Using spices and herbs in pastry is hardly new. The recent craze may stem from the public’s ongoing love affair with big flavors and its growing interest in herbs as alternative remedies or as ingredients in everything from nutrition bars to shampoo. It also might reflect playful pastry chefs’ inclination to innovate and be as creative as their counterparts working the stoves. In most recent years, desserts have taken center stage and are quickly becoming the main attraction. This is in part to do with the changing trends in the pastry world. The trends, to name a few, are simplicity in the product, using only fresh and or organic ingredients and the one that is catching the eye of experimental chefs everywhere. This would be the use of savory herbs and spices in pastry items.
Working with spices always has been required at the French Pastry School in Chicago. And interest is growing, says Jacquy Pfeiffer, instructor and pastry chef extraordinaire, whose colleague at the school, Sebastien Canonne, created the spiced pumpkin mousse. “I think [spices and herbs are popular] because people like to go back to the basics,” he says. Research in this new trend seems to favor the new higher education chefs. Chefs today now have more than just a culinary background. Education today is now being rounded out with a scientific eye and this is showing in the growing number of culinary professionals continuing an education in nutrition.
Nutrition is very in right now. The word has become so fast moving and in turn so has our food. The world, especially, the United States is leading in obesity and heart disease. It is because of this disturbing new trend that a return to the past is being revived. But this is not a new trend by any means. Cindy Renfrow, writing in Take a Thousand Eggs or More (self-published, 1998), offers a 15th century recipe for poached pears in syrup, with cinnamon, ginger, red wine vinegar and saffron. This is just a rebirth of what is apparently an age old tradition. In fact, I believe that the most recent trend of sweet desserts is ending and we are simply revisiting our past.
New York is one such example, at Patria, customers would gather for a taste of its exotic Nuevo Latino cuisine.(Unfortunately now closed )When it came time for dessert, choices include tropical fruit soup infused with Muscat wine, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and crystallized lemon thyme; and chocolate ginger natillas, a luscious pudding served over chocolate biscocho, a dense coffee-flavored cake, with roasted-banana ice cream. But even here, the flavors are carefully proportioned for impact, not overloaded. “I go for a blast of flavor in the mouth,” says Patria’s Pastry Chef Alex Asteinza(On the left). “It’s just enough [spice] to intrigue the tongue, but not too much.”
It is obvious that people enjoy the thrill in life and this new, or should I say old, way of eating is a safe way of indulging in this thrill. This trend will only increase and not become so experimental but more of an incorporation of flavors to bring out the current flavors by offsetting them by adding in more savory flavors. There is no rule of thumb to use these herbs and spices; it is more a labor of love. Only through trial and error, will new recipes be created and hopefully enjoyed by the daring patrons of our dining community.