By Kaitlin Wayne
ICC Student, Professional Pastry Arts
In the individual desserts unit of Level 2 Professional Pastry Arts, we focused on making custards – such as crème brulee (my all time favorite), crème caramel, ice creams, sorbets, cheesecake, molten cake, and donuts.
Part of our class time is dedicated to “degustation,”or tasting. While this may sound like we all just sit around the kitchen and eat ice cream, there is far more to it than that. We are not learning how to eat; we are learning how to literally taste. This distinction is essential. When I taste something, I don’t just think to myself, “Mmm this is delicious!” I think more critically about what I am eating, the layers of flavor, the texture, and the overall balance.
Take vanilla ice cream, for example. Here are some things that you should be looking for in a successful plate with vanilla ice cream: Is the ice cream smooth on the palate? You should not feel any icy patches or grainy textures and there should be a strong vanilla flavor. These mistakes can often result when the temperature of the ice cream is abused by leaving it out, letting it melt slightly, and then returning it to the freezer. As for the overall plate and pairing with the ice cream, look for contrast in color and flavor. This is very important in terms of balance. For example, rather than plating my quenelle of white ice cream with a creamy-colored and similarly-flavored crème anglaise, I might pair it with a rich, dark chocolate sauce.
I can see how being able to taste a dessert and ask yourself questions like this will help you to grow as a chef. I am a strong believer in the fact that culinary and pastry arts are the only professions where you truly use all five of your senses at once. By learning to dissect every component of a plate and identify the elements that make up a truly successful dessert, I can already tell that going out to eat will never be the same again!