Sugar rush: the latest pâtisserie and chocolate desserts

18 March 2022

Pâtisserie is a world of old and new, where pastries made with waste products and vegan milk chocolate sit happily alongside afternoon tea classics. Will Hawkes rounds up the latest sweet treats

The afternoon tea menu at the Ham Yard hotel in Soho is an enticing mix of tradition and trend, of time-honoured and timely. There's a cappuccino tart, for example, a rhubarb and vanilla choux bun and a hazelnut, caramel and chocolate macaron, among other mouth-watering options.

Afternoon tea at Ham Yard
Afternoon tea at Ham Yard

Macarons, in particular, are the bandwagon that just keeps on rolling, but for head pastry chef Sophie Gibbens, the key shift right now is something quite different. "New culinary concepts and techniques will continue to trend this year, but the buzzword in hospitality is definitely sustainability," she says.

"Preventing waste is increasingly crucial; [we need to] find ways to reuse ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away."

For all the excitement over new culinary ideas, the underlying shifts within pâtisserie and chocolate reflect those elsewhere in the food and drink world: a growing awareness of the importance of sustainability, and a desire to reach out to customers who, for whatever reason, cannot enjoy traditionally prepared pastry and chocolate treats.

In a world that's changing fast, though there's still room for simple culinary escapism. The pull of nostalgia, a desire to treat ourselves after two years of Covid, and the potency of the new – from pastel de nata to the rise of Filipino pastries – will continue to drive innovation and excitement.

Callebaut's vegan baked donuts
Callebaut's vegan baked donuts

Waste not, want not

For Gibbens, 2022 will be about thinking deeply about how ‘waste' can be put to good use. "I've previously worked on recipes that incorporate used coffee grounds and spend a lot of time ensuring that we, as a kitchen, understand the right procedures around best before and use by dates," she says. "As a nation we discard too much food, and hospitality has a responsibility to lead the way in making a change, inspiring our customers to do the same."

Gibbens, whose CV includes stints at Claridge's and, most recently, as head pastry chef at Compass Group, says a focus on sustainability must include the use of local produce. Operators need to think carefully about how they reduce their carbon footprint.

"All businesses need to make a concerted effort to source things locally where they can," she says. "Greater championing of and better education around seasonality is required, and that's something we have always done at Ham Yard. We will see more and more places highlighting their sustainability credentials, so this will definitely be a consideration and expectation within pastry."

There have never been more vegan options on the market. Most recently, ingredients supplier Puratos claims to have created "the industry's first chocolate that offers an indulgent taste profile and mouthfeel similar to milk chocolate while being both dairy- and nut-free".

The chocolate is called Belcolade Selection M Plant-Based Cacao-Trace. A mouthful in more ways than one, but Youri Dumont, SBU chocolate director at Puratos, says it represents a shift forward. "Until now, there was a very clear gap in the plant-based chocolate market," he says. "We know the chocolate sector is still driven by many millions of milk chocolate lovers, whose expectations weren't being adequately met when they looked for plant-based alternatives. So this new product is really about indulging these milk chocolate fans with a really attractive plant-based option. We're very excited to have solved the puzzle of delicious, allergen-free, plant-based chocolate."

Fabien Levet, commercial manager at Pidy UK, says flexibility in terms of being able to deliver vegan options is crucial. "The surge in vegan and vegetarian diets has been profound," he says. "Here at Pidy, we are constantly adapting and producing new recipes. Our ‘Selection by Pidy' range can be used for desserts with a fitting vegetarian filling of choice."

Gluten-intolerant customers are also becoming increasingly well catered for in the world of pâtisserie and chocolate. Tipiak, which supplies frozen, authentic French sweet and savoury pâtisserie to the hospitality sector in the UK, has recently produced gluten-free macarons.

"Tipiak authentic macarons are accredited by the Association Française Des Intolérants Au Gluten, the French equivalent to Coeliac UK," says Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé, international development project manager. "Our gluten-free French macarons and French pop macarons fruits help UK caterers meet the growing demand for these delightful desserts.

"Macarons are the darlings of pâtisserie, with more than eight million Instagram posts alone. Offering gluten-free options means that your coeliac diners don't miss out."

Tipiak buffet
Tipiak buffet

Lockdown legends

The British public's experience of Covid will have long-term implications across the board, and sweet treats are no exception. While many have learned to make cocktails or kimchi, others have focused on enjoying those things they really like. According to Brioche Pasquier sales manager Matthew Grenter, that meant – you guessed it – macarons.

"While the hospitality industry as a whole struggled under lockdowns and restrictions, pâtisserie managed to find a bit of a sweet spot," he says. "We may have been forced to stay at home, but we still wanted to treat ourselves. Perhaps the restrictions meant that we wanted to treat ourselves more than usual. "Sales of our French macarons dramatically increased over the past year, despite Covid, showing a year-on-year increase of 49.7% from May 2020 to 2021. The growth was in quick service, which accounted for 51% of our macarons sales."

Customers are also keen to treat themselves with food that sparks warm, nostalgic feelings, according to Vaishnavi Vora, junior product developer at Dawn Foods. "Nostalgia and retro are the pâtisserie themes for 2022," she says. "And while pastry chefs are favouring the classics, such as black forest gâteau, lemon meringue and sticky toffee, they are giving them a new twist and creating hybrid sweet bakery products. Think black forest gâteau éclair, lemon meringue mille feuilles or sticky toffee macarons, for example."

Karin Janssen, bakery expert and business development manager at ingredients supplier Henley Bridge, says that indulgence goes hand in hand with quality. "Consumers are prepared to pay a premium," she says. "A growing number of high-end bakeries are charging £3-£4 per bun, so there's an expectation that goods are made from scratch, hand-finished and loaded with extravagant and interesting toppings.

"Cremella, doughnuts filled with ice-cream and lashings of toppings, are set to be big this year. Floral toppings like Sosa's crystallised rose petals are gaining traction, and nuts are viewed favourably by health-conscious consumers looking for high-protein inclusions."

Come together

Sharing is still popular, too. Anna Sentance, gourmet marketing manager at Callebaut, cites the company's research, which suggests 84% of customers are keen to opt for sharing desserts. She adds that the availability of sharing options on a menu "would increase the temptation to order a dessert for one-third of consumers".

"Our latest set of recipes is designed with the ‘together' occasion in mind, offering delicious, seasonal chocolate and pâtisserie suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Everyday Inspiration Together recipes include cakes, bakes, mousses and milkshakes, as well as a vegan chocolate cardamom cake and chocolate hot-cross muffins – all perfectly suited for spring sharing occasions."

While health-conscious customers are keener than ever to share, inventive operators are increasingly confident when it comes to hybrid bakery products. "Hybrid products made using laminated croissant dough are a great way for pastry chefs to demonstrate their skills," says Olivier Briault, development chef at Maple from Canada UK.

"Not only are cruffins [a muffin made with croissant dough], baissants [a sweet or savoury bagel made with croissant dough] or croclairs [a croissant-éclair hybrid] full of texture, but they offer a great foundation for exciting fillings and ‘loaded' toppings – cream, fruit fillings, drizzles, caramels, chocolate, even branded chocolate and biscuits."

Callebaut's vegan chocolate chip carrot cake
Callebaut's vegan chocolate chip carrot cake

World of sweetness

The pastel de nata, which hails from the Lisbon suburb of Belem, has never been more popular, perhaps because it can be enjoyed at any time of the day and on the go. The French bakery manufacturer Bridor recently introduced one to its range, made using butter and with an ultra-crispy, caramelised lamination and a filling of cream enhanced with a touch of cinnamon and lemon zest.

Kate Sykes, marketing manager at Lantmännen Unibake UK, says the time-tested appeal of Danish and French pastries has not diminished. Eight-seven per cent of consumers are regularly tempted to buy a Danish pastry, according to the company's own research, while 90% crave French options. That's why, she says, Lantmännen Unibake UK's Schulstad Bakery Solutions brand has launched a range of delicious, fully-baked, thaw and serve Danish pastries that includes individually wrapped classics maple pecan plait, vanilla crème crown and apple crown.

More far-flung treats are making an impact in the UK now, though – notably Filipino bakeries. That's a trend that Gibbens, among many others, is very keen to see continue. "It's no surprise to see Filipino pastries gain traction throughout the UK," she says. "I visited [recently closed] Filipino coffee shop Kapihan in Battersea several times over the past couple of years and, given the queues they always had, they will be making a welcome return to Vauxhall this summer."



Brioche Pasquier


Dawn Foods

Henley Bridge

Lantmännen Unibake UK

Maple From Canada UK


Pidy UK


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