For our bodies to survive, we have to eat. But for our souls to survive, we must indulge in sustenance that makes our taste buds smile.
Though everyone’s tastes may be different, we all enjoy sinking our teeth into something so delicious that it makes the rest of the world slip away. That’s often where desserts enter into the picture.
>For businesses that provide these desserts to an eager clientele, success requires keeping up with the latest trends.
Lee Slaninko, owner of Sweet Somethings in Wilmington, Del., says, “Necessity is the mother of invention” when exploring how trends get started. If you need something convenient to take on the go, then a dessert that’s small yet scrumptious would work best. If you need something elegant for an important function, then a cake would likely be a better option.
According to the Food Channel (working in conjunction with CultureWaves trends analysis), top dessert trends for 2014 include spoonable desserts, like flans, puddings, and frozen yogurt. Also, layered desserts and cakes are popular options. Since convenience is of the essence, individual-sized desserts packed with flavor continue to rise in desirability. It has always been said that you can’t beat the classics, which is why classic desserts, such as apple pie, and classics with a twist, like the “duffin” (a doughnut mixed with a muffin) remain big sellers. However, customers also enjoy taking their taste buds on a vacation, so international spices and unusual crepes have become hot commodities.
In a way, it all comes down to what you crave …
Ella’s American Bistro, which Main Line Today singled out in 2014 as the restaurant with the best dessert menu, is named for the late matriarch of the Wetherill family, Ella Anne Widener Wetherill. An active part of the area’s equestrian scene, Ella had a passion for throwing parties and enjoying fine cuisine. The restaurant is meant to pay homage to that passion and allow guests to experience the same hospitality Ella loved to provide.
What sets this restaurant apart from many others is that its food is locally sourced and seasonal. Each dish is homemade, often with ingredients that are produced at the venue’s own Wide Rill Farm. The desserts that are made with seasonal ingredients are not available year round. However, there is always a wide assortment and an eclectic array of homemade ice creams — such as lemon-thyme and bourbon pecan — which are rotated throughout the week.
One popular seasonal option — and a personal favorite of Ella’s Executive Chef, Jay Chadwick — is the “Ris au lait,” which is a rice pudding infused with port wine poached pear and pistachio. Another favorite of Ella’s customers is the Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse with Coco Nib Sauce. According to Chadwick, what makes this dish so unique is that “it’s an interesting play on the combination of chocolate and hazelnut that people haven’t experienced before.”
The Twist on a Classic
In Lee Slaninko’s opinion, though new, exotic desserts have their place, traditional desserts like cupcakes are still the way to go. “A simple treat that can be eaten on a walk between meetings or on the way to pick up the kids at school is in high demand,” he says. “A cupcake is a throwback to our childhood and simpler times. It’s a fond memory and adds a small but important smile to everyone’s day.”
That being said, Slaninko’s Sweet Somethings also provides twists on classic treats, such as the bakery’s famous White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie. “To me, it is the perfect combination of creamy and crunchy and not too sweet, with a real fresh banana taste,” says Lee. “We start with a short dough crust, just like a cookie, and slices of fresh banana completely cover the bottom of the pie. Then we make a fresh pastry cream and whip in melted white chocolate for a rich, creamy vanilla pudding layer. Finally, unsweetened whipped cream, shaved white chocolate and cocoa powder, garnish the top.”
Sweet Somethings started in 1997 out of Slaninko’s home in Kennett Square, Pa. The business eventually grew too big and was moved to Wilmington in 2005, but all of the desserts are still made with the same tender loving care as when Lee started sharing his creations with the public.
Sweet Somethings follows the layered, classic, and individual portion trends, with various spices and nuts sometimes thrown into the mix. For example, the bakery’s Old-fashioned Oatmeal Cake is a spiced cake that smells as if grandma is making it right in her kitchen. Sweet Somethings also serves a delicious Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheesecake, which is a mix of the traditional sweet, creamy dessert plus smooth caramel and crunchy macadamia nuts.
A seasonal dessert that brings together multiple tastes of autumn is the Pumpkin Butternut Cheesecake. The cheesecake is topped with pureed butternut squash, apple cider, and spices. “We are not reinventing the wheel here, we are just polishing it up,” Slaninko notes. “There is nothing here you haven’t seen before or at least heard about somewhere else, but I promise you that if you did have it somewhere else, it didn’t taste this good.”
Sweet and Savory
The Bacon Press Café is known for its award-winning cinnamon rolls. What makes this dining experience so memorable is the mix of warm, sweet cinnamon and savory bacon. That’s right, bacon!
Larry Cohen, owner of the Malvern, Pa., breakfast and lunch establishment, believes, “We will see more desserts containing a balance of savory and sweet instead of just sweet, like chocolate-covered bacon or a delicious cinnamon roll with bacon on top!”
Bacon Press creates different masterpieces to sweeten bacon, including chocolate-covered bacon, candied bacon, and banana foster crepes accentuated with a bacon crumble.
How did this delicious trend start? According to Cohen, “It’s the innovators that give us these trends.” Basically, someone with a passion and curiosity, like Cohen, comes up with an idea, experiments with it, and people fall in love with it.
As for Cohen’s signature ingredient? “Bacon typically makes every food better,” he says, “and now you have a chance to add it to any food you like!”
Cohen came up with the idea because he has a taste for fresh breakfast food. And though Bacon Press may not directly feature any of the Food Channel trends, Cohen’s place is making its own trends, which is just as important!
Researching dessert trends can be fun if you perform your research in the way that Chef Jay Chadwick does. “I eat out every chance I get at some of the best restaurants in the city, which I feel is the best education you can get,” he says.
So, stop reading and go do some tasty research for yourself!