Chefs are looking ahead to their spring dessert menus, and floral tastes, light teas, and even crunchy vegetables are set to make a splash on them this year.
Casto Unson, pastry chef at Poste Moderne Brasserie and Bar in Washington, D.C., experimented with French macarons this winter, creating a signature take by filling them with frozen semifreddo rather than the traditional ganache or butter cream filling. For spring, he's dreaming up floral flavors of his macarons, along vegetable cakes and Indian-spiced desserts. He suggests a bubbly wine for pairings.
The semifreddo in Unson's macarons is comparable to a frozen mousse, he says, and when the macaron is frozen, the filling hardens and shell softens, invoking a pleasant texture. "It's almost like a cross between an ice cream sandwich and a macaron. It's my take on the whole mash-up dessert trend that seems to be the craze right now, like the cronut—everyone's taking two desserts and making it into one."
For the spring, Unson will take his winter macaron flavors of raspberry, lime, and chocolate, and update them with floral and tea accents. The lime, which has been the best seller, will transform into a juniper lime, invoking a gin and tonic, Unson's favorite warm-weather drink. The accompanying flavors will be strawberry chamomile and Mexican chocolate, both complementary of warmer temperatures.
While Unson enjoys using flowers in his desserts year-round, he says the penchant lends itself to the months of March, April, and May particularly well. On Poste's menu, he has a hibiscus coulis sauce that's part of the Coconut Mousse Cake, for example, and he is planning a cheesecake with strawberry-jasmine for the spring, advancing the tea and floral flavors.
Another big trend is vegetables in desserts, such as the classic spring carrot cake. "But you can ranch out from that use white asparagus, green teas, and rhubarb, which is also a big spring flavor,” Unson suggests. “I'm thinking of doing a spring dessert that combines rhubarb with lychee, which isn't a typical spring flavor combination, but the tartness of the rhubarb will really offset the sweetness of the lychee."
On the beverage side, crisp sips are a winner. "Since the flavor profile of spring desserts tends to be on the lighter side, I would suggest pairing lighter beverages," Unson says. "Maybe Champagne, Prosecco, something sparkling and light. Nothing to weigh down the desserts too much, because we're just getting out of winter, and we don't want too much port or the heavier, full-bodied dessert wines."
One flavor profile Unson adds to his desserts to set them apart is spices, which can offset the sweetness, he says. This spring, he'll experiment with Indian flavors such as a saffron panacotta, cardamom-spiced carrot chips, candied pistachios, and orange-carrot sorbet.
"Matching the Indian flavors with traditional French techniques is something that isn't happening too much, but I think it lends well to desserts," he says.
By Sonya Chudgar