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Top 10 Dessert Trends for 2010

The Food Channel® presents its Top Ten Dessert Trends for 2010. The list is based on research conducted by The Food Channel in conjunction with “CultureWaves® and the International Food Futurists®. Here’s what we see happening in the next 12 months.

Click here to view a short video presentation of our Top Ten Dessert Trends.

1. The Unexpected Complement. Who knew that bacon and chocolate went so well together? This trend is all about the non-traditional, about shaking things up and being a little, well, shocking. It’s the opportunity to give yourself something new to shake up the taste buds a bit. These days we are all about trying something new to get us out of the everyday routine. So we’re pairing sweet and savory in new ways, and it’s not just about bacon, although bacon in unexpected places undoubtedly inspired some of these ‘strange bedfellows’ combinations.

In British chocolatier Paul A. Young’s book ‘Adventures in Chocolate,’ he devotes a significant section to recipes for chocolate with savories, including port and stilton cheese, and that British favorite, marmite. Closer to home Chicago’s truffle truffle shop combines chocolate with chipotle chili spice to great effect, and if you look hard enough, you can find all manner of ice cream in flavors such as Pinot Noir wine, and Cream of Crab. Trying something that sounds a little shocking makes us feel more adventurous, more daring, more alive. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Have you tried the Caramel Apple with Crushed Wasabi Peas? It’s offered by Cake Supplies Depot and is a take off on the traditional caramel apple, which is then dipped in dark chocolate and coated with spicy wasabi peas and nuts. Of course, if you are still thinking about how bacon and chocolate go together, try our trend-come-to-life recipe for Candied Bacon Fudge. Any way you slice it, it’s unexpected.

More recipe evidence:
Rockin’ Candy Dessert Sticks

For further evidence, read:
860 Flavors of Ice Cream Including Beef-Cheddar and Cream of Crab
Sweet on Bacon
Men Love Meat, Even in Their Chocolates
Break Me Off a Piece of That Veggie KitKat
Sweet New Trend for Sweet Corn: Desserts
Total Chocolate Sensory Experience Available for a Price
Chocolate Meets Peppers for Cinco de Mayo

2. You Say Macaroons, We Say Macarons. The hottest trends, whether fashion or cuisine, often begin in big cities. In Paris and New York, dessert right now is all about macarons. Not macaroons, that are traditionally encased in coconut. No, we are talking about the very French macaron, which is like a colorful little sandwich made by a pastry chef. It’s a soft, airy and chewy pastry that holds a layer of something flavorful and rich, like a chocolate ganache, or a flavored buttercream.

There may be an element of elitism in this trend, to be the one who is in-the-know enough to know the spelling, the flavor, and the importance of these tiny pastries, particularly because the food pundits are saying the macaron will topple the cupcake in the food popularity game. The macaron combines the best of all the trends—it’s a small bite, with a lot of flavor, and it is unusual enough (not to mention pricey enough—one little macaron can cost $4) to be a special occasion dessert.

The macaron, which not long ago was mostly sold in high-end French patisseries and virtually unknown outside France, has recently been featured on film and television and in a new book written by a French pastry chef, called ‘I Love Macarons.’ Macarons can now be purchased at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks. It’s even available at McDonald’s McCafes in France, and earlier this spring there was a Macaron Day benefit event in New York City. We wonder, if the macaron gets too mainstream too fast, will it lose some of its French cache? Will we suddenly revert back to macaroons? Nah. Not for a while anyway. The macaron is just too darned cute—and delectable.

For further evidence, read:
Are Macarons Destined to Unseat the Cupcake?
Sweet Tooth Trend Report: Sophistication and Comfort Lure Consumers Today

3. Dessert Meister. We’ve had dessert wines for years. But what we’re seeing now is beer coming into play both as a dessert ingredient and as a pairing option when the dessert cart is wheeled out. ‘May we recommend a nice stout to go with that lovely chocolate bread pudding?,’ is what you may now hear. Dessert in general feels a little naughty, at least to perpetual dieters, but this takes it over the top, with a short burst of wheat beer or Belgian ale.

It’s part of the trend that has identified beer as the new wine, but it’s also about adding flavor. After all, beer-battered onion rings offer a different experience than any other batter. It stands to reason that adding an earthy beer, or a sour beer, or a dark chocolaty ale would give you a new flavor experience. We found this trend in action when we visited Big Dog’s Draft House in Las Vegas and tasted their bread pudding paired with dark stout.

This trend is probably the natural outgrowth of the rise in microbreweries, because any restaurant willing to brew its own beer just has to be a fan of trying new things. Once they’ve conquered some great beer flavors, it stands to reason they’d go out and conquer some new applications as well. So, while right now there is an increase in beer and dessert pairings, we’re also seeing it in ice cream and sorbets. It’s begun to spill over, so to speak, into other desserts as well.

The beer-as-dessert has really taken hold in Southern California, where real ‘beer floats have become popular, as have beer-laced shakes and popsicles. We’ve even seen dark beer floats in minor league ballparks, where the fare doesn’t typically get much beyond hotdogs, burgers, nachos, pretzels, and of course, beer.

For further evidence, read:
Belly Up to the Beer Dessert Bar
Celebrate with Style has a nice list of beer and dessert pairing recommendations adapted from the Brewers Association that you may want to check out.
Samuel Adams Hops On Beer-Infused Dessert Trend

4. Transformers. This trend is really about deconstruction. It’s the use of common, everyday foods combined with familiar flavors then reassembling them in a new way. Waffles, for example, are a common food. So is ice cream. So is fruit. Put them together for dessert, and, even more—serve them out of an ice cream truck—and you have a dessert fit for a carnival king. After all, this trend is a comfort food that is reminiscent of our favorite foods from the State Fair midway.

We’re seeing it with Burger King’s Funnel Cake Sticks, and in the use of donuts in more desserts—like at Mexican burger chain Burguesa Burger, where every milkshake comes straw-skewered with a donut. We’ve talked before about street food becoming upscale and this trend takes it just a little further, and onto our everyday plates. We’re seeing donuts made with a myriad of unusual ingredients or used as a foundation for building and stacking more exotic desserts. Homer Simpson’s favorite treat has been getting transformed into something you might find on the dessert cart at Pierre’s.

Recipe evidence:
Waffles & Ice Cream Dessert
State Fair Funnel Cake a la Mode

For further evidence, read:
“Gourmet Donuts Becoming New “It Treat
Sweet Tooth Trend Report: Sophistication and Comfort Lure Consumers Today

5. Tweet! Here Comes the Dessert Truck. The Kogi taco truck and other maindish nomadic vehicles paved the way, and now the sweet treat trucks are merging into the traffic of city life. The dessert truck is really a trend in itself, and we’re no longer sure if we’re following it, or it’s following us.

Dessert trucks are part old-fashioned ice cream truck, part Twitter-enabled, and part indulgence…and we like the desserts even more because they are flavored with a touch of eccentricity. So, tuck into some dessert as you walk down the street. And be sure to tweet that sweet as a Food Channel trend in action!

For further evidence, read:
Cupcakes Get Wheels
For Good Eats, Check for Tweets
Upscale Meals Prepared On Wheels

6. Darwinist Desserts™. This trend is about the evolution of desserts and our human desire to make them what we want them to be. That could mean gathering up odds and ends of leftovers and turning them into something, and it usually means trying to deliberately create something that no one else has thought of. Got a donut leftover from breakfast? Slide it on top of that cupcake and cover it with raisins. Some pudding in the fridge? Add pretzels, popcorn, and peanuts for a triple header! Desserts can bring out the culinary creativity in all of us.

Recipe evidence:
Caramel Corn Cupcakes

Restaurant operators have been onto this idea for years. Wendy’s turns unsold burger patties into tasty chili, while the local frozen custard emporium crumbles up Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies into its concretes to treat us sweets lovers (not to mention the sweet deal it is for the little girl that made the sale).

For further evidence, read:
Girl Scout Cookies Make Great Recipe Ingredients
Popcornsicle Debuts at Taste of Chicago

7. Freshly Baked. Here’s what’s coming out of culinary school these days: bakers and pastry chefs. If your town is typical, odds are good that you have some young entrepreneur opening up a cute little bake shop tucked away on some little street where they are baking amazing confections and selling them like hotcakes—er, cakes. And cupcakes, pies, whoopie pies, turnovers, cream puffs and more. It’s become a specialty business.

Of course, those of us who have frequented Italian bakeries over the years know it’s not entirely new, but the trend is at least partly about people finding a balance between work and life. While no one would ever say the pastry chef doesn’t work hard (does rolling dough at 4 a.m. sound easy?), it’s the perfect job to point to and say, ‘I’m doing what I love.’ This trend is about job satisfaction as well as culinary delight, and it’s turning desserts into more of a destination, and less of an afterthought.

Read our story about Amy McGehee of AmyCakes, who dreamed of baking cakes in her own bakery since she was about six-years-old. Now, at the ripe old age of 24, her tiny bake shop is thriving.

For further evidence, read:
Pastry Chefs Getting Their Just Desserts
Black & White Whoopie Pies Becoming a Nationwide Hit

8. OK, Just a Bite. It doesn’t take much convincing to try a bite of dessert. It’s like eating dessert standing up—the calories don’t count. This trend is the amalgamation of several others all rolled up into the smallest possible confection with the biggest possible burst of flavor. If you thought cupcakes were the downsized cake, stay tuned for the mini cakes, cheesecakes, and candy that are gaining popularity. They aren’t single flavor bites; no, the desserts in this trend combine soft centers with hard shells, crunchy topping with meringues, and creamy melt-in-your-mouth flavors with chewable additions to give you the biggest flavor sensation possible.

This trend is about being worth it. There’s something about the richness and decadence of a single piece of perfection that is giving this trend toward bite-sized a giant advantage.

The National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of the chefs/members of the American Culinary Federation ranked bite-size/mini desserts at number 4 in its What’s Hot top 20 overall menu trends for 2010.

Restaurants stand to benefit if the trend stays hot. Operations offering tempting small-bite desserts (at an attractive price) have a better shot at getting two or more dessert orders where before they felt fortunate to get a single dessert purchase that gets split by the entire party. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Recipe evidence:
Chocolate Bouchons with Fresh Raspberries
Toasted Dessert Ravioli

For further evidence, read:
Marshmallows Getting Fancy in Canada
Mini Chocolate Espresso Shots To Go

9. Soda Fountain Fizz. Last year desserts were all about ice cream, and we’re still seeing it mixed in here and there. Literally. It’s mixed with beer for a ‘real beer float.’ Sorbets are scooped into fizzy drinks for a refreshing take on dessert. The usual dessert drink of port or a hot latte is getting some competition from some of the new floats, shakes, malts and coolers.

Nostalgia is certainly part of this trend. Sweets connect us to pleasant childhood memories, and those of us old enough to remember fondly the old drugstore soda fountains will enjoy the new twists on those old favorites.

But it doesn’t really matter how old you are—we all enjoy bellying up to the bar and sticking a straw in a tall glass of goodness. It’s as though you could float your troubles away . . .

Recipe evidence:
Sherbet Float
Coco-Chocolate Chai Milkshake

For further evidence, read:
Floats, Shakes and Sundaes: Back and Better Than Ever
Sweet Tooth Trend Report: Sophistication and Comfort Lure Consumers Today

10. The Sandwich Generation. There is an art to creating a great dessert. This trend speaks to the artisan within—the one who wants to build something, to put something together that is greater than the sum of its parts. We see it come to life in the traditional ice cream sandwich, as it evolves into something new. Make it with cookies? Sure. But those cookies have new flavors, shapes, and fillings—and, instead of cookies, they could be brownies, cake, even mini brioche rolls, all sandwiched around ice cream that has been blended to make the insides new, too.

Think artisan ice cream made fresh with new flavor combinations. Think chunky berries, tangy-sweet lemon, artisan chocolates, fresh mint, espresso, honey, or fresh herbs. You get the nostalgia of a cookie and the freshness of specialty ice cream. The sandwich generation just got handed something quite sweet.

Recipe evidence:
Goat Cheese Ice Cream
Blackberry-Sage Ice Cream

For further evidence, read:
Ice Cream Sandwich Giving the Cone Some Competition