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Composed Desserts: Well-Planned Endings for Memorable Meals

Cooking with Master ChefsIn COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Julia Child visits sixteen nationally acclaimed master chefs in their own kitchens. Each chef demonstrates distinct techniques, regional recipes, and culinary tips which guide home cooks through their favorite recipes. Expertly preparing each dish and teaching with passion along the way, the master chefs offer the viewer a unique and inspirational learning experience.


It’s no use wooing guests with a superb main course if you leave them hanging at the end with a humdrum dessert. Make a lasting impression by creating a “send-off” that’ll have everyone talking on the ride home. Desserts naturally leave plenty of room for play–they delightfully tease the child in each of us who yearns for a sweet after finishing supper. Professional pastry chefs and bakers know this and elevate their dessert dishes to scrumptious masterpieces, paying attention to all of the details commonly associated with preparing main dishes. Flavor, texture, and visual presentation come together for the ultimate edible ending. Here are some hints for your next finale.

  • Fill up the plate. Treat the dessert as you would any other course and fill the plate to reflect its importance. There’s nothing lonelier than a bare slice of cake in the center of a dessert plate–give it a sauce, a swirl, a scoop of ice cream, or a fruity accompaniment.
  • Think like an architect. Build your dish upward and outward. Combine shapes, textures, and sizes to give your dessert visual diversity.
  • Bring out the clowns. Decadence should be fun, not stuffy. No matter how glamorous your dinner may have been, by this time of the meal your guests may have had a few sips of wine and the laughter is flowing. Keep the mood going with whimsical presentations.
  • Use your whole palette. Colorful desserts amuse everyone. Create a deep red berry sauce to complement your velvety golden genoise or dot your plate with bright yellow mango puree before plating a trio of multicolor sorbets.
  • Take advantage of your kitchen equipment. Don’t just bake in the oven. Create sauces on the stove, purees in your blender, brulées under your broiler. Together, the results will add dimension to your final plate.
  • Pair components that complement. If the base of your dessert is soft and creamy, give it a crunchy cookie on top. When you’re serving a bitter chocolate cake, try it with a pool of crème anglaise. Something hot? Head for the ice cream.
  • Remember the finishing touches. Garnishes declare that you’ve completed the vision. Whether it’s a pile of fresh berries snuggled up to your white chocolate cheesecake or an angular hunk of chocolate bark towering out of your ice cream parfait, sit back as your guests eat up the details of your evening’s impeccable ending.