For those of us with a sweet tooth the best part of a meal is often when dessert is served, be it a moreish profiterole stack, sumptuous Eton mess or dark, decadent black forest gateaux. It’s also no secret that most restaurants try to entice our taste buds with a tempting tasting boards, composed of three mini puddings or offer coffee with a little something on the side.
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Desserts have been on our radar since the Tudor times where exotically spiced cakes, packed full of sugar, fruits and raisins were presented to show off supreme wealth.
These days, we enjoy desserts from all over the world, from simple bread and butter pudding to baklava, gulab jamun with kulfi, panna cotta, and daifuku. However, when it comes to washing it all down, there are so many options out there for drinks beyond cups of tea, coffee, or soda. In fact, lots of beverages were created to bring out the more subtle flavors of sweet dishes such as a chocolate stout whose dark bitter taste is the perfect accompaniment to a rich, dense cocoa infused brownie.
Remember it’s not all about the drink either you need to think about how sweet, dense, rich, and moist the dessert is and whether fruit, cream or ice cream is also being served. For instance, the classic chocolate cake is absolutely delicious with a cold glass of milk, as it tends to bring back feelings of nostalgia. Who doesn’t remember rushing home from school to enjoy a couple of Oreo biscuits and a glass of the white stuff at the kitchen table? Think about what people like and dislike too; it’s great to go with popular options such as trifle, brownies, and tiramisu but don’t be predictable.
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It doesn’t matter if it’s a Lemon Madeira, vanilla pound cake or a good old triple Victoria sponge. A well-made cake that’s homemade tastes better that one which has been shop bought, simply because retailers cater for the masses. It’s no coincidence that the phrase ‘tea and cake’ is so well known because when it comes to light, fresh sponge there’s probably nothing better than a good cup of traditional Earl Gray, or breakfast tea. If the cake’s been infused with citrus such as lemon, orange or even lime then you’ll want to choose a tea that’s got a little more oomph to it. A lovely, just brewed Darjeeling or Green Tea will be just the ticket while if you’re considering serving a cherry Bakewell, with its sweet jam and nutty almond layers for pudding then creamy sherries and gently spiced rums will help bring out those fruity undertones.
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Fruitcake has been a staple of church meetings, bake sales and afternoon teas for hundreds of years. Farmers looked forward to a hunk of freshly baked fruit cake wrapped in greaseproof paper appearing in their lunch pail due, in part, to the fact that it was bursting with flavor, but also because it would sustain them until dinner and was easy to eat. It doesn’t matter when you make a fruitcake, because it’s soaked in spirits it stays well-preserved as well as tasting incredible. Fruitcake is made for full sherries, Madeiras and even ports as well as strong, sweet beers that complement its nutty, fruity mixture.
You don’t have to go down the alcoholic route either, as fruit cake tastes fantastic with a glass of raspberry cordial or a warm cup of cinnamon apple cider as it helps bring out the flavors of the fruit peel. It’s not recommended today because your guests won’t know anything about it, but just like with traditional Christmas puddings a silver sixpence was hidden inside a large Sunday fruitcake!
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While you may think coffee and walnut cake would go perfectly with a dark espresso, milky cafe au lait or velvety mocha the very opposite is true. Too much coffee flavor will make everything too intense, instead, save your coffee maker for iced cupcakes because all that extra sugar definitely needs taming. A cappuccino or latte is perfect and helps balance the sweet/bitter tones while a comforting cup of coffee warms you right down to you to your toes. Be aware that this isn’t a case of one coffee fits all, pay attention the beans you’re using and if in any doubt visit a bespoke coffee shop where they still grind them by hand. Alternatively speak to a trained barista about which hot beverages would suit a red velvet cupcake!
Naturally, we don’t expect you to grind your own by hand, unless you want to, and there are plenty of coffee makers on the market which can do it in minutes. Want to compare models? Just search coffee maker with grinder reviews online, and you’ll be inundated with various specs, including bean count, settings options and how to clean a coffee machine with built-in grinder because it’s a little harder than it looks.
Light As A Feather
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When serving gateaux, or choux pastry items like iced buns or an eclair you should consider the courses that have come beforehand. If the dinner was large, full of stodgy foods like potatoes, vegetables, meat, rice or pasta, then it’s best to serve a lighter dessert to avoid any indigestion. On the other hand, lighter meals like salads, soups, and white fish should be followed by a slightly weightier pudding. For example, a selection of patisserie, cakes, mille-feuille, or sweet canapés is better after a lasagne, while a strawberry gateaux, chocolate mousse or a mini pineapple cake would be most welcome after a sea bass tossed in salsa verde.
Pastries tend to be paired with sweet dry champagnes, or bubbly proseccos and anything containing berries is great for sparkling wine or even a light pale ale. Don’t worry if guests don’t drink as an acceptable substitute would be a fizzy cordial, ice cream soda, or a cold glass of pop. Be careful when serving cream, mascarpone or ice cream alongside lighter desserts, and it’s best to stick to fruit liquors of the same flavor, dismissing heavier wines such as a Merlot in favor of a relaxed rosè.
So what do you think of all the cake? As always I love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for stopping by.
*This is a collaborative post