Dessert is going where it has never before been: Doughnuts are now gourmet, refined sugar is no longer the go-to sweetener, and halva crumbles and tahini can be sundae toppings. But what became evident at the 2017 StarChefs Congress in New York City was that while chefs, bakers and culinary artists may be elevating ice cream and mousses into a whole new territory, they’re inspired by the retro desserts that span all decades.
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While Wylie Dufresne admitted that his “creamsicle” doughnut didn’t do so well at Du’s Donuts & Coffee in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he’s now frying a carrot cake doughnut with cream cheese frosting, as well as a cherry pie-inspired version. Clare Gordon of General Porpoise has also stuck it to the classics: While she’s tried filling her brioche dough with more creative flavors, she’d realized that people tend to order her classic, vanilla cream-filled doughnut.
“We like basing our flavors in nostalgia,” she said.
No clearer is this trend than in ice cream-based desserts. Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of StarChefs.com, brought up the legacy of Christina Tosi at the Congress. While the Milk Bar baker wasn’t presenting, the influence that her cereal milk soft serve, crack pie, and compost cookies have left on the world of sweets is incomparable. Today, bakers and pastry chefs like Amanda Rockman at Café No Sé in Austin are making creations like Good Humor-inspired strawberry ice cream bars, enrobed with white chocolate “magic shell.”
And at the Congress, guests were able to get their retro-inspired ice cream fix. One day, Oddfellows passed out their take on a s’more: twisted chocolate and smoked marshmallow ice cream, Graham cracker soil, and roasted marshmallows on top. Another day, Black Tap served mini vanilla milkshakes in rainbow sprinkle-rimmed cups, topped with whipped cream and an upside-down birthday cake cone.
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It seems like everyone, or at least those in the food industry, are nostalgic for the past. While Greg Baxtrom, chef at highly-lauded Olmsted in Brooklyn, did not speak at the Congress, it makes sense that his signature dessert — DIY s’mores that guests get to make themselves — was one of the most talked-about in 2017.
As Gordon said during her presentation, “We found that people just want simple and classic.”