Monday, March 15, 2010

Contemplating Plating for your Palate

We are currently working on plating desserts in a manner that is attractive and has a variety of colors, temperatures and textures. Plating allows you to be creative — basically the plate becomes your palette to please palates.

Before we started practicing our plating styles, we had to create and stockpile a variety of desserts and sauces. For the featured dessert on our plate designs, we created dozens of small-sized flourless cakes, cheesecakes, shortbread cookies and a variety of homemade ice creams and sorbets. These would serve as the foundation for plated dessert and the primary flavor.

Since most of those desserts were soft in texture, we created a variety of crunchy and crispy desserts to be used as accoutrements to offset the creamy feel of the main dessert. These included chocolate pieces, melted, brandy snaps, colored sugar in abstract shapes and tuile.

Tuile is a very thin, fragile, crispy cookie that can be molded into a variety of shapes and designs and is a versatile garnish. It is fairly easy to make and is great to serve with desserts (especially ice cream). Our class got to play with the tuile a bit by cutting shapes into acetate or cardboard which you will spread your tuile batter over to create your shaped cookie. You can use a cookie cutter and an utility blade to create a shape or you can draw your own. I drew a bunny shape which was really fun and kept me smiling all day. How can you not smile when there is a bunny sitting on cheesecake? You could also form the baked tuile into curved shapes using pencils, rolling pins and bowls. However, you have to work extremely fast since the tuile starts hardening seconds after being removed from the oven. It's usually easier to keep the oven door open and work with it inside the oven. I said it was easier, not necessarily safer.

Finally, we had to create sauces to provide a third texture and flavor for our plating. Each team made a different flavor including chocolate sauce, raspberry coulis and a pineapple sauce. We also had a variety of fruits and even fresh mint from the school's garden to provide additional garnish. From there, it was up to us to design a plate mixing and matching all of these items into an appealing and palatable manner. As our chef is fond of saying...the possibilities are endless!

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