I recruited the expertise of three culinary rock stars to weigh in about baking with texture. Here’s what they had to say.
Two years ago in New York City, I experienced one of the best desserts ever; the Cracker Jack sundae at American Cut in Tribeca. Kristen Moorer, the executive pastry chef explains why: “Some ingredients on our dessert menu right now that guests really love include our peanut brittle and caramel popcorn in the Cracker Jack sundae. The guests’ feedback includes how they are surprised by the peanut brittle texture complementing the popcorn and ice cream in the sundae. They love the dimensions of the caramel crunch and popcorn chew. Plus, the brittle adds a salty sweet flavour enhancing the entire dessert.”
Moorer describes: “Adding different textures to a dessert is very important. I’m very big on taking a classic dessert and adding a modern twist on it. Brûléeing a fruit such as a banana or toasting a house-made marshmallow are good examples of that. You get a nice sugar crisp from the brûléed banana or a toasted gooey chewy texture from the marshmallow. Also, adding a light whip cream or mousse to complement a heavier dessert such as a pumpkin pie or cheesecake is a great way to balance textures and make it a more interesting dining experience.”
One of my favourite culinary destinations close to home is Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ont. It’s a beautiful Relais and Chateaux property that provides a wonderful escape. Langdon’s pastry chef Rachel Nicholson, weighs in on the topic of adding texture to baking: “Chocolate cake is a fun one. We use garnishes that we have for our a la carte desserts. One is a cocoa nib brittle, super thin and shiny. I add cocoa nibs into anything I’m making with chocolate. They add a great chocolate flavour without the added sweetness and they provide a good crunch. Chocolate Rocks made with maltodextrin are interesting too. They appear to be rocks, but just melt away in your mouth. I also enjoy adding in seeds, any kind really, mostly toasted. The most wow texture we have is our Edible Papers. We dehydrate fruit or milk purees to create shards of colour and flavour. They are all very thin and crispy and add a ton of wow to any dish including desserts. I’m lucky enough to have our Langdon Signature Chocolate Terroir that we are experimenting with currently. The chocolate is silky and smooth; all our desserts made with them are incredibly decadent!”
The third expert, Joanna Sable, is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef and consultant. I met Joanna few years ago at a Foodies on Foot event. Sable illustrates: “For texture, nothing beats bars and squares. As a dessert they have the most amount of textures in one single bite. Look at the date square with a cookie base, creamy date filling and crumbly top. Another is the hello dolly with again a cookie base but much denser, creamy goo loaded with crunchy nuts, bites of chocolate and bits of coconut. I make a banana cream pie with a dense chocolate crust, creamy banana filling with chunks of raw banana and I garnish with crispy banana chips and caramel bananas.”
The simplest way to add texture dimensions to a dessert is a layer of crunch. Both Moorer and Nicholson share their final favourite crunch go-tos. Moorer: “For a fruity dessert it’s baked meringue or honeycomb. If I’m going for a chocolate dessert I tend to lean more towards a candied nut or candied cacao nibs.” Nicholson: “My absolute best cheat is to caramelize white chocolate. Toss it in the oven to roast to a caramel colour and then spread it out as thin as you want, cool and it is ready to break into pieces. It’s simplest way to add texture to a cake.”
Jane Dummer, RD (www.janedummer.com), known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.
The Final Proof: Texture trifecta
Whether it’s crunchy, crispy or creamy, texture is a great way to pique new interest in your baked goods and desserts.
A delicious dessert has a balance of flavours and textures. Texture is created by a change in pressure or sensation in our mouth making the eating occasion more interesting. In baking, it is most commonly created by adding ingredients that produce crunch. It can also be generated from ingredients that fabricate crispy, creamy, bubbles and even heat from spices.
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