What makes a great dessert?
By Chef Christine Dela Paz, MBA
A good meal is not complete without the most awaited part: the dessert. No matter how simple or grand the meal, this sweet serving served last can make all the difference.
My mother was known in our small town for her desserts; relatives, friends, and neighbors would line up for them during town fiestas and family celebrations.
We may not have had lechon baka, but Nanay’s desserts made everyone happy nonetheless.
Every province or region in the Philippines has its own popular dessert. In Manila, where I grew up, there would always be a good collection for every occasion: leche flan overflowing with caramel syrup, ube halaya (sweet purple yam) that was hand-shredded (and not ground with a processor), sweet beans that melted in your mouth, coconut milk gelatin with a pinkish top drizzled with raisins or pineapple bits, sweetened langka (jack fruit) that stayed in the palate for hours. These are the desserts that baby boomers and older considered satisfying.
Millennials, however, prefer chocolate by itself or in parts of cakes, waffles donuts, ice cream, or as syrupy toppings. Creativity is limitless, and the adventure to try something new is thrilling. In other countries, a dessert can be as simple as brie cheese or fresh fruit which Filipinos are not so accustomed to.
Is it worth the calories?
But what makes a great dessert? While taste is relative, dessert is considered great (or worth the calories) if it gives a warm feeling of satisfaction of the palate. It could be because of the sharp sweetness or the right mix of smooth and rough texture, or simply because it tastes like home.
The sweetness should not be too overpowering -- it should not make you cringe and worry about your blood sugar shooting above normal levels. Younger palates find simple desserts with high levels of sweetness satisfying, but as the palate matures, it tends to look for toned-down desserts.
The texture should be pleasantly surprising, with a slight crunch and crisp, like the shaved ice and toasted rice flakes in a halo-halo, and the satisfying smooth cream to wash it all down, like the milk and ube ice cream. The ingredients should complement and balance each other, like singers in harmony, and you can say after eating…Hallelujah!
Recipe for a great dessert
In choosing or making desserts, stick to a maximum of three key flavors.
A good example is strawberry and cream -- it may seem very simple but the result is as grand, as if you are a personal Masterchef for a wealthy family. Even more so with the right plating and garnish; it can make a simple dessert look even more delectable and appetizing.
Always pick the right kind of dessert for the season and/or occasion. During the hot summer, you can choose cold desserts like sorbet and ice cream. Common flavors are chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. You can mix and match or infuse it with fruit. During the rainy or cold season, baked desserts such as cakes and pastries are perfect with mug of hot coffee and a blanket.
Creating a great dessert will surely win the hearts of the people you make them for. Do not be afraid to experiment on new recipes or new versions of a traditional dessert.
And lastly, do not forget to enjoy the entire process: from planning, to preparation, and finally taking a slice of your own creation.
Coconut bananas with caramel sauce
By Chef Christine
4 firm bananas (lacatan or latundan)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (70 grams) shredded coconut
2 tablespoon packaged breadcrumbs
Oil for frying
½ cup brown sugar firmly packed
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon water extra
20 grams butter
1. Cut bananas in half lengthwise, toss in flour, shake away excess flour. Dip bananas in eggs, then in combined coconut crumbs.
2. Just before serving, deep-fry bananas in hot oil until lightly browned, drain on paper towel. Serve hot bananas with caramel sauce.
3. Caramel Sauce:
Combine sugar and water in a pan, stir over heat without boiling until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, uncovered for 8 minutes or until golden brown.
Stir in coconut milk and blended then add extra water. Continue stirring until sauce thickens slightly.
Remove from heat, add butter and still until melted