The American palate has cultivated a peculiar relationship with sugar and fat over the past decade or so, as health consciousness holds increasing sway over dining and shopping sensibilities. Given that these are central ingredients in a comfortable majority of cake, pie, custard, pastry, and ice cream recipes, many a sweet tooth has gone unsatisfied in the aftermath of a nourishing meal.
Where a decadent (or at least moderately sweetened) treat might once have followed a sensible dinner meal, many families now eliminate the course entirely for fear of betraying a strategic diet to which they are at least nominally devoted.
Fortunately, a number of new dessert trends have necessarily factored in this otherwise favorable development within the American dietary psyche, and with the aim of restoring to their proper place deliciously sweet post-meal indulgences which have found themselves nearly forgotten in many a household. Sugars and fats exist in various forms and are compatible with cherished recipes in ways which tread lightly, if at all, upon the soil of excess.
Trends in Desserts
Appropriately cognizant of the cultural shift away from overly sugar-laden and fat-drenched dishes, the nation’s most celebrated chefs and caterers have taken it upon themselves to respond inventively. Many new dessert trends are making themselves known to appreciative diners via the catering channel, particularly when the caterer in question is notoriously artful in the execution of her craft. Listed below are several examples of cleverly conceptualized sweet dishes each of which is emblematic of the new dessert trends of which they are a byproduct.
Cheesecake: A time-honored restaurant fixture with a more or less perennial place on dessert menus the world over, cheesecake is dense in consistency, supremely rich in flavor, and famously compatible with any number or toppings or hybrid recipes. To be sure, cheesecake is decadence incarnate and rightly cherished by diners numbering in the tens of millions.
But cheesecake is also irredeemably calorie-laden and replete with sugar and fat to a degree quite impossible to ignore. Or at least this has historically been the case. Clever reconsideration of certain recipe components once thought indispensable has yielded a number of alternative cheesecake recipes in which neither processed sugar nor concentrated fat plays a particularly large part. Liberal use of stevia and fat-free cream cheese are a good start towards rendering the beloved cake o’ cheese consistent with one’s healthful way o’ life, to say nothing for replacing syrup-drenched fruit topping with their fresh produce counterparts.
Dark Chocolate + Fresh Fruit: While various culinary trends have enjoyed a good deal of favorable attention over the years, the cult of dark chocolate is particularly enduring and perhaps unusually legitimate. The centerpiece of many a medical study on account of its purported biochemical properties, dark chocolate is widely hailed as a nigh miraculous source of potent antioxidants and is believed to improve or sustain cardiovascular health when consumed in sufficient quantity.
For its part, fresh fruit of all sorts is recognized as a source of key vitamins, minerals, and, like dark chocolate, antioxidants. The pairing of dark chocolate shavings with, say, a mix of blueberries and tangerines is certain to yield a flavor-rich and hugely nutritious dessert. Enhance the dish with honey or cinnamon and it will render invisible all other menu offerings.
Sweet Potato Pie: Though a deeply traditional recipe with a history comparable in age to the Republic itself, sweet potato pie is experiencing a culinary renaissance of sorts on this side of the 21st century. The reasoning behind this is rather straightforward: sweet potatoes and their myriad nutritional properties are better understood in the present than in any previous era. Thus sweet potato French fries are finding real estate on countless restaurant menus while their potato chip cousins are debuting in grocery stores from coast to coast.
Rendering sweet potato pies a bit healthier than those yielded by their progenitor recipes is simply a matter of reducing (or nearly eliminating) processed sugar by a wide margin and using a whole grain crust. The result is a delicious and healthful dessert at once familiar and novel.
The Cookie: In the lexicon of cherished desserts cookies rank comfortably in the top three. But from a nutritional standpoint there has not always been much to recommend the cookie. Thankfully, culinary trends being what they are, cookie recipes have been regularly subjected to health-minded experimentation.
For example, simply replacing refined sugars with their fruit juice counterparts, swapping flour for natural oats, and introducing walnuts, almonds, or pecans into the mixture will produce a cookie of supremely strong and satisfying flavor, this in addition to the enormous food energy and fiber present in such a composite.
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