INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

What makes a worthy plated dessert? Many will argue presentation, complexity, or the type of plate it is served on are important factors. Texture is also critical in making a dish successful. Mushy apples would ruin an otherwise perfect apple pie, and how helpful is the granulated sugar garnish on the crust? But most will still agree that the most important factor in creating an exceptional plated dessert is flavour. Whether it is a simple slice of pie served in a casual restaurant, or an intricate, multicomponent dessert crafted for a fine dining establishment, flavour is what makes a dessert memorable.

Dessert plating styles are constantly changing and evolving thanks to today’s creative pastry chefs and cooks. Past trends included towering architectural assemblies that were impressive and beautiful to look at but were difficult to eat, or making complex designs on the rims of plates with squirts of sauce or dustings of cocoa or icing sugar (which often ended up on the diners’ sleeves). Gradually the trend has shifted back to focus on flavour, and we have discovered that great-looking and great-tasting desserts are obtainable without unnecessary complexity.

An important factor in the development of a plated dessert is to consider how it will work in relationship to the restaurant’s theme and menu. Desserts and dessert menus should be considered a continuation of the dining experience. It is essential to recognize that the dessert choices should not just be tacked on at the end of a meal without first thinking through the style of menu, the type of business (pastry shop, hotel, or restaurant; casual or high-end), and the clientele. You can make the most beautiful and flavourful food possible, but if it doesn’t sell, you are doing a disservice to the business owners and missing out on customer satisfaction. Desserts prepared with these concepts in mind are seen as products that will not only increase the average cheque but will also draw public attention to the establishment and to the creativity of the kitchen, thus bringing in more customers.

Because it is difficult to agree on how best to present a dessert, it is impossible to set down a list of hard-and-fast rules to follow. Therefore, in this section we discuss a number of ideas that influence chefs and cooks in their decisions and some of the factors to consider when planning a plated dessert.

Customers love desserts, but not all customers will order them. In most restaurants, perhaps 50% of the customers, at most, will have dessert. A majority of diners are simply too full to order a traditional full, large dessert, but they would welcome something a little sweet or something to share. Most customers who don’t order dessert might be interested if something light, refreshing, and intriguing were offered. Therefore, when planning for variety, don’t forget to include simpler, lighter options that will appeal to diners with smaller appetites. Having a cheese platter or perhaps a savoury dessert are popular options too.