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Visions of sugar plums

Our team of experts talks about dessert essentials and what’s coming down the sugary pike.

Larry Bach, owner, Sprinkles Custom Cakes, Winter Park, Florida
Must-have: “Cupcakes and shot glass desserts are both big recent dessert trends. Combining the two seemed the next logical step—cake shooters are the result. We fill plastic push-up containers with layers of cake and frosting, then shrink-wrap them and sell them for $2 apiece. They’re great for snacking on the go, make less of a mess than cupcakes and can be shipped without falling apart.”

Future find: “Grab-and-go desserts will continue to be popular. Next on the docket—ice cream cakes in push-up containers.”

Della Gossett, Instructor/Consultant, French Pastry School, Chicago
Must-have: “Farm-to-table ingredients are hitting the dessert list, as consumers become more educated about sustainability. We’re incorporating local cheeses, honey, fruits and even
vegetables, such as corn and squash, as well as micro herbs and edible flowers. We’re also pickling and preserving fruits in season to use in desserts year round.”

Future find: “The ethnic influence on desserts is getting stronger. Indian spices and sweet chutneys are a particularly interesting element. We’re also playing with kulfi—an Indian-style unchurned ice cream made by freezing reduced cream and milk in a cone shape.”

Harold Ward, Manager of Technical Services, Conagra Mills
Must-have:
“Most pastry chefs order several types of flour to match the right product to the application. A good rule of thumb is to choose a soft pastry flour for chemically leavened desserts that use baking powder, baking soda, etc. and a harder, all-purpose flour for yeast-raised baked goods. High-ratio bleached cake flour yields the best results in cakes that call for more sugar than flour. And white whole-wheat flour is a good choice for cookies and some cakes; it offers whole grain nutrition with white flour texture and appearance.”

Future find: “Gluten-free flours made with ancient grains such as millet and amaranth for cookies, cakes and bars. If baking from scratch, the chef has to look for something other than gluten—beaten egg whites, for example—to build a foam system and provide structure.”

Nancy Kershner, corporate pastry chef, Sweet Street Desserts
Must-have: “Classics are right in style. Old-fashioned fruit pies—both handheld and sliced—lemon bars, red velvet cupcakes and cream puffs are all customer favorites. Most craveable flavors include chocolate, vanilla, caramel and apple. Restaurants without pastry chefs are buying components and putting them together into signature desserts. For example, swirling together two mousse flavors into a parfait; filling baked tart shells with custard and fruit; drizzling a sauce onto a plated cake.”

Future find: “Customers are demanding clean labels and simple, wholesome desserts. Artificial colors and trans fats are no longer acceptable. We’re using such ingredients as all-natural seaweed derivatives instead. But meeting restaurants’ price points is getting more challenging. The cost of wheat, nuts, apples and other fruit is going up and up.”

Top eight dessert sellers, penetration count

QSR segment
Cookies - 52.5 percent
Brownies - 32.0 percent
Cake - 31.5 percent
Cheesecake - 25.1 percent
Pie - 23.7 percent
Ice cream - 21.5 percent
Sundae - 14.6 percent
Flan - 7.8 percent

Casual dining segment
Ice cream - 79.7 percent
Cheesecake - 67.8 percent
Cake - 62.7 percent
Pie - 54.2 percent
Sundae - 50.8 percent
Brownies - 50.8 percent
Cookies - 28.8 percent
Flan - 18.6 percent

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