Posted by: Hil | September 1, 2008

Principles of Dessert

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I love the European tradition of having a little something sweet mid-afternoon.  I don’t think my body would appreciate the sugar load if I did it every day, but on days when I’m at home, there is something very nice about taking a break from it all and settling down with a bit of something sweet.  Today, I made spiced sauteed pineapple with a dollop of Coconut Bliss ice cream.  To go with, I had a cup of Rooibos Chai.  It was a perfect afternoon tea.  I don’t like the coconut flavor of Coconut Bliss nearly as well as the dark chocolate flavor, and the smooth texture was interrupted by bits of dried coconut, but it did pair very well with the pineapple.  If you like tropical flavors, you should really try this combination.

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I realized after putting together my tea that this menu actually illustrates some of my most important principles of dessert.  On your birthday or Thanksgiving or other such special occasions, I am all in favor of eating terrible-for-you, delicious desserts to the full extent that your appetite desires.  But there are many occasions in life where it isn’t a huge special occasion, but you are having company over or just have a hankering for something special.  Then, a bit of strategy can go a long way:

1.  Consider fruit.  Fruit is delicious.  Fresh, seasonal fruit is my “dessert” 9 times out of 10.  But if you take the time to grill, bake, or sauté your fruit with some combination of spices, sugar, butter and alcohol, it ascends to a whole new level.  And even with the added fat and sugar, a fruit-based dish is almost certainly healthier for you than a pastry or custard.  (Note that fruit cobblers and pies fall in the category of pastry.)

2.  If you want ice cream, use ice cream as a garnish to your fruit, not fruit as a garnish to your ice cream.  This realization completely transformed my entertaining practices.  If you serve a combination of fruit and ice cream, your guests can take as much ice cream as they want and put a spoonful of fruit on top, while you can acquire a big bowl of fresh or cooked fruit and just top it off with a small dollop of ice cream.  If you’ve got a bowl of delicious fruit, you don’t need very much ice cream to really enjoy a taste of it with every bite.  And it can be much more satisfying to have a big bowl of something to eat, especially if you are with company. 

3.  Always have a drink with dessert.  And I do mean a healthy, non-alcoholic, preferably non-caloric drink.  But a cup of hot decaf or good herbal tea is a great way to stretch out your eating experience and make a small dessert last longer.  If you are with company, when you are done with your dessert, you can continue to work on your drink while everyone else eats.

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Responses

  1. Yum, that sweet snack sounds divine! Thanks so much for the dessert tips, as usual I admire your approach to food for pleasure and am more than happy to test your methods :).

  2. Love those dessert ideas, I will definitely be keeping them all in mind. Especially the ice cream garnishing the fruit rather than the fruit garnishing the ice cream.

  3. i love this. (sorry i’ve written “love” multiple times on the two comments i’ve left you within a few minutes.) i’ve recently taken to drinking black coffee whenever i eat sweet things for a snack, and it really maximises the experience -the bitterness of the coffee enhances the sweetness of the food and it’s such a great combination.

  4. I definitely agree with you about using tea to make a dessert seem more substantial. I will also sometime drink (decaf) tea late a night if I’m feeling a little hungry but have already had a full dinner and dessert and don’t want to eat too close to bedtime. A good dessert tea can go a long way!

  5. […] I ate my dessert with a mug of herbal tea.  Tart apple, crunchy granola, and creamy ice cream.  Utterly satisfying.  And very in keeping with the Hil principles of dessert. […]


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