This winter, take out your baking gloves and along with the season’s classics, bake desserts with vegetables! Chef Vivek Chauhan introduces the latest baking trend
A beetroot pastry, anyone? Or a semolina-dusted tart? From the basic carrot cake to the more exotic Japanese salad desserts, vegetables are quickly replacing fruits in several varieties of sweet treats. From juices to ice creams and from yoghurts to cakes – health-conscious consumers are opting for vegetables that taste sweet yet have less sugar content than fruits.
Although we tend to think of vegetables as savouries, every vegetable has a natural sugar content, which varies based on the soil it grows in and the climactic conditions. In cold weather, root vegetables like carrots and parsnips convert starch to sugar to prevent freezing, resulting in a sweeter taste. As a result, carrots and parsnips picked after winter will have higher sugar content than those harvested before. When compared to fruits, vegetables are high in fibre, vitamins and nutrients. And as the world moves towards eating healthy, nutritionists advice the inclusion of as many vegetables as possible in our meals. The concept of vegetables in desserts taps into this plant-based dining trend. However, its roots can be traced to the whole-food movement of 1980s. Traditionally, in countries like India, Japan and China, the use of vegetables in baked products is well established, with beans, sweet potatoes and taros being the common ingredients used.
PAIR THEM RIGHT
While pastry chefs are well-versed with the use of carrot in baking, they are now experimenting with other vegetables such as beetroot, parsnip, pumpkin, sweet potato and courgette. These not only add interesting flavours and textures to a cake but also keep it moist. Courgette and beetroot pair well with chocolate, and are often used in cupcakes. Beetroot too is gaining popularity because of its health benefits. Parsnips, pumpkins and beetroots pair well with cinnamon, and can be used to bake an interesting Christmas cake. Another fresh option for the season can be a carrot and courgette cupcake.
Pastry chefs are using a wide range of chopped, pureed and shredded vegetables in exciting new culinary creations. In some cases, vegetables with similar textures can be used in place of fruits, such as replacing banana or pears with aubergine. The new vegetable flavours that are being used include cucumber, butternut squash, mushroom and tomato. Vegetable puree can also replace eggs to make 100 per cent vegetarian bakes. Avocados, a nutritionist’s favourite, make a great substitute for butter.
While vegetable puree can be used in a cake batter, it can also be used in frostings. Vegetable juices reduced and thickened with pectin can be used as a glaze to give a shine to a cake. This mix can be used to replace traditional sugar glazes. The thickened vegetable juices can be mixed with cream fillings to enrich and decorate a cake.
The author is a pasty chef and the views expressed in the article are his own