As every home cook knows, friends and family firmly believe the perfect ending to a perfect meal is going to be sweet. Once upon a time, this meant cake, pie, or ice cream, but sophisticated cooks know that there’s a very sweet world out there filled with dozens of yummy options. Creamy custard, flan, or pudding is one way to go, or nut and honey pastries such as balaclava is another. A plate full of cookies means all’s right with the world, while a box of chocolates offers a different type of satisfaction.
Among the most popular of modern desserts is good, old-fashioned ice cream done with a twist. Once upon a time, the options were limited to vanilla or chocolate, with seasonal fruit such as strawberry or raspberry offered on occasion. Clever cooks have discovered that there are nearly limitless ways to create and combine ice cream flavors these days. Bits of candy bars, dried coconut or other dehydrated fruits, and nuts all bring unique tastes. Marshmallow and caramel can be incorporated into the ice cream itself instead of added as a topping, and unusual flavors such as ginger or green tea have become commonplace.
Elegant, modern desserts don’t need to require much effort in the kitchen. A classy meal’s perfect final note might just be a piece or two of very good chocolate offered alongside some sliced fresh fruit. Dessert wine helps marry the flavors and puts the perfect cap on this classy, but easy, dessert.
For many cooks, the finest dessert offering pairs a little crunch with a little cream. An egg popover that brims with sweetened, thick whipped cream can’t be beat, especially if a drizzle of chocolate comes along for the ride. Phyllo dough makes a fine bed for a mixture of chopped pecans or walnuts mixed with a good amount of honey and perhaps a splash of lemon.
In the world of modern desserts, pie still rules the roost. Pies that feature old-fashioned fruit favorites like apple and cherry might update the taste with ginger or dried fruit. Pudding pies are as likely to offer unexpected flavors such as kiwi or champagne as their more traditional cousins, chocolate and vanilla.
No discussion of modern desserts would be complete without a tip of the mixing bowl to cake. From cupcakes made with espresso to flourless sacher tortes or creamy cheesecake, there’s probably no dessert that is more popular. Even a simple slice of angel food or pound cake topped with a spoonful of berries is enough to make a meal feel complete.