Bite-sized desserts are every bit as good as their regular-size counterparts.
While they don’t represent a new trend, mini-desserts are still hot—so much so, in fact, that they’ve been on the National Restaurant Association’s “What Hot” culinary forecast every year since 2006.
What makes a mini so attractive?
“They’re appealing to members and guests who want to indulge in a lot of little tastes,” says Sean Dwyer, Pastry Chef of Palmira Country Club (PCC), Bonavita Springs, Fla. “They’re flexible and they let the diner be adventurous, without taking on too much risk.”
Minis can represent a variety of tastes, textures and temperatures, too. They’re useful on a la carte menus as well as in banquet applications.
For Dwyer, minis on the a la carte menu usually appear as tastings (see photo, above). They allow him to feature three or four smaller bites, beautifully plated on upscale dishes. Because dessert menus change monthly at PCC, Dwyer focuses these bites on seasonality.
He’s also always conscious of how long it will take to plate up the final product. “I try to stay away from too many components for a la carte service, because there’s a chance a cook without any classical pastry experience might be building the dish,” says Dwyer, who likes to offer modern twists on classic flavors, like his creamsicle, which is more parfait than popsicle. “My goal is to always make desserts familiar, but modern, too.”
When it comes to banquets, time is of the essence. “The first thing I consider when I’m planning a menu of mini-desserts for a banquet is the time it will take me to plate everything,” says Dwyer. “Then I consider who will be eating these desserts. Will they indulge, or have just one or two? After I’ve worked that out, I try to build a menu that includes something hot, like a crumble or a cobbler; something cold, like a sorbet, and something fruity, like a tartlet.”
For banquets, Dwyer balances both small plates as well as larger platters. “Little plates are effective for allowing the member to be able to take a dish and not worry about adding a topping or sauce,” he says. “It’s the perfect bite.
“I also like to use larger platters when we have lots of people to serve at once,” he continues. “The best displays straddle the two different plating styles.”
Michaela Adams, Pastry Chef of Highlands (N.C) Country Club, prefers larger platters for her mini-dessert banquet displays, and likes to use different heights to showcase her small sweets.
“Our membership enjoys desserts that are familiar and comforting,” she says. “When I’m building a display, I try to hit each of these categories: chocolate, fruity and crunchy.”
Adams’ three most successful minis are:
- Mile-High Key Lime Pie, topped with torched Swiss meringue;
- Pecan Diamonds, made with a rich short dough and chopped pecans; and
- Old-fashioned Rainbow Pastry
“I strive for ‘simple but well done’ with all of our desserts, especially minis,” says Adams. “When we use great ingredients and we take into account our members’ tastes, we create lots of little winners.”