Today I am kicking off a series of four blog posts called Desserts 101. Over the next four weeks we will look at my favorite ways to select, slice, serve, and store desserts! My goal is to equip you with practical tools and reminders when it comes to anything related to desserts. None of this is set in stone, but the information does come from years of working with desserts and discovering a few helpful hints along the way.
Let's begin today with how to select desserts!
How do you select the right dessert? Practically speaking, there's never really a wrong choice when it comes to desserts. But there are four factors to consider when making a thoughtful choice.
When selecting a dessert, consider the occasion.
Is it a holiday? If so, you might consider a traditional dessert that is only enjoyed seasonally (pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, for example), or you can fly in the face of tradition and intentionally think outside the box (perhaps a pumpkin spice cake instead of pie).
Is it someone's birthday? Choose something well-suited for holding candles. Cake is the traditional choice, but a platter of brownies can do the trick just as well.
Are you bringing a dessert to a dinner or potluck? I encourage you to choose something you enjoy instead of worrying about if everyone else will like it. If coconut cake is your favorite, then bring it, and don't worry about whether or not everyone likes coconut cake! Perhaps you will be the reason someone discovers something new they enjoy, and at the very least, they will learn something new about you. Express yourself!
Are you welcoming a new neighbor? Nothing is more classic and easy to enjoy than a big box of homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Are you bringing food to a family with a new baby? Select something that doesn't require room in the refrigerator or special equipment to cut or serve. Apricot Crumble Bars cut into miniature portions are ready for enjoying one-handed in between busy feedings and late nights. The same guidelines apply when bringing dessert to the bereaved. Choose items that don't require special attention and are easily served.
When selecting desserts, consider the setting.
Where will you be when this dessert is served? Will you be bringing treats to a child's classroom? Consider options that are easily eaten out of hand with as few crumbs as possible.
Will you be a guest in someone's home? Make sure your dessert is easy to serve, fully assembled, and requires nothing from the host.
Will you be outside when the dessert is served? Consider the effects of wind and temperature. Buttercream frosting will melt in the sun.
Will you be surprising a friend on their birthday by delivering dessert to their office? Make sure you bring everything you need to slice and serve. Scrambling for supplies at the last moment can really ruin the moment.
Are you hosting a party? Be thoughtful, but don't be overly practical. It's a party! This is not the time to skimp or worry about leftovers. Choose several desserts to serve, make sure you have enough, and send the extras home with people at the end of the party.
When selecting a dessert, consider the audience.
Are you serving men or women? If it is a formal setting, groups of women do not eat much dessert. However, in small groups, and particularly once the party gets going, women are inclined to take multiple servings of "mini" desserts. Men, on the other hand, will always eat dessert...mini or full-sized. And, when given the option, most people (both men and women) will choose to have another cocktail rather than dessert.
Are you serving children? Children will help themselves to as much dessert as possible. But, they rarely finish any thing, particularly slices of cake.
When selecting a dessert, consider the season.
There are seasonal favorites and flavors that we all enjoy. Don't pass up the opportunity to make the most of the season's best offerings!
Spring calls for lemon, strawberry, and blueberry.
Summer favorites are peach, lime, orange, and banana.
Falls begs for caramel, apple, cinnamon, pumpkin, and pear.
Winter is well suited to ginger, peppermint, and grapefruit.
Classics that work all year include chocolate, vanilla, coconut, and peanut butter.
I hope these ideas and suggestions are helpful the next time you need to select a dessert!