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July 14, 2011

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Cool desserts are the answer to hot issue

With the temperatures rising quickly, people are more likely to suffer from emotional heat stroke, the main symptoms of which include being easily upset, impatient and angry. Among the foods that play some part in relieving the syndrome and restoring happiness are desserts.

We spoke to chefs from three hotels in Shanghai to learn more about their own latest sweet creations.

Presentation has become more simple but colorful. "Too fancy decoration is helpless in cooling down. Contrarily, bright colors, especially red, stimulate the appetite," says Xue Qi, the pastry sous chef at Pelham's of the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund.

"The big temptation with dessert is its docility in appearance. Changing the shape and color sometimes gives the food a new perception," says Chen Jie, the pastry chef at The St. Regis Shanghai.

Fresh fruits and herbs play a dominant role, and all three chefs are found to give their desserts light character and creative flavor.

Besides, more desserts are particularly designed to cater to locals. Qi says that classical European dessert is too sweet for local palates. Hence, he is now trying to control the sweetness by seeking a balance between two kinds of sweet tooth.

Waldorf Astoria

Raspberry semifreddo is Qi's new creation. Semifreddo, a kind of semi-frozen dessert originating from the Piemonte region of Italy with the texture of mousse, is served with vanilla sauce, topped with raspberry pate de fruit, a chewy candy with intense fruit taste and low sweetness, and noodles made of raspberry puree and agar, decorated with crunchy ginger sticks.

"The noodle comes from my idea of adding Chinese elements to European dessert," Qi says. The jelly-like noodle, together with the smooth and silky semifreddo, gives the dessert rich textures. Because of the raspberry, the flavor is fruity, with a balanced sweet-and-sour taste.

Darjeeling tea citrus consomme is another highlight. Frozen cherry parfait is served with fruits such as grapefruit, lemon, blueberry and pomelo, topped with a sauce mixing Darjeeling tea, cinnamon and orange peel. The chilled parfait with a creamy mouthfeel coexists well with citrus, which is a little tart. Tea added to the sauce leaves a long and refreshing aftertaste. Each dessert costs 78 yuan (US$12) plus 15-percent service charge.

Sofitel Shanghai Hyland

Raspberry Melba from a Yunnan chocolate shell, solid dark chocolate spheres with a soft raspberry ice-cream filling and chocolate chips decorated with fresh chopped mint, is a dessert launched by the hotel this summer.

Executive chef Nicholas A. Vienne's source of inspiration is associated with his childhood memories. "I still remember when I was young my mother often made her signature chocolate cake to entertain guests."

When serving, the waiter will warm the Grand Marnier (an orange-flavored liqueur), pour the hot coulis around the sphere and then flambe the sphere for the guest. A strong aroma mixing fresh fruit and sweet chocolate is soon apparent. The hot chocolate and cold filling creates a unique tasting experience.

The hotel also launched upside-down ile flottante. Ile flottante is a classic French dessert in which light meringue floats on a bed of custard sauce. Vienne hopes to make the opposite of the original recipe which results in a post-modern dessert in which the meringue is topped by the custard sauce. Each dessert is priced at 70 yuan plus 15 percent service charge.

The St. Regis Shanghai

Pastry chef Chen Jie has created two desserts for the summer, the vanilla floating island (98 yuan plus 15-percent service charge) and saffron pineapple mascarpone cake with lime sorbet (128 yuan plus 15-percent service charge).

The first, featuring coconut parfait floating on milkshake, is based on the French classic ile flottante. Chen has made some slight changes to the recipe to better cater to local tastes. Hence, the taste has become lighter.

In the second dessert, Chen uses saffron to give the dish more flavor. Soft mascarpone and sandy sorbet present nice textures.

We recommend ordering a drink when enjoying desserts. You can either pair with bubbling Champagne to cleanse your palate of the heavy sweetness of the desserts or choose a sweet Muscat or Noble Rot to further highlight the sweetness.


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