The desire to eat cleaner—especially among millennials—extends all the way to dessert.
“More of our clients are requesting gluten-free and vegan dessert options, so we enjoy getting creative and reinventing popular classic dishes to meet their needs,” says Ami Dand, executive pastry chef at Atlanta-based Legendary Events. She cites a vegan pecan pie/crème brulee hybrid--caramel crème brulee topped with a dulce de leche and toasted pecan filling finished with whipped cream and candied pecans as a prime example, saying, “It has all the flavors of pecan pie, but substituting coconut milk for dairy milk and using gluten-free flour.”
Robin Selden, managing partner and executive chef at Stamford, Conn.-based Marcia Selden Catering and Event Planning, has also found great success with plant-based sweets that cater to consumers’ increasing desire to eat cleaner—even when it comes to dessert.
“Our dance around this has been to create a series of really delicious plant-based, gluten-free desserts that can cover most of the dietary restrictions that come our way,” Selden explains. Two favorites include a vegan and gluten-free raspberry coconut crème trifle with pistachio brittle and a strawberry meringue tart with lemon curd and dehydrated strawberries--a refined, gluten-free twist on strawberry shortcake.
SPICIER BITES Incorporating herbs and spices into the dessert realm lends an overall sophistication in terms of both taste and presentation to dishes. “I don’t like my desserts overly sweet, so using basil or thyme, or even a hint of cayenne, helps curb the sweetness and add a whole different level of flavors,” Dand says. “Micro herbs and edible flowers are also a great way to add a pop of color and flavor to a plated dessert.”
One of Dand’s most requested desserts is her take on a s’mores-inspired tart—a graham cracker shell filled with smoked semisweet chocolate ganache topped with toasted vanilla bean meringue and served with sea-salt caramel, fresh raspberries, dark chocolate pearls, and a micro basil garnish. “Sometimes we make the meringue different flavors to add to the uniqueness,” she adds. “Passionfruit meringue is a delicious complement to the chocolate and raspberries.”
“We use a lot of savory seasonings in our desserts, such as specialty salts, chiles and spicy honeys,” Selden says. “And we have been doing a ton of work on the sweet and savory side with tea,” citing a milk chocolate chile shortbread tart with candied orange and zabaglione, and a honey chamomile panna cotta with mandarin orange as examples …
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