Keeping it light!
Desserts in a changing world.
British history tells us that as cooks we should follow the recipe as far as pastry goes therefore creating dense, thick and overwhelming dishes. Add to this the public perception of the great British pudding and invariably you are left with overly sweet and heavy desserts. Fondant au chocolate, ganache based tarts with caramel and thick truffle mousse, was the offering of all too many dessert menus. Recipes full of sugar, butter and cream; tatin, soufflé and steamed puddings all played their part in building our culinary heritage, some of which remain classics today.
Let’s make no mistake, classical understanding in any form is essential for long term growth but with the increasingly fast pace of life and the reduced workforce due to more desirable professions, chef numbers are on the decline. As such industry and innovation through cooking have brought us modern techniques many of which are designed to create consistency in a world where it is so hard to achieve. Microwave sponge and sous vide are among some of the greatest hits, although some procedures bring added value and are preferable, and indeed are an elevation of their classic, the majority effect overall skill in the kitchens.
Far removed from meat and two veg, cuisine has evolved to be given full understanding of sustainability, provenance and traceability, making it ever changing and revolutionary. Desserts are developing with an increasing amount being stunning in design and using advanced technique however the design and creation comes for the most part in the form of theatre or from the garnish. The addition of sugar, pulled or poured, and excessive chocolate work with tempered chocolate to transform dishes are all over the internet and finding their way to tables, this is where taste dies and we as a group regress to our formative level of gastronomy. Taste and balance has been forgotten for the sake of style and the need to impress. This is a trend that is on many menus but we as a collective are starting to change.
Less fat, more cleansing are nothing new, but how do we do that with chocolate and with challenging flavours? Here at Hakkasan Group pastry we endeavour to train our team in classical technique finished and dressed in a modern way. As with any subject the first objective is to understand the question. In the culinary sense as a pastry chef this means understanding the style, ethos and journey the chef and restaurant as a whole are trying to achieve. Then you can design and provide a product to compliment. Throughout our restaurants in London we use a number of strong flavours and these must be detectable within two bites of any dessert.
Chocolate has a huge hold over the world. Artisanal and bean to bar are the hot tickets, high percentage and the next big thing are huge drivers. Snacking on the go; reimagined kiddies sweets and sustainability are all on the agenda. With so much consumed, chocolate plays a massive role on the palette development of consumers. Cocoa is like any plant though, effected by its environment around, to determine the flavour profile through fermentation, so why is it invariable masked by sugars? Of course there are some generic flavours but to extract the pure cocoa notes you must treat it empathetically, understand its tones, complexity and discover its secrets. These are the sensations only you will pick up as every palette is different.
To obtain these within our desserts we simply use no more than three flavours, sometimes even less. We produce all praline and nut pastes to an in-house recipe. Sugar reduction to zero percent puree excluding those which are naturally occurring, helps to give us greater control. Manipulating fat by reducing it when necessary and ensuring there are multiple layers with contrasting melting points, intertwined with texture along with salt and acid to give balanced and cleansing desserts. These are then tasted against a mild chilli sauce to ensure they remove the flavour from your mouth within two bites.
There are a diverse array of chocolate desserts across Hakkasan Group pastry inclusive of the Raspberry delice (Madriafolo 64%, Madagascan), Dark chocolate pebble (65%, Peruvian) and White chocolate and Sesame (34% Zephyr). Our chefs are also open to all varieties of chocolate, in an effort to have a wider option and flavours available to them. With balance in texture, fat and sugar these work well with the cuisine and help to reclaim the palette allowing for the completion of the meal and experience at Hakkasan Group restaurants.