This post is sponsored by MARS Wrigley Foodservices.
Chefs and restaurant brands are shaking up sweets with out-of-the-box ingredients that put a fresh twist on old favorites, introduce new flavor profiles and present desserts as an option for dayparts from morning to night.
Indulgence isn’t just for after dinner
Desserts are no longer just the finale of a meal. Sweets including brownies and milkshakes are popular during the breakfast and a.m. treat occasions, according to Datassential’s 2016 Desserts Keynote Report, which found that desserts serve as a snack slightly more than half the time and as an accompaniment or end to a meal slightly less frequently.
“It’s therefore important to evaluate key dessert attributes that specifically meet snack occasion needs. Portability, neatness, healthfulness, diminutive size and kid-friendly may be greater selection factors for snacking than for meal pairings,” the report says.
In addition to portability and small size, certain flavor profiles tend to better suit morning desserts. Global flavors are a top trend for those looking to enjoy a sweet dish in the a.m. hours, according to Mike Buononato, senior vice president of Creative Food Solutions, who named mini ice cream taquitos, Japanese mochi and multi layered macarons as examples of popular morning desserts.
For dishes that suit any occasion, Buononato said chocolate is an extremely flexible ingredient.
“From chocolate, cheese and charcuterie boards to street food and food truck offerings, chocolate is a versatile and immensely popular ingredient for consideration across the entire menu,” he said.
Innovative ingredients keep things interesting
The trend toward global flavors is driving chefs to experiment with new ingredients in desserts, incorporating spicy, smoky or earthy elements.
“Chefs are incorporating unexpected and daring ingredients to desserts such as matcha tea, exotic wood smoke and spicy pepper combinations,” Buononato said.
Desserts with spicy flavor profiles appeared on 2% of menus last year, a 38% increase since 2012, according to Datassential.
“Exploring these unexpected flavor combinations can help a restaurant’s buzz-worthy appeal, as diners love to share desserts on social media,” Buononato said.
Elevated takes on classic sweets have nostalgic appeal
Also on-trend -- and very social media-friendly -- are desserts that put a new spin on classic favorites.
Old-school desserts such as malts, whoopie pies and red velvet cake are back in style and 49% of consumers are interested in these nostalgic sweets, according to Datassential.
“Tried and true offerings like s’mores and funnel cake can be eternally reimagined, from campfire brownie bars with a graham cracker crust and toasted marshmallow panko to champagne funnel cake topped with a Meyer lemon mousse,” Buononato said.
Another way to hit a nostalgic note is with desserts that elevate classic candies to new heights through sophisticated presentation.
“Formulating recipes utilizing iconic MARS Wrigley Foodservices products like M&M’S, Twix and Snickers is actually a simple way to add complexity and refinement to desserts once you understand their individual strengths and attributes: The perfect crunch of the M&M’S shell and rich chocolate, to the sweet and salt balance of the caramel and crisp, buttery cookie in Twix, to the balanced combination of roasted peanuts, nougat, caramel and milk chocolate in Snickers,” said Buononato, who develops on-trend, consumer-focused recipes for the MARS Wrigley Foodservices confectionery business in his role as culinary innovation consultant. “Taking any of these and the other MARS Wrigley Foodservices products and combining them, chopping them or even freezing them can provide an unexpected yet complex addition to your dish.”
Highlighting brand names on menus allows restaurants to give diners an idea of what flavors they can expect.
“Comforting back-to-the-basics food experiences are trends with longevity,” Buononato said. “‘Familiar but different’ allows for experimentation without a giant leap of faith.”
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