Cookery book author Caroline Bretherton takes us on a tour of the latest in dessert flavour trends, all of which you can try at home with the help and guidance of our new book, Step-by-Step Desserts.
For a long time now the culinary scene has been awash with new flavours and trends pouring in from all parts of the globe. As the world gets smaller, thanks to travel and connectivity, our appetites seem to get bigger, or at least more adventurous.
Desserts have, until recently, been lagging slightly behind savoury dishes in this respect. It may be due to the fact that the baking element of many desserts is more science than art, and is harder to tweak. However, the influences of the Middle East, the Americas and Asia are all starting to creep into our kitchens and onto our plates.
As ever, most home cooks, however adventurous they are, want to try recipes that are achievable with the ingredients they have at hand and the equipment they have available. So in this new book, Step-by-Step Desserts I have tried to work within the constraints of my own kitchen and supermarket, choosing ingredients that are widely available.
Matcha powder, which is a finely powdered green tea, can be found in specialist shops or online, but most are readily available on the high street. As with anything new, it’s not just the ingredient itself it’s what you pair it with that will really make it shine.
Torte with matcha powder doily design
These days you can’t seem to move for salted caramel, although only a few years ago it was relatively little known. Yet a good chef knows that contrasting flavours, whether they be sweet, hot or salty, are the key to a more rounded end result. Sweet and salty work wonderfully well together – just ask any child who’s eaten a peanut butter and jam sandwich. A sprinkle of good quality flaky sea salt over a dark chocolate ganache (see the chocolate & salted caramel torte) will bring all the flavours of the dish more vibrantly alive.
Chocolate and salted caramel torte
Similarly, there’s an increase in the use of ingredients such as rosewater and orange flower water. These delicate waters bring with them the scent of the East, and are often used in dishes such as Baklava, but can enhance so many desserts. They have a very concentrated flavour, so add them to dishes a drop at a time, preferably into another liquid. I find they work well with the gentle flavours of milk and cream, and like to use them in both crème brulees and panna cotta.
Pink grapefruit and rose water sherbet
Herbal flavours are also finding favour these days, which brings to mind the cooking of Elizabethan England, when sweet and savoury were much more frequently mixed together. A sprig of fresh thyme baked into a Plum Galette (see recipe p. 25) gives a pleasant, slightly medicinal twist to the sweetened fruit. Dried lavender is becoming commonplace as a flavor to add both to delicate butter biscuits, shortbreads, cupcakes and desserts. Culinary lavender is recommended for eating, and most high-end supermarkets sell it these days. As with the rose and orange flower waters, a little goes a long way, so try adding it gradually into a dish – although remember too that the flavour will develop over time.
When writing recipes there are only so many things you can do to reinvent the classic desserts that we all know and love. Adding new flavours, gentle scents from other traditions, is one way to make us all look at them with fresh eyes, and enjoy them with renewed palates, perhaps.
Caroline Bretherton is the author of five cookery books including DK’s bestselling Step-by-Step Baking and The Pie Book. She has a passion for fresh ingredients and contemporary recipes, particularly of the sweet variety. With a career in the food industry that spans over twenty years, she founded Manna Café in London’s Notting Hill, has run a successful catering company, and has written for various newspapers and magazines including a stint at The Times as Family Food Writer. She now works from her home in North Carolina, USA.
Step-by-Step Desserts is the only dessert bible you need packed with all the classic dessert recipes as well as hundreds of exciting variations.