The dessert menu has always been my favorite part of a menu, both in making and eating this sweet end to your course. It is served at the end of a meal and oftentimes is baked goods such as cake or pastry. Although it can also be a beverage too, such as fortified or sweet wine. It is also not unheard of having a liqueur to cap as your sweet end.
Surprisingly dessert is not universal, parts of Africa and most of China do not embrace this sugary treat to end their meals. It is simply not a part of their tradition. It is not unheard of in certain cultures to sweeten savory dishes to turn them into something akin to a dessert.
The term dessert is originally thought to come from the French word desservir which translates to the term ‘to clear the table’.
It is in the 1600s where dessert first cropped up in English, but its current definition has been used since the early 20th century.
A dessert menu is presented at the conclusion of a meal. Not all establishments have a separate menu but include it as a part of their static menu. The static menu standardly includes a drink menu and a starter menu also.
Brief History of Sweets
In much of the history sweets were presented to the gods. In ancient Greek mythology and throughout Homer’s poems, it is said that the gods and goddesses would consume ambrosia. Which is depicted as a food or drink that promotes longevity and immortality.
Ambrosia is related to nectar. Nectar is a drink where ambrosia is the food of the gods. Although in other cases it is thought the opposite to be true, but both can be correct.
It was during the Middle Ages that sugar began to be manufactured by the Europeans. Only the wealthy had the privilege and funds to consume sugars, even then it was usually saved for special occasions.
Dried fruit and honey most likely were the first concentrated sweets to be consumed. When creating your dessert menu, it is good to keep in mind that desserts come in many forms. They vary in appearances, taste, and textures.
It doesn’t even have to be an unhealthy choice but can be made up of fruits and nuts. Cakes and pastries are some of the mainstays found on the dessert menu.
Different Names For the Same Thing
The British refer to their desserts as pudding or afters. When I think of pudding, I think of something that is similar to a custard and they are thickened with starches. Unlike custards which are thickened with eggs, flan is a good example of a form of custard and so is creme brulee.
Personally, I favor a mousse or paradise cream, due to its fluffy consistency and light creaminess. Another popular sweet found on a dessert menu is frozen treats, such as ice cream and sorbet. The difference between the two is the base ingredient, ice cream is cream based while sorbet is fruit based completely omitting any dairy products.
Pies are often served with a scoop of ice cream and it’s called a la mode such as apple pie a la mode. Fun fact the very first apple pie recipe was recorded in 1381 and is not an American creation, despite the saying ‘as American as apple pie’. This is usually in reference to something that is incredibly patriotic.
Confections and candy rarely make their way onto a dessert menu, most likely because of their small size. A good example of candy would be a lollipop or taffy.
Dessert wines are a sweet wine that is to be consumed with or as a dessert. In America though, dessert wine is legally classified as any wine over 14% which is all the fortified ones. Port is such a wine and is of the red wine category. It is usually served after a meal unlike fortified white wines, which are consumed before a meal.
Desserts are a great way to try new flavors or techniques. Making a dessert menu is a fun way to get creative with your menu plan and is the perfect way to showcase new skills.
For more on menu types and menu examples check out this post.