As of 2013, it is estimated that 40% of consumers eat desserts at least twice a week. How could you not want something a little sweet after you finish off your meal?
If you’re the kind of person that’s constantly baking recipes, you might be wondering how to get your dessert flavors just right.
First, we’ll take a look at the anatomy of a dessert to give you a sense of what components you can include in your recipe. Then, we’ll take a look at some classic flavor pairings.
No matter what you’re making, understand how to balance flavor, texture, color, temperature, and more can take your dessert to the next level.
The Anatomy of Dessert Recipes
When it comes to making a delicious dessert, it’s about more than just having the right amount of sweetness. You want to consider the balance of flavors, textures, colors, temperatures, heights, and shapes just like you would for any other type of recipe.
There are five elements of sweet baking recipes and desserts that can ensure that your sweet treat comes out amazing every time. These are:
- Base: This is usually cake-like or crispy
- Filling: Normally consists of ripe fruit or a creamy element
- Sauce: A complementary addition that enhances textures, flavors, and colors of the rest of the dessert
- Textural component: A contrasting textural addition such as a dried fruit chip or a crispy cookie
- Garnishes: Add both additional flavor and texture while also making the dessert more visually appealing
From this breakdown of elements, you can see that having a good dessert is about way more than plopping a little whipped cream on top of something sweet. When you take all of these into consideration, you can really take your dessert to the next level.
There are a wide range of base flavors for a plated dessert. This might be an almond genoise, a crispy sugar base, or a lemon-pound cake.
The best way to think about a base is to picture it as the edible container that holds the dessert’s main feature. For example, the crust of an apple pie contains cinnamon-drenched apples and the graham cracker crust of cheesecake holds the delicious, dense, and creamy filling.
It’s important that the base of your dessert doesn’t overpower the rest of the dish. That being said, you do still want it to be flavorful.
The filling or the main body of your dessert often incorporates creamy elements. This might be pastry cream, mousse, Bavarian cream, or ganache. All of these generic cream bases can be finished and flavored in an unlimited number of ways.
It is also common for fillings to be fruit-based. It is often a good idea to “macerate” fruits, which means you flavor them with sugar and any other flavors you want to add. For example, this might mean adding vanilla extract, orange zest, and lemon to fresh strawberries.
Certain fruits really benefit from being cooked before they are added to desserts. It can be lovely to sauté apples, poach pears, or grill pineapple to help give them interesting textures, colors, and flavors.
There are a number of basic sauces in the world that you can experiment with and add to in an infinite number of ways. Whichever saw space you go with, you will be able to adapt them to fit your specific dessert.
When you are choosing which sauce you will put on your dessert, you will want to think in the same way as you would when you are making a savory dish. You will want to first think about the flavor you want the sauce to add to the dish. Next, you will want to consider texture and color.
It’s important that you make the right amount of sauce for your dish as well. Usually, between .5 ounces and 1.5 ounces is a good amount for a portion.
Textures and Garnishes
It is common for desserts to be creamy and soft. When you add crispy elements, it can help to keep the dessert interesting and add a contrasting texture. However, it’s important that these components also add flavor and not just texture.
Fruit chips are one way that you can add texture to a dessert plate. You can slice fresh fruit very thin and coat them very lightly with simple syrup that is flavored. Next, bake it on parchment paper on very low heat, around 250 degrees, until it has crisped up and dried out.
As far as garnishes go, you can always add more as long as they serve a functional purpose. You’ll always want to think about what your guest is expected do to with the garnish. Do you think that the garnish will take away from the dish or will it make it taste better?
You don’t want garnishes to just be aesthetic. Instead, choose garnishes that enhance the temperature, texture, and flavor of the dish in addition to its appearance and color.
Classic Dessert Flavors
Whatever your favorite dessert is, there’s a good chance it is made up of one of the most classic dessert flavor pairings. Whether it’s chocolate and peanut butter, apples and cinnamon, or lemon and cream, some flavors just go amazing together.
Whether you are using cocoa powder or baking chocolate, there’s nothing quite like a delicious chocolate dessert. Different types of chocolate will pair with some flavors better than others, and experimenting is one of the best ways to find out. That being said, let’s look at flavors you can expect to go well with dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate.
For dark chocolate, consider pairing it with fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, bananas, and grapes. Dark chocolate can also go well with cheeses like chevre and goat cheese. Almonds and peanuts pair beautifully with this cacao-dense type of chocolate.
When you’re using milk chocolate, consider pairing it with orange, cherries, coconut, or apples. It also pairs well with hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans. Honey, caramel and peanut butter are also classic flavor combinations with milk chocolate.
As far as white chocolate goes, it pairs well with the fruits of blueberries, blackberries, lime, and lemon. Cashews and macadamia nuts are perfect for this light-colored chocolate, and the flavors of cardamom, saffron, and matcha also suit it well.
You can find apples in a long list of desserts, most notably apple pie. Let’s take a look at some of the flavor pairings that go well with apples.
If you are planning to pair apples with other fruit, consider trying one of the following:
Looking for some herbs and spices to add to your apple dessert? The following spices and herbs go lovely with apples:
- Star anise
To add some crunchy texture, consider adding one of the following:
- Pine nut
If you’re looking to add some spirits to your sweet meal, try one of these:
Some additional flavors that pair well with apples include caramel, molasses, maple syrup, and vanilla. (Psst… check out how vanilla extract is made here!)
These delicious, antioxidant-packed little fruits are great components of dessert dishes.
Other fruits that go well with blueberries include:
- Passion Fruit
As far as spices go, consider some of the following:
- Kaffir leaf
Nuts that go well with blueberries include:
To add some depth to your dish, you might make it a bit boozy. Spirits that go well with blueberry include:
- Orange liqueur
- Triple sec
Other flavors that jive great with blueberries include vanilla, mascarpone, maple syrup, honey, molasses, and creme fraiche.
Is there anything more versatile than coconut? Not only can you drink its liquid, use its meat in dishes, and use its husk as a drinking glass, but you can even use it as a fuel source!
For now, though, we’ll just focus on using coconut in delicious baking recipes.
Coconut pairs well with a number of other fruits. These include:
- Passion Fruit
If you are looking to add herbs and spices to your coconut dish, consider one of the following:
To add some crunchy goodness, try brazil nuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, or pistachios. By far, the best spirit to pair coconut with is rum. You can also add flavors like vanilla, honey, caramel, chocolate, rose water, and creme fraiche.
What’s Your Dream Dessert?
We only live once, so why not eat dessert?
If you’re thinking about making something sweet, you might want to consider how you can get your dessert flavors just right. More than just making sure something has the right amount of sweetness, dessert creation is actually an art in its own right.
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Really, good article.