Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Healthy Desserts: A Tribute to Avocados

des·sert
diˈzərt/
noun
noun: dessert; plural noun: desserts
  1. the sweet course eaten at the end of a meal.
    "a dessert of chocolate mousse"
I always liked to think of a meal as a sort of literary device. Perhaps a paragraph, or a short story, or even a sentence. Just a single sentence. The more the courses, the longer your written piece.
 
Say you were hosting a dinner party with friends. Your party would have canapes or passed hors d'oeuvres, maybe cocktails to start. Then a salad or a soup. Then the entree. Then the dessert. The 1st course would be your thesis statement, be that your first bite of a pickled quail's egg on a canape, or a salad of tomatoes and frisee. It would be the start, the indicator of where your diners(readers) would be taken on their journey. Your entree would be your body, the main paragraph or paragraphs of your short story. Your curry or pan-seared duck or roast beef would be your whole story. The dessert, no matter what it is, is your closing statement. Your question mark. Your exclamation point. I don't always think it's proper to end a sentence with an exclamation point--I honestly think it's a bit like laughing at your own joke--but it can be appropriate to do so.  
 
This cake from Succotash was NOT an afterthought.
So often, dessert is an afterthought. There are far too many restaurants, in my humble opinion, that take dessert seriously. Don't get me wrong, it is of the utmost importance that your entrees and salads are tip-top, but dessert is so often shoved to the side. You'll see restaurants shove desserts over to the pantry cook or the sous chef, or (worse) over to Sysco or US Foods to send them cheesecakes or overly sugary and fatty chocolate layer cakes. I don't see too much wrong with it. Just like I don't see too much wrong with teaching a donkey to wear a top hat; there's just not much of a point to it.
 
I actively participate in a Twitter livechat called #Foodiechats, where food lovers can unite and talk about food, what they do with it, and what they like or dislike about it. It happens every Monday night at 8pm EST. I sometimes am not so active with my tweeting, but that's usually because I have work. If Monday nights are slow, however, I get to go home and tweet to my heart's content. The topic of Healthy Desserts came up, somehow, and thus it became the subject of my blog, today.
 
Healthy desserts? Oxymoron, don't you think?
 
I see nothing wrong with making adjustments to your dessert lifestyle by substituting coconut oil for butter(when appropriate), but I don't think that a cake is where you should get your daily fiber intake. So let me just tell you right now that this is not a blog for someone wanting to lose weight. Don't cut desserts. Cut cheetoes or crappy TV dinners or fast food out of your diet before you cut out a well-made chocolate cake. Eat anything you want, just make it yourself.
 
Let me repeat that: Eat anything you want. Just make it yourself. People cook differently from the way that companies do.
 
This flourless chocolate cake, for example: ENTIRELY GLUTEN-FREE
Also, you're probably not gluten-intolerant. There's most-likely no such thing. You either have Celiac's disease, or you don't. The whole Gluten-free thing is more of a fad than anything. You have Celiac's, Gluten ataxia...but you're not gluten-intolerant. It's been debunked by the scientists that discovered it, pretty darn recently. And you shouldn't go gluten-free without talking to your doctor. Actually, you shouldn't try any real diet without talking to your doctor. But you don't have to be on a diet to enjoy gluten-free desserts that were gluten-free before it was cool, or be vegan to enjoy vegan desserts. You'd be shocked as to how many desserts were gluten-free already. And let's not forget that gluten-free doesn't even have to mean healthy. Chocolate is gluten-free. Butter is gluten-free. Pesticides are gluten-free. So is cyanide, arsenic, and anti-freeze. All gluten-free! I realize that cyanide isn't necessarily meant for human ingestion, but you get my point, don't you? Fad diets are dangerous. Unless you're the one profiting off of all of the latest labels. In which case, good on ya, you slimeball.
 
Anyway, healthy desserts, in the mind of this humble Pastry Chef, are simply things that are still that fabulous indulgence, still that wonderful "ahh" at the end of the meal, but not loaded with bacon or chocolate or topped with obscene amounts of whipped cream and caramel sauce. Honestly, the Pastry Chefs get shafted a lot because of how good the meals are when the Head Chefs do their jobs: because if you're so satisfied with your excellently prepared meal, why would you want something else afterwards? You're stuffed! You're "Oh my God so full" right now. Why would you want to eat more?
 
Trust me. You do. Especially if the restaurant you're dining at has an in-House Pastry Chef, you do. So give the poor guy/gal a break and order that cake. Or not. Since cakes aren't often gluten-free.
 
This Fabulously French blog has a vegan chocolate mousse made with avocado instead of eggs. And here's another great recipe, which I snagged from Tumblr:
Head to Tumblr.com for more great recipes and food porn!
 
Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Blackberries and Pistachios
This recipe can easily be doubled to serve more people. The mousse thickens as it refrigerates.
serves 2 to 4
Ingredients
  • 2 very ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, melted (60% cacao)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup or other sweetener
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh blackberries, for garnish
  • chopped pistachios, for garnish
Directions
In a food processor, add the avocados, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, honey, almond milk, vanilla, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy. Taste for sweetness and add more honey if necessary. Spoon the mousse into ramekins. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The mousse will become thicker as it refrigerates. Garnish with blackberries and pistachios and serve.
 
Want something more than chocolate mousse? Oh, fine, you greedy pig. Try this recipe for Avocado Ice Cream, instead, courtsey of Alton Brown.
 
Avocado Ice Cream
  • 12 oz avocado meat(2 or 3, once pitted)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice(1 large lemon should do)
  • **Zest of said lemon(this is my own personal touch to it)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk(not skim, not 2%, whole milk, if you please)
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar(but I have tried this with raw sugar, and it turns out pretty great)
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Pop the first five ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. If you desire, you can add a few cilantro leaves and get funky with it at this point(it adds fiber, a green color, and it just reminds me of my Southwestern roots), as well as a few grinds of black pepper. Transfer this to another vessel(a glass bowl, large-ish tupperware container, whatever) and whisk in the heavy cream until fully incorporated.

Like all ice cream mixtures, this must chill for a decent amount of time. Hot mixtures into an ice cream maker? Not a good idea. Let it chill for at least a couple of hours, or all day if you can, before processing in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. The avocado as an egg substitute sets up fairly quickly, though, so be prepared to let it process for a mere 5 to 10 minutes before ingesting. For a softer texture, go ahead and eat immediately, or scoop into a freezer-friendly container and let it harden for another couple of hours.

The texture is silky-smooth and tastes just like avocados, which is(freakishly) a good thing. But if you don't want a straight-up avocado dessert, use it as a component instead. Things like this were discovered in Culinary School for me when I studied Chef David Chang.

Wait, you say. Avocado as a component in dessert? Yes! Chef David Chang did it, with his Cereal Milk Custard dish,
which is a fabulous panna cotta made from the strained milk used for cereal. This is an idea which is fucking genius, by the way. I mean, seriously--the best part about cereal is the yummy milk you get afterwards! And this motherfucker made it into a dessert? Someone give him a Nobel Prize. Or just tweet at him to tell him how great of an idea it was. And tell him I sent ya.


This was a life-changing dessert, even if it was just done by me in culinary school.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Panna Cotta is gluten-free too. So start googling, guys. Maybe if my boss lets me, I'll give you my panna cotta recipe to try at home! But not for awhile. That Pistachio Panna Cotta of mine is what got me my job and this baby is staying secret for a good long while.

In the meantime, however, please enjoy the recipes. Happy cooking, and happy avocado-eating!

Oh, and follow me on Twitter @WannaBGourmande for more updates, and to ask me questions about desserts. Happy eating!