The very charming couple Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of many award-winning cookbooks – including my looked-at-every-day The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, the inquestionably indispensable guide that belongs in every kitchen – has done it again with their latest book, Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius—With Wisdom, Inspiration, And Ideas From The World’s Most Creative Chefs. I have a copy for one lucky reader this week – you just need to enter the contest at the end of this post.
It’s a fact that I cannot put Kitchen Creativity down, and I guarantee you will feel the same way, too. I’m happy to have been given permission to show you this short excerpt from the “Desserts” section of Kitchen Creativity.
“Desserts” from Kitchen Creativity
“Dessert is very artistic. Dessert is sort of an expression of art in a very natural way and in a very sort of decadent way as well.” – Daniel Boulud, as quoted by PBS
In the wake of troubling documentaries, like Fed Up, on the evils of sugar, in 2015 for the first time the Dietary Guidelines for Americans set a limit for added sugars (i.e., those added to food or drink during processing) in our diets, recommending they comprise less than 10 percent of our caloric intake. Now, 58 percent of Americans seek to limit their sugar consumption—which outweighs the percentage of those limiting other factors such as calories, carbs, cholesterol, fat, or sodium.
Pastry chef Emily Luchetti launched the #dessertworthy campaign as a way to remind Americans that desserts should be an occasional treat and not a regular habit.
The use of white sugar is declining, while use of fruit (e.g., very ripe bananas), dried fruit (date paste), and sweet spices (cinnamon, vanilla) rises. Desserts are becoming less sweet, which has an impact on baked goods’ moisture and browning.
Growing demand for more healthful dessert options is leading to a rise in the use of natural ingredients (e.g., fresh fruit like apples, bananas, pineapple; fresh vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, zucchini; mushrooms; whole grains like oats, quinoa); smaller servings (and/or miniature dessert options); sugar substitutes (e.g., honey, maple syrup); superfoods (ancient grains, berries, chia seeds, dark chocolate, not to mention mushrooms and vegetables); and gluten-free treats (using black bean flour in brownies, or almond flour and whipped egg whites in cupcakes
Other trends in desserts include incorporating coffee (e.g., espresso) and tea (matcha powder) as ingredients, and drawing on other bitter and/or smoky flavors (burnt hay, burnt sugar, toasted marshmallow) and even spicy/hot flavors (chiles, Tabasco).
More pastry chefs are incorporating salt into desserts, through salted caramel (whose appearance has increased more than 40 percent on restaurant dessert menus in a recent one-year period, and with caramel now the number 3 dessert flavor behind long-time classics chocolate and vanilla), salted brownies, salted pretzels, salted shortbread, and smoked sea salt.
Imagine: The buckle = cake x crumble; the cronut = croissant x doughnut; and the kouign amann = croissant x Palmier. Karen asks. “What two desserts would you like to cross to create a new ultimate pastry or dessert?
Excerpted from Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius—with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs by Karen Page (Little, Brown, October 31, 2017).
It’s not so much combining two desserts to make a new one that interests me. Rather, I enjoy the challenge of using quality plant-based ingredients to create a new version of a traditional egg-milk-cream-butter-white sugar dessert. I love using less refined sweeteners, as I find they add a subtle layer of flavor, unlike white sugar. I prefer less sweet – but still desserts – treats. I enjoy using varying proportions of different flours, too, adding spice and herbs, and finding all the secrets to using aquafaba (that is bean water) to make meringue and to replace eggs.
If I had to pick one favorite part of the creative process, it is deconstructing desserts. Take an Opera Cake for example. I have a beautiful and delicious L’Opera in Vegan Chocolate. It consists of a nut cake, typically almond or hazelnut, and coffee syrup which is layered with coffee buttercream and chocolate glaze. The components are all made ahead, and a game-plan to assembling the cake is within everyone’s reach.
I deconstructed L’Opera years ago at a culinary conference where I was presenting alongside such vegan luminaries as Chad and Derek Sarno, Tal Ronnen, Eric Tucker, Bryanna Clark Grogen, and Linda Long. It was so long ago that we wondered, as each of us made out-of-this-world food that just hapened to be vegan, would a day come when vegan would be a cuisine. Well, unless you have been on Mars, you know that day is here. In any case, surrounded by such creativity, as I looked at my components and the plate, I thought differently and deconstructed that dessert. (I wish I could find the photo that Derek took, but it is lost.) On a skinny rectangular plate, I arranged a cake round, a truffle represented the chocolate ganache glaze, and the coffee syrup morphed into an espresso cup filled with espresso-Kahlua favored cream. The typical gold musical note was set into the cream as a shard of chocolate transfer sheet printed with gold notes. That was it. I was hooked.
I bet you can imagine deconstructing a Black Forest Cake, Boston Cream Pie Cake, and so on.
In my Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts Course, I remind the students again and again that before you can create excellent desserts, you must understand foundational pastry technique.
It is hard for me to pull out one favorite quote from the very rich Kitchen Creativity, but what’s been on my mind lately is technique. So, when I read this quote from Massimo Bottura, Osteria Francescana (Italy): “You need classical technique. You need to know everything then forget everything.” I nodded my head, yes.
I cannot say enough about the importance of Kitchen Creativity. I have bought several copies to give as holiday gifts. And honestly, that was before I saw that I was included in the section on The Feminine Mystique and the Vegetable-Centric / Vegetarian / Vegan Food section. I had no idea, and am honored to among the great chefs in this book.
Thank you, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, for yet another excellent book, one that is most definitely an instant classic.
I have a copy of Kitchen Creativity for one lucky winner this week. Follow the instructions below to enter. Contest ends at midnight on December 5th. U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!