Desserts have always given home cooks the chance to show off their presentation skills and serve something that’s designed to impress. They tend to be the most outspoken, memorable course of a meal, full of vivid colours, intense flavours and interesting combinations of taste and texture. Obviously the quality of ingredients, skill of the cook and they way a dessert is presented all have a profound effect on the finished dish, but what about the different cooking techniques – especially modern ones – required to pull off some of the top end sweets we see in Michelin-starred restaurants, and can they be recreated at home?
Daniel Fletcher has come across a fair number of gadgets during his time as a pastry chef. The one technique he’s seen flourish the most, however, is the use of liquid nitrogen to quickly and deeply freeze ingredients. ‘It sounds strange to say you’re freezing ingredients at -195.8°C but it’s great fun,’ he explains. ‘It means you can freeze desserts to order, such as mousse, ice cream or foam. Back when I used it the technique was quite advanced, but as with all technology it’s become commonplace – lots of professional kitchens have a canister of liquid nitrogen nowadays.’
While this is obviously out of reach for home cooks, there are a few things you might have lying around your house that can be used to make culinary tasks just that little bit easier. ‘I’ve seen household gadgets being used in the professional kitchen quite a bit,’ says Daniel. ‘Even a turntable to rotate cakes and plates steadily so they can be piped neatly, and chefs using drills to peel apples. I have seen a few crazy things in my time!’