In Baltimore restaurants, chefs are adding unexpected elements — vegetables, herbs and a healthy dose of salt — to dishes traditionally thought of as sweet.
Much of the interest comes from applying the same understanding of how complementary flavors enhance enjoyment — such as prosciutto and melon, or chocolate and salt — to desserts. Adding savory ingredients cuts the sweetness and stimulates the taste buds.
Jason Gehring, pastry chef at Cinghiale, has developed a number of savory desserts. Recently, he updated a classic Italian layered dessert, zuccotto, by steeping the cream for the filling with Maryland sweet corn and a touch of thyme. He also added cornmeal to the sponge cake that encases the Bavarian mousse. The result is a refreshingly light dessert, and the corn’s sweetness comes through.
“I find savory desserts a lot more interesting,” said Gehring, “and you can show people that things they don’t think of as sweet can be served in a dessert, and can be good that way.”
He also makes a chocolate cake with rosemary. “You can’t really taste the rosemary in the cake,” Gehring said. “It just changes the way the chocolate tastes.” For added interest with this cake, Gehring lightly smokes the ganache frosting and showers the plate with smoked sea salt.
At Jack’s Bistro in Canton, lavender ice cream with pink peppercorns has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in January 2007. Manager Christie Smertycha said chef/owner Ted Stelzenmuller got the idea for the popular dessert while sipping Viognier and thinking about the way floral wines enhance spicy foods.
The ice cream is served with a warm sugar cookie, said Smertycha. “It’s best to eat it bite for bite with the cookie,” she said.
Avocado ice cream, bright green and garnished with a slice of orange, is on the dessert menu at Little Spice, a Thai restaurant in Hanover. Manager Lawan Fuangphon says their version is naturally sweet because it’s made with coconut milk.
Avocado ice cream3 ripe medium avocados
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Peel and slice avocados. Add to blender with next three ingredients and puree. Pour into bowl and whisk in heavy cream. Refrigerate for several hours, then freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Try serving with fudge brownies or ginger cookies.
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