Dressing Up The Dessert
Ask a restaurateur and they will tell you that the secret to winning brownie points from a diner is to serve them the best dessert they have ever spooned into. For the last course of the meal is the final dish to arrive on the table and leaves a lasting impression on the diner.
In a bid to impress their patrons, most restaurants have started glamming up their desserts in a way that each bite-sized goodie resembles an art work. “A glam dessert could be anything. It could be from a simple panacotta dressed with a fashionable dessert chutney to a convoluted dessert like the opera cake that has been stylishly layered to reflect precision,” says Chef Mikhail Shahani from Two One Two Bar & Grill at Worli, Mumbai.
According to him, the reason that most pastry chefs are pushing boundaries in order to plate lovely desserts is with the idea of doing something off-beat. “With the main course dishes and appetisers going in all different tangents, why should the dessert course lag behind?” asks Shahani. At his own restaurant, he experiments with unique desserts such as deconstructed tiramisu, shot-glass filled panacottas, gourmet ice-creams (parmesan cheese and balsamic ice cream to name two) and other desserts that immediately impress you with their appearance.
These days, desserts are plated in a way that they have a third dimension. This means there is a lot of texture and visual balancing that the chefs are aiming at. “While earlier a dessert would simply be a chunk of cake with a dry layer topped with moist icing, today pastry chefs are experimenting with additions of elements that crunch, saltiness, smoothness and other variations that create a difference in your mouth,” says Mustafa Ahmed from Bandra-based Fitness Bakery that specialises in protein-loaded desserts such as grain-free cranberry and chocolate loaf, almond flour-based cookies, whey-protein chocolate ice-cream and the likes.
“Similarly, balancing of one element on top of another is created in order to give the dessert a new height and visual appeal,” says Chef Anthony David from Haagen Dazs, India. To experience this, dig into their dessert ice-cream collection that is made with tremendous meticulousness. We love the Brooklyn Bridge that has slices of berry and Belgian chocolate ice-cream layered on top of a brownie slice. There are scoops of ice-cream perched on that along with a handcrafted chocolate bridge that is stuck onto its sides. A similar preparation is their Eiffel Tower that has three scoops of ice-cream of varying sizes plonked on top of one another all stuck together with chocolate cut-outs.
This trend has also encouraged patissiers to experiment with out-of-ordinary ingredients such as sea salt, green tea, passion fruit, matcha powder, lemongrass, charcoal powder, et al. Using ingredients that are not usually seen in desserts works to add up the delicacy’s glam meter. Chef Chong Chee Loong from Hakkasan says, “It’s a challenge for us to use these ingredients. These innovations not only add to the dish’s uniqueness, it also adds a punch of new flavours and character to the dish.”
While some such as Loong feel that gourmet and glamorous desserts are the only way forward, Shahani feels that it’s a passing trend. But whether or not these art-work style desserts will continue to please our palate – only time will tell.
Shot Glassed Strawberry Pannacotta
Ingredients: Fresh cream, 50 gms; Sugar, 12 gms; Extract of one vanilla bean; gelatine, 1 ½ sheets.
Ingredients for the strawberry compote: Strawberries, 50 gms (quartered); Gelatin, ½ sheet; Strawberries,
6 (halved); Sprigs of mint for garnish.
Method: In a pot heat cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and take it off the flame. Drain gelatine sheets and squeeze out the extra water. Add it to the warm cream mixture and stir until dissolved. Do not pour the cream over gelatine, do it the other way around. Pour this mixture into serving shot glasses and slightly let it cool. Refrigerate for 4-5 hours and keep aside. Meanwhile make the strawberry compote. In a pan, heat sugar and add strawberries to it. Once they begin to soften, add gelatine (soaked and squeezed). Remove the compote from fire and allow it to cool. Once cooled, place a spoonful on the panacotta. Garnish with more strawberries and serve cold.
(Recipe by Mikhail Shahani ,Two One Two Bar & Grill)