Features

Sweet treats

10 Aug 2021 by Nisha Shroff
Dessert

India’s dessert scene is no longer just about the usual cakes and pastries – it’s getting healthier, more savoury and innovative, and totally “on the go”.

Top ten dessert trends of 2021

Today, innovation is a constant requirement in the food industry. Chef Nicholas Fernandes, executive pastry chef, The Ritz-Carlton, Pune points out that the biggest change seen in response to the pandemic is that consumers are seeking comfort in the food they eat – and of course wellness and specialised diets. This is resulting in the growth of free-from options, such as gluten-free and dairy-free, and plant-based options in dessert categories.

 He says, “I’ve observed a distinctive need for a variety of new products to address specific dietary needs. While classics have a well-deserved spot on any menu, emerging trends like hybrid desserts, globally-inspired flavours, botanical elements and individual portions are also gaining traction, especially amongst the Gen Z and the millennials.”

fresh berry tart with date and almond filling at The Ritz-Carlton, Pune

Healthier desserts

Although people still want to indulge in sugary treats, there is a lot of attention that is being given to overall health. Executive pastry chef Stephenson Simson of The Leela Ambience Gurugram has observed that customers are keen to know the ingredients used and the health benefits they carry. Alternate ingredients are being opted for. For example, refined sugar has been replaced with jaggery or palm sugar. There is more usage of flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, super seeds, oats and cereals.

Live and gimmicky desserts

Speaking of this trend, Chef Vikas Vibhuti, brand ambassador Callebaut India and cluster executive pastry chef, JW Marriott Pune says desserts are a real treat to the eyes, and when it’s given a touch of a gimmick and some live-action is included – it’s a stunning surprise. Then be it a well-made pinata cake to crack or a melting chocolate sphere revealing the actual dessert after melting — customers are bound to love it.

On the go treats

Desserts “on the go” or “on the sticks” are trending; of course those with great packaging and those that are easy to eat. These include popsicles in raw fruit flavours, chocolate drenched doughnuts and toasted marshmallows.

delicious cake at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

Revisiting the Classics

Come-back of classics is here to stay but with a twist. Chef Santosh Rawat, executive pastry chef at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar says that they are presenting their classic desserts in a contemporary manner. “Chefs have been getting creative with desserts by adding spices, a nutritional value by incorporating nuts and seeds and even using enhanced techniques to offer visually appealing desserts.”

Sweet innovation

Local and seasonal ingredients rich in nutrients are now experimented with more says Chef Rishabh Anand – executive pastry chef, The Leela Palace New Delhi. For instance, jamun sorbet with black salt, litchi blended with lavender, yuzu with seasonal mango is some of the examples of innovative desserts which have been well received too. Using natural sweeteners without adding sugar is also a new trend.

Innovative desserts

Minis for the win

Culinary experts foresee the picking up momentum in the consumption of desserts in small or bite-sized options. Chef Anand explains, “This addresses various factors; it is the right size for people who like to try various flavours and like experimenting as well as pleases the guests who are health conscious or on a low sugar diet – this acts as just the right portion to satiate cravings.”

black forest at  The Ritz-Carlton, Pune

More savoury items

Savoury ingredients are trending globally especially in the fine dining arena. Nelson Nair, head of operations, KA Hospitality for Yauatcha comments, “The key to using savoury ingredients in desserts while making them taste delightful has to be balanced well.” Agreeing to this Dhiraj Jankar, bakery chef at Bastian, Mumbai says, “There is a growing acceptance of more savoury elements into desserts like using cheese, herbs, and others.”

Plant-based foods

Industry experts from leading brands like The Leela, Marriott International, Conrad and KA Hospitality have witnessed an increase in demand for vegan and plant-based foods. Chef Simson of The Leela Ambience Gurugram explains, “There is a strong following for plant-based recipes since the flavour is superior and you tend to simplify the recipe with no animal products.” Popular Conrad Bengaluru hotel has also witnessed this trend among its customers, they are opting for more vegan options or they look forward to having desserts with no gluten, no eggs or lactose – without diluting the taste and visionary appeal of it.

flourless chocolate at The St. Regis Mumbai

Use of “contrasting flavours”

Another very interesting trend Chef Vibhuti points out is the use of contrasting flavours and some out of the ordinary combinations which are not everyone’s sweet morsel, however it’s an addiction for the ones who try it. Like pairing the bitter chocolate with gorgonzola to make a mousse or pave, adding crisp bacon to the filling of a praline paired with an aged Burgundy wine.

Fruit-forward desserts

KA Hospitality’s Nair has observed that fresh fruits based/infused desserts are a refreshing way to both indulge and enhance the dessert with flavours and nutritional benefits.

The element of nutrition

Consumers now have more access than ever to eat what they want, when and where they want it. Chef Nicholas Fernandes, executive pastry chef, The Ritz-Carlton, Pune says proper nutrition is complex, and recommendations depend on the individual requirement. The six major elements form the basis of all nutritional requirements, carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. “Today we cater to all such requirements through gluten-free desserts, vegan, sugar-free and keto. While desserts aren’t traditionally associated with health benefits, (barring recent research on dark chocolate when consumed in moderation), I expect to see avocado ice cream, keto or paleo cakes, and all the “free” dessert options – gluten, lactose, sugar, dairy line up dessert bars,” he says.

Challenges in delivering desserts

With restaurants being operational for a limited duration during the day, the focus has moved on to home deliveries. This has undoubtedly raised challenges in delivering desserts. Chefs are trying their best to strike a balance between the actual visual presentation and the way they are handled during transit.

According to Chef Dane Fernandes, executive chef, The St. Regis Mumbai, “The biggest challenge is the temperature as most of the desserts are relished cold; delivery tends to break down the texture and appeal of the dessert as the temperature is not regulated during deliveries, for which an additional care measure is added on using styrofoam boxes with dry ice to keep it cold and intact.”

Chef Rawat says that the challenges faced by chefs are catering to the requests of guests for contemporary desserts such as mousse-based ones. “These entremets are difficult to serve via home delivery and may also impact its visual appeal, a key factor amongst the younger audience. Another major challenge is delivering the desserts and ensuring the desired temperature is maintained during the delivery.”

Elaborating on this, Chef Jankar of Bastian says, “We need to make a few compromises with the presentation and provide a lot of the elements packaged in the side, in deconstructed form. Here what plays an important role is giving the correct instructions to the guest on how to store and how to plate the desserts before consumption.”

Only-Dessert Bars- Where do they stand?

While the only-dessert bar concept is gaining popularity in the west, it is still at a very nascent stage back home. Head chef, Prateek Bakhtiani of Ether Atelier says, “The dessert bars are looming at the horizon, waiting for the Indian pastry scene to mature into a mentality of specialisation.
Chefs need to find a clean niche, let that be chocolate, or viennoiserie or macarons and focus on creating a compelling brand around a forte.” The reason why few pseudo-dessert bars that have been successful including Le 15, Bombay Sweet Shop, Mag St. Bakery, most traditional Halwaii brands are that they have refined and redefined a pastry specialisation and that has given them enough ammunition to have a physical ‘dessert bar’, he adds.

Sweet treats at The Leela Palace New Delhi

Indian Vs International

Indian consumers are adventurous when it comes to trying cuisines of different cultures and countries. Chef Anand of The Leela Palace New Delhi says, “Nothing can replace the value of traditional Indian desserts, but the demand for foreign delicacies, including desserts has been on a rise. People know what the black forest cake tastes like, now they want to know what the Italian latter dolce Frito or the French Choux pastry tastes like.” Guests are also keenly looking for fusion options when it comes to Indian desserts.

Chef Simson of The Leela Ambience Gurugram says that desserts that are presentable and have unique flavours tend to cater to a larger set of audience. “While International desserts have varieties of treats, they also have different textures and flavours, which is quite different from the regular Indian desserts. Younger generations have gravitated towards international sweets, mostly because of these reasons.”

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