Click here for the Magazine. Updated June 7, 2013
There is no doubt that today’s desserts are trending towards the individual serving rather than having the one huge dessert that gets dissected one harmless sliver at a time, until, inevitably, the thing is demolished and everyone is left feeling overly full, and disgusted at their lack of self-control. From cupcakes, to cake pops, desserts have definitely gone miniature, and more important, single-serving.
If you are throwing a party and want to keep up with the times and serve each of your guests their own personal dessert, you are in no way limited to the cupcake or the cake pop, the latest item in dessert fad-dom: cake that’s been ground, mixed with icing, formed into a ball, chilled then coated in melted chocolate; delicious, but quite the laborious endeavor, and not for everyone.
There are many classic desserts that with some creative flare and different serving dishes can be transformed into delicious one-person treats. Let’s begin with a real classic — Tiramisu.
Classically, Tiramisu is made by layering espresso-soaked ladyfingers with rum-laden mascarpone mousse in a large pan, and then slicing into squares to serve. Just for everyone’s information, mascarpone is the Italian version of cream cheese, only it’s much smoother and much more refined in taste. It is quite a bit more expensive than cream cheese, costing around $8 for 250 ml, compared to $3-$4 for cream cheese.
If you are making a large quantity, but are on a budget, you could use half-and-half, but it is crucial that you allow your cream cheese to come to room temperature before combining the two. As I said before, cream cheese is firmer than mascarpone so unless it is soft it will not combine smoothly.
A nice way to transform this dessert into personal servings is to use espresso cups. In order to make a nice size portion, you will need the double size cup. Colourful cups can also help personalizing this dessert, but there’s nothing wrong with plain white ones. The ingredients remain the same, with only the method of assembly changing.
In order to accommodate the smaller size, you can break the ladyfingers in half before the lining the cups. Do two layers of the ladyfingers and cream. When you are topping the cups off with the cream, make a swirling motion with your wrist while spreading to mimic a foam, dust with cinnamon or cocoa powder and you’re done.
Mason jars make for another wonderful option when portioning your desserts. They come in virtually every size and are very inexpensive. You can find them at Walmart or Canadian Tire, or even Loblaws. Another plus to mason jars is that they allow for accessorizing, such as labels, ribbon or attaching a spoon with raphia.
I see mason jars as very rustic , therefore I use them for more homestyle desserts such as trifle. The glass allows your guest to enjoy his or her portion not only with their taste buds, but with their eyes as well. Normally, you make one large trifle in a stemmed bowl which is a visual stunner, showcasing all the lovely layers of ingredients, which then gets spooned into a bowl and you lose all the layers.
In a mason jar, everyone gets their own personal trifle. Remember that a trifle needs contrast: contrasting colours, textured and flavour profiles. If you use a dense rich cake, use a lighter citrusy cream and tart fruit to counteract the richness of the cake. If you use white cake, try a vibrant raspberry mousse and slices of mango. You have a lot of room to play with a trifle, and with individual mason jars, your guests will really get to enjoy the full experience of it.
Of course there are some classic desserts that typically come in single servings: creme caramel or flan, panna cotta, creme brulee, and even steamed pudding. If you notice, these are all custard related desserts and all require baking. Therefore, they all come in ramekins. Ramekins come in a host of colors, not just white anymore. They are chic and functional as they are oven safe. You could even make individual bread puddings in ramekins.
These recipes have stood the test of time, and are classics for a reason. Ya, it’s great to make the latest fad dessert, but sometimes it’s necessary to go back the oldies but goodies. All the custards can be made ahead of time and kept covered in the fridge.
Speaking about oldies but goodies, is there anything more retro than a good old-fashioned float? Ice cream in soda, or even ice cream in chilled coffee sounds like a winning combination to me. Floats are fun, nostalgic and are probably the easiest things to assemble, requiring absolutely no baking or mixing of any kind.
If you want one that’s simple, go for plain old vanilla ice cream in coke, but if you want to surprise your guests, try to the coffee version. Pick a nice praline or pistachio ice cream — something that has some flavour and contrasting textures in itself. As a final touch, sprinkle the float with some crushed biscotti.
The idea of portioned desserts may seem like more work, but there’s nothing to it really and you will have less waste of the dessert itself. People don’t feel as bad about eating sweets if they know it’s only one portion. By giving them their own serving, you are eliminating the possibility of over-indulging so people are more willing to take part.
Desserts are delicious and wonderful in moderation. Single serving desserts help you control how much sweets you take in, not to mention they are fun and adorable.
Click here for the Magazine. Updated June 7, 2013
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