Desserts: Mini indulgences

Sweeten the pot with portable bite-sized treats.

Published in FSD Update

With customers strapped for time, the portability of mini desserts makes for a convenient way to hit the sweet spot. “Many of our guests are busy and on the run, so it’s a great environment for a mini dessert, which is easily transported and holds up well if eaten later,” says Tim Dvorak, pastry chef at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago. Dvorak makes a variety of smaller sweets, such as budinos (an Italian custard) shortcakes and cheesecakes, as variations to the regular-sized offerings. “Most of our guests don’t have time to sit and relax and consume an entire full-size dessert, so a mini size, just one or two bites, is perfect.”

Fernanda Dutra, executive pastry chef at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, agrees. “Mini desserts look more special and interesting and make for a more sophisticated, modern look than a regular piece of cake on a plate,” she says. Dutra sells a wide assortment of individually sized desserts such as cakes, candy bars and mousse cups. “They are very popular, and I always get very good feedback from the customers,” she adds.

Dutra’s secret? Staying creative. She uses exotic flavors, like lychee, açai or passion fruit and also plays with shapes—Dutra’s desserts take on the form of mini volcanoes, bombes, bars, butterflies and puffs, many of which are made using fun-shaped silicone molds. “Evolution is in everything, including the pastry business,” she adds. “There is always a new product or technique, so keep an open mind, experiment with different molds and just be creative.”

Both Dutra and Dvorak recommend using a range of textures and layers in mini desserts to add interest. For example, Dvorak offers a salted caramel budino made with chocolate and caramel and garnished with a salty pretzel brittle. Though he offers a 6-ounce version, the 2-ounce mini version is a big seller. It’s also priced accordingly—$1.99 compared to $3.95 for the full size. Dutra also recommends garnishing items with a special, sweet sauce to make them fresh and unique. Some of her favorites include raspberry sauce, crème anglaise and silver honey sauce.

Presentation and technique

“A mini dessert takes a steady hand because of the small size and if it looks sloppy and messy, it will not sell,” Dvorak says. Make sure you enlist someone who has a high attention to detail. Adds Dutra: “The most important thing is that the dessert looks clean and consistent—whether I make one or 600, they all need to be the same size.” This often requires an investment in tools, but “they’re worth it,” Dutra adds. “I see that on my customers’ comments and appreciation every day.”

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