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Pastry Virtuosity: Casual Nostalgia

(This article appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

Personally, I enjoy eating at a pub or bar that has a delicious menu. As ‘fast casual’ dining is on the rise, it makes sense that food quality has improved in the bar arena. I think it can be somewhat challenging to make desserts that go well with these comfort foods, i.e., burgers, nachos, or street tacos. Desserts served at the bar need to be approachable, simple to plate and perhaps, shareable. Let’s look at designing interesting bar desserts that are classic, distinctive and tell a story.

It’s important for these desserts not to attempt to re-invent the wheel. In every way, we want them to present a simple look, with distinction. When eaten, they should be bold in flavor and taste much better than expected. Let’s start off with a gentle twist on an old favorite, the Brownie Sundae. The brownies are thick, moist and chocolaty, warmed to order and stacked for slight drama. A dollop of soft whipped Chantilly cream is dropped on the plate, and chocolate sauce cascades down the sides of the brownie into the bowl. Cinnamon Toast Crunch gelato is added for novelty, along with a small amount of cinnamon toast crunch cereal. 68% chocolate is grated over the entire dessert.

Melted chocolate chip cookie as a playful dessert composition

Choosing to thread a bit of childhood nostalgia through all the desserts is a way to tie them together. This is a subtle, but effective concept. The desserts can be simple, but still tell a story and add some pastry chef distinction. The Cherry Pop Tart resembles the kids’ toaster favorite, but when eaten, it reveals a cream cheese dough with a Morello cherry filling. The pastry is baked, then dipped in fondant and covered in sprinkles. Warmed in a toaster to order, it is served with Crunch Berry Gelato and Captain Crunch cereal. The fruit flavor is reinforced with blueberry puree in the gelato.

Finally, let’s present the archetype of an all-cookies dessert as an absurd but playful composition. The Melted Chocolate Chip Cookie is ganache frozen in a mini cake tin, with chocolate chip cookie dough baked on top. It’s served piping hot (so the ganache is liquid) with chocolate chip cookie dipping sticks, Indonesian vanilla bean ice cream and covered in chocolate chip cookie dough crumble. It’s chocolate chip cookie three ways – ridiculous, yet delicious.

These three desserts are familiar, fun and crave-able. As pastry chefs, we can be subtle while providing quality sweets, bold flavors, and entertaining desserts. Even at the bar!

Cinnamon Toast Crunch adds childhood memory to the classic decadent brownie

*Photos Courtesy of Jimmy MacMillan

Jimmy MacMillan is a celebrated pastry chef, food writer and award-winning videographer. As the Corporate Pastry Chef for DineAmic Group in Chicago, Chef MacMillan creates viral desserts for eight restaurant venues. Currently, Jimmy is in development of a new video series under the name JMVirtuosity. For more information, visit: www.JMPurePastry.com and @jmpurepastry

Jimmy MacMillan
Jimmy MacMillan
Jimmy MacMillan is a celebrated pastry chef, food writer, and award-winning videographer. Working under the label Pastry Virtuosity, his mission is to inspire and nurture pastry chefs and sweet businesses one project at a time. For more information, visit: www.pastryvirtuosity.com.