor. Experiment with the local produce that you find and experiment with flavor combinations. The trendsetters are going to be those that aren’t afraid to try new textural and flavor combination, playing savory against sweet and pushing the boundaries of what are considered traditional dessert flavors.

photo credit: chanelcoco872 via photopin cc

- Marye Audet

Marye Audet is an author, freelance writer, and editor. Cooking, baking, and recipe development have been a major part of her life since she baked her first loaf of bread at age 13. Luckily, with a husband, eight children, a son in law, and three grandchildren she has enough test-tasters to handle the steady stream of experiments that come from her kitchen.

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