From gluten-free cakes to fruit-flavoured couverture, miniaturised pastries and ruby chocolate, there’s a host of new products and trends in chocolate and pâtisserie. Lisa Jenkins talks to the industry’s experts
When it comes to the end of the meal, how do you tempt your guests to indulge in that extra course? Chocolate and pâtisserie has never been more inventive or visually more arresting, so it’s the ideal way to express your creativity, whether that’s through using pre-made pastry and adding a final flourish, or from presenting refined designs that nod to the latest trends. Whatever you choose, there’s a host of products out there to help you create pastry and chocolate perfection.
Claire Clark, pastry chef, consultant, author and co-director with Sarah Crouchman of pâtisserie catering service Pretty Sweet, uses British-produced chocolate from Pump Street Bakery, such as its Honduras Bread & Butter, a 58% milk chocolate, and its Rye Crumb, Milk & Sea Salt, a 60% dark milk chocolate. “They are both super-creamy and luxurious and the chocolate has been well received as the trend is to buy British or local,” says Crouchman.
Gordon Lauder, managing director of frozen food distributor Central Foods, thinks retro-style sweets remain a trend, in part due to TV programmes such as the Great British Bake Off, but also because people look for reassurance and comfort from well-loved foods from their childhood: “Chocolate is often a key ingredient of these traditional favourites and probably up there with the best in comfort food,” he says. “We have a product, the Menuserve chocolate boozy bundt, which is a light, moist sponge infused with Kahlua coffee liqueur that really fits the bill.”
Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé, international development project manager at French food producer Tipiak, which supplies frozen, hand-finished French pâtisserie to the UK foodservice sector, says there continues to be a high demand for gluten-free items.
“Demand for Tipiak macarons in the UK soared by more than 24% last year. All Tipiak macarons have the bonus of being suitable for vegetarians and certified gluten-free by the French Association of Gluten Intolerance, so they appeal to those with a range of dietary requirements,” she says.
“French chocolate petits fours always go down well. They can be served at various occasions throughout the day, from morning coffee through to evening dining, and are ideal when operators need to leave an impression of quality with guests.”
There’s more free-from advice from Alasdair Beach, kitchen operations manager for Company of Cooks at the Hayward Gallery café at the South Bank Centre in London. “We are seeing more and more consumers asking for free-from options to help meet their dietary needs and we’ve found real success through the likes of vegan cakes,” he says.
Beach sees the free-from trend as an opportunity to think creatively to ensure chocolate and pâtisserie can be enjoyed by all and has turned to recipes that are free-from by design. For example, at the Hayward Gallery café, one of the most popular chocolate options is based on a Scandinavian Kladdkaka cake. Made with eggs, ground almonds and cocoa powder, Kladdkaka is a gooey gluten-free cake similar to a brownie. A little sea salt is added to offset the sweetness and it’s topped with poppy seeds to add texture and a slight nuttiness.
“It also ties in perfectly with the trend for all things Scandi, Nordic and hygge,” adds Beach.
In 2017, French chocolate manufacturer Valrhona introduced the first range of fruit couvertures, called Inspiration, to the UK. The process involves blending chocolate and fruit or nuts, to produce a combination of the two perfect for creating new pâtisserie. The couvertures come in strawberry, passion fruit and almond flavours, with no artificial colouring, artificial flavours or preservatives.
Stéphanie Perrot, UK and Ireland sales manager for Valrhona, says: “The fruit explodes on the palate, with a freshness, purity and intensity that reveals the product’s full gourmet splendour. The product comes in the shape of beans that share the colour of your chosen fruit or nut. By using cocoa butter’s unique texture, they can be fashioned just like a couverture chocolate.”
Fabien Levet, national account manager for foodservice at Pidy UK, believes that pâtisserie lovers are set to have plenty to look forward to for the remainder of 2018. “We can definitely expect to see more novel textures or ingredients, such as flavoured pastry.”
Tom Styman-Heighton, development chef at Funnybones Foodservice, says: “This year there is excitement in the industry about the new ruby chocolate. It is made from the ruby cocoa bean and reputed to have a sweet and sour taste.”
Pre-made, no problem
Although Pretty Sweet offers a bespoke pâtisserie service, sometimes the team simply doesn’t have the time to make pastry from scratch when producing large quantities.
“Ready-to-use pastry is very beneficial to us at Pretty Sweet because it’s cost-effective and saves valuable time,” says Clark. “We have times in the year, particularly during the summer, where we need to produce 70,000 tart shells, and because we are a small team, we just don’t have that capacity to provide that.”
Over the years, Clark has used an extensive range of Pidy products. “We have some favourites here at Pretty Sweet, especially the Telline and Trendy Shells and the smaller individual tarts that are available in various shapes and flavours. We have been using the speciality flavoured tarts a lot recently and these add an extra dimension to the finished product. They are versatile and bring a lovely assortment of shapes and colours to an afternoon tea selection.”
Pidy also supplies a ready-made éclair shell, which, Pidy UK’s Levet says: “provides the perfect opportunity to get creative with flavours and fillings, offering chefs even more opportunity to be adventurous in the kitchen.
“Warmer weather calls for light pastries full of fruity, fresh flavours and the éclair can be adapted to fit the bill perfectly. Chefs simply need to choose their flavours, create their fillings, and pipe and glaze their éclair. Raspberry and cardamom is a lovely combination, with a delicately spiced crème pâtissière and fruity jam for the centre, finished with a pink fondant glaze.”
Savoury éclairs are less traditional but equally delicious and worth exploring.
Cater to the chocoholics
Zareen Deboo, foodservice channel operations manager at Ferrero UK & Ireland, suggests that operators look for ways to incorporate chocolate into their products, to give that luxurious edge. “Thornton’s luxury chocolate flakes can be used as a decoration or as part of a buttercream on a cake, melted to create a chocolate ganache for chocolate tarts and even tempered to glaze éclairs,” he says.
Chocolate is also used in wholesaler Mevalco’s figs coated with a dark chocolate ganache. David Menendez, managing director of Mevalco, recommends the traditional Spanish snack-dessert of churros.
“Churros are best served sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and dipped in chocolate a la taza, or hot chocolate. Our chocolate a la taza is made by a family-owned chocolateria in Madrid called Maestro Churrero and is a thick and decadent hot chocolate. It can be enjoyed as a drink alone or as a rich accompaniment to Spanish churros and other pastries.”
Small is beautiful
The desire for ‘a little bit of everything’ means it is important for menus to offer a range of different portion sizes. Bridor’s sales director, Erwan Inizan, says: “Our new Une Recette Lenôtre Professionel range includes a collection of ‘edible jewels’ – mini, ultra-gourmet treats that are revamped each year to offer exciting new evolutions of hand-finished petits fours.”
Anna Sentance, gourmet marketing manager for Callebaut UK and Ireland, points to research that suggests that 34% of consumers would be more likely to order dessert if a smaller portion were available. Additionally, Technomic’s Dessert Consumer Trend report says that family-style dining and customisation are huge trends for the summer, shaping the style of dishes and the way they are served.
“Offering a small dessert is a good way to cater for this growing trend,” says Sentance. “For example, dough balls served with Callebaut Belgian chocolate sauce can be offered in portions of four or eight. A small portion of cheesecake can be up-sold to create a dessert platter.
“Alternatively, rather than offering customers large individual dishes, consider desserts that the whole family or a group of friends can share, or offer build-your-own options that allow customers to eat as much or as little as they want. This style of dining, driven by consumer demand, offers huge scope for restaurants.”
Sarah Frankland, head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, Surrey, and a 2012 Acorn Award winner, says although Valentine’s and Easter are big sale periods for chocolate-based products, her guests love chocolate all year round.
“I think the key to keeping people’s interest is creating, producing and maintaining desserts to a high standard: taking fresh flavours from the seasons to keep desserts exciting and new. At Pennyhill Park, 65% of all dessert sales are chocolate-based, which means we generally try and weigh the menu in favour of chocolate.
“One of our busiest times of the year is during the summer when we have a significant number of weddings. The top-selling dessert is ‘Textures of Chocolate’. Although it’s chocolate-heavy, it’s well-balanced and still feels light. We use miso in the caramelised white chocolate ice-cream, which gives it a savoury-salty note and hits the fifth taste, umami. The dessert is visually appealing and a great showstopper for the end of a wedding breakfast.”
Frankland believes there are important rules to follow with dessert recipe creation, and the first is seasoning: “This often gets overlooked in the pastry kitchen and great dessert should be seasoned to invigorate every area of taste: salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.
“The second area is food lifestyle, be it veganism, gluten-free, etc. I’m a big advocate for ensuring that everyone has a great dessert experience, and a big focus for me is ensuring that we are developing high-quality, tasty menus for vegans and gluten-free guests.
“Pastry chefs need to be thinking about their menus and making sure they are producing and developing desserts for people from all food lifestyle backgrounds. Dumping a hastily pulled together fruit salad in front of a gluten-free guest simply isn’t acceptable!”