Intense colours and unusual flavours are taking over the world of pâtisserie and caterers are offering a rainbow of options for afternoon tea and beyond. Lisa Jenkins finds out more
Afternoon teas are booming. Viennoiseries, such as croissants, brioche, pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins are permanently on the menu, and the recent BBC2 Bake Off: Crème de le Crème series showcased sabayon, opera slices, pulled and blown sugar and incredible chocolate sculptures.
Mark Tilling, who captained the first winning Crème de la Crème pastry team, along with Samantha Rain and Helen Vass, is also an ambassador for Belgian chocolate manufacturer Callebaut as well as being an advocate for the Cacao Barry Q-Fermentation chocolate process, which develops the quality and intense flavours of chocolate.
"I tend to look at fashion and interior designs for ideas and collaborations on colour concepts. Metallic has been popular this year and I'm sure it will carry through into 2017," he adds. "Mirror glazes in particular are dazzling, especially on entremets [a multi-layered mousse-based cake with complementary flavours and textural contrasts] and have become more popular following Crème de la Crème."
Eric Lanlard, master pÁ¢tissier and owner of Cake Boy, a 'cake boutique' in London, believes classic desserts will continue to be revisited and given a contemporary twist, with textures made possible by using the latest equipment.
"The trend is towards minimalism and architectural designs with vibrant colours and mirror glazes," he says. "Pastry chefs are using potters' wheel-style tables to achieve perfect swirls of meringues or cream on tarts or cakes.
"The world of pÁ¢tisserie and desserts has always been innovative and forward-thinking, but now, more than ever, pastry chefs are becoming the superstars in restaurant kitchens and sharing the limelight with head chefs."
Brioche Pasquier's choux aux fruits
But what about those businesses without dedicated pastry chefs? Neil Lunn, marketing manager for French bakery manufacturer Brioche Pasquier, believes frozen pÁ¢tisserie might be one solution.
"The fresh ingredients used to make desserts - products like cream and fruit - can spoil quickly and therefore, because of their limited shelf life, can result in a high amount of food waste. With frozen pÁ¢tisserie, a complete product can simply be defrosted before serving, and this reassures operators that they are serving a consistent, high- quality product time after time," adds Lunn.
Brioche Pasquier's new choux aux fruits (mini choux pastries) are filled with a delicate fruit mousse in a variety of flavours and made using real fruit purée and a fresh cream mixture and finished with a glossy fruit glaze.
We should be tapping into the food on the go market too, says Beverley Dunkley, head of Callebaut's UK Chocolate Academy. Dunkley shared some tips for capturing a slice of this £20.2b market with guests at a recent Callebaut masterclass, held on the 25th floor of the Hotel Indigo in Birmingham, home of the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill, (see below).Recipe demonstrations included chocolate yogurt pots with honey-coated muesli, a chocolate mousse sandwich and caramel chocolate bars with fruit and nuts.
Private chef Yves Quemerais, otherwise known as the French Chef at Home, was classically trained under acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse. He regularly cooks a Paris-Brest - a classic, wheel-shaped French pastry named after a famous cycling race from Paris to Brest in Brittany - for his clients. Quemerais encourages chefs to be imaginative with their pastry: "Do not hesitate to have a go and attempt something new. Once you are happy with what you have created, do it again and again in order to improve it. PÁ¢tisserie is all about perfection," he says.
French chocolate manufacturer Valrhona is this year celebrating the 30th anniversary of 70% Guanaja which, when it was introduced in 1986, was the most bitter chocolate in the world. As part of these celebrations, the company has been working with a number of chefs, including Lanlard and Sarah Barber, executive pastry chef at Hotel Cafe Royal, to kick off Chocolate Week, which takes place on 10-16 October.
Valrhona has launched two new cuvées as part of its Cuvées du Sourceur range, which will be produced in limited quantities. Limeira 50% is an intense, spiced chocolate with slightly sweet milky notes, a delicate bitterness and notes of malt and cooked caramel.
Morant Bay 70% hails from a plantation at the eastern end of Jamaica, and is described by Valrhona as sleek and stylish with pronounced camphor notes, giving the chocolate a pleasant freshness followed by a mild tannic bitterness.
Benoit Blin, head pastry chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, has also been busy with Valrhona at a recent Harvey & Brockless Meet the Makers event at Westminster Kingsway College in London. Benoit created two pÁ¢tisserie dishes: an Earl Grey tea and Jivara milk chocolate crumble with passionfruit and banana and a prickly pear and strawberry almondine.
Mark Tilling's blue cheese truffles
Bread, pastries and pÁ¢tisserie manufacturer Bridor has launched eight new collections, including Sweet France: a 51-piece selection made up of eight different desserts, including raspberry ganache macarons, framboisier cakes, apple tarte tatin and dark chocolate éclair. The Love Chocolat collection is a 53-piece selection with no artificial flavours, comprising chocolate coconut tartlets, gianduja cake and chocolate passionfruit cups. The Macaron Corner selection offers eight flavours, including salted butter caramel, pistachio, Arabica coffee and lemon made with French rather than Italian-style meringue to give a crunchy outside and a melting centre.
New, intense flavours are starting to come to the fore, say chefs Tilling and Lanlard. "US pÁ¢tissiers have started to rediscover some forgotten natural ingredients, such as very dark chocolate couverture, black wheat flour, which is intense in flavour and naturally gluten free, and floral and fruit combinations, such as Rose de Grasse," says Lanlard.
Lanlard adds: "Middle Eastern flavours, including spices like cardamom, saffron, dates and lokum (also known as Turkish delight) are on the increase, and Asia's influence will continue with desserts using rare tea, fermented beans and algae-based mousses, which are vegetarian and vegan and a non-dairy alternative for Western tastes."
Tilling predicts a savoury explosion: "We are now seeing a combination of chocolate and savoury blends. For example, I recently created a blue cheese truffle for an event, made with Colston Bassett Stilton, but I've also made truffles with beetroot and many other root vegetables. Herbs and spices together with chocolate are also making an appearance."
"Pastry is becoming a lot lighter in terms of texture and mouth-feel," adds Tilling. On Crème de la Crème I found that the judges were looking for sharper flavours that were less sweet and less heavy and dense desserts."
Ronnie Smith, development chef for pÁ¢tisserie supplier Coup de Pates, says: "Done well, dessert is the place where profits can be made. But with so much choice on where to eat out, consumers need new experiences and a sense of 'theatre' to keep them captivated.
"Dessert is your calling card - the final memory of a meal," adds Smith. "When planning and creating a dessert, consider the 'Instagram-factor' - is your dessert good enough to share online?"
Oreo peppermint bar
Taken from Patisserie Perfection by Sarah Barber, executive pastry chef at Hotel Cafe Royal
Makes 10 portions
To make the chocolate sable Breton
- 100g butter, diced
- 90g caster sugar
- 1g salt
- 44g egg yolks
- 100g T55 flour
- 28g cocoa powder
- 4g baking powder
Cream the butter, sugar and salt. Once the mixture is white and fluffy, add the egg yolks on the lowest speed setting on the machine. Add all the dry ingredients last, but do not over-mix. Roll out 350g dough per 60×40 sheet and freeze - the sheet should be 4cm deep.
Bake at 170Â°C for 10 minutes. Cut the baked sheet into rectangles measuring 6cm by 4cm.
To make the peppermint ganache
- 60g whipping cream
- 1g peppermint essence
- 116g Opalys white chocolate
- 8g liquid sorbitol
- 20g butter
- 0.01g green colour (Sevarome)
Bring the cream and essence to the boil. Melt the chocolate to 45Â°C and add the sorbitol. Incorporate the warm cream in three stages, with a hand blender on a low speed. Add the softened butter and green colour and emulsify until smooth.
Leave the ganache in a container with cling film to touch overnight, so that it crystalises. Pipe small bulbs of the ganache down one side of the top of the baked sable Breton.
To make the bitter chocolate gananche
- 90g 70% Guanaja dark chocolate
- 10g liquid sorbitol
- 100g whipping cream
- 36g butter
Melt the chocolate to 45Â°C and then add the sorbitol. Boil the cream, leave to settle, and then add it to the chocolate in three stages and mix until smooth.
Add the butter using a hand blender on low speed and then blend until emulsified. Leave the ganache overnight to crystalise.
Once it has set, pipe small bulbs of the ganache on top of the sable Breton alongside the peppermint ganache.
Garnish with shards of tempered white chocolate.
From bean to bar
Willie Harcourt-Cooze introduced the concept of bean to bar chocolate to viewers in his 2008 Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary, Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory, which focused on his efforts to grow, import and produce his own chocolate. Willie's Cacao now imports beans direct from farmers all over the world, and they are made into chocolate bars in Harcourt-Cooze's factory in Devon.
"Making chocolate from the bean means the ability to choose not to use soy lecithin or too much cocoa butter, even though it slows down production," says Harcourt-Cooze. "It means making every batch to taste."
The Pure 100% Gold cacao bar from Willie's Cacao is made with the light Sur del Lago bean with a little cocoa butter. New for 2016 are the Los Llanos Gold Colombian dark chocolate single 70% cacao and the Los Llanos Gold Colombian dark chocolate single 88% cacao. The Inclusions range includes flavours such as Luscious Orange, Ginger Lime and Sea Flakes.
Award-winning chocolate maker Duffy Sheardown of Duffy's, a small-scale producer of chocolate in Lincolnshire, buys unroasted beans and performs the chocolate-making processes himself.
It takes four days to make 30kg of chocolate - enough to make 300 bars. It takes a day to pour the chocolate into the bar moulds and another day to wrap them in foil and a paper wrapper by hand.
Duffy's Panama Tierra Oscura 100% is an extra-bitter chocolate with hints of liquorice and red fruit, great for cooking, and he also makes a Venezuela Ocumare 55% milk limited-edition bar made with Criollo beans.
Beverley Dunkley's top tips
Target millennials: more than three-quarters of millennials are purchasing food to eat on the go at least once a week, with 50% choosing a sweet option.
Choose chocolate: Even when it comes to healthy eating, consumers crave a sweet treat - 69% of female consumers want healthy chocolate snacking options, while 64% of consumers would be tempted by a chocolate treat when ordering a hot drink.
Go handmade: 61% of consumers prefer a handmade treat and two-thirds of millennials would pay a premium for a handmade snack. Portable packaging: operators can benefit from customers buying for several occasions at once; for example, purchasing a mid-afternoon snack at the same time as their lunch, increasing average spend.
Be versatile: popcorn fits the trend for sharing but can also be easily updated with different toppings and coatings, as can cake bars with different types of fruit, nuts and seeds.
Pidy Trendy Coco Shell Cases
The need for speed
Keith Taylor, head chef at the Dolphin Hotel in St Ives in Cornwall, has been using Pidy's ready-to-fill pastry range for a number of years. "The pastry is easy and simple to use, but it also provide us with exceptional consistency," he says.
The Dolphin regularly uses the sweet and neutral gluten-free tartlets, which allows them to adapt their menu to suit those with special dietary requirements.
The Belgian-based producer has also recently released Trendy Coco Shell Cases, in two sizes and three shapes. The chocolate-flavoured cases will, say Pidy, give chefs options when looking for something that little bit different.
Brioche Pasquier www.briochepasquier.co.uk
Cake Boy www.cake-boy.co.uk
Classic Fine Foods www.classicfinefoods.com
Coup de Pates www.coupdepates.co.uk
Harvey & Brockless www.harveyandbrockless.co.uk
Squires Kitchen www.squires-school.co.uk
The French Chef at Home www.frenchchefathome.com
Willie's Cacao www.williescacao.com