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Sweet Little Things: Garnishing With Edibles

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.


Nothing gives a dish more polish than a perfectly chosen garnish–one that’s unique without quite stealing the show. Serving an elegant mousse or a rustic apple pie with an edible accessory will dress up your dish and make it complete. Before you simply dollop on some whipped cream and call it a day, think creatively about your dessert and choose a tasty token that will highlight its inherent goodness from the plate to the palate.

  • Attempt to temper chocolate. Melt chocolate in sheets and break apart to make chunky abstract pieces or cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Try making chocolate curls by scraping your chef’s knife on an angle down the side of a large hunk of chocolate. Nothing speaks to dessert lovers like a little bit of chocolate.
  • Candy some fruit. Whether you use whole berries, slices of apples, or segments of citrus, treat them to a simple syrup bath and a roll in superfine sugar. You’ll end up with frosty looking beauties, proud enough for the finest holiday desserts.
  • Dress with a peel. Sprinkle your dessert with orange, lemon, or lime zest or top with a candied version. Candied citrus peels, easily made by cooking fruit pieces in a pot of simple syrup or purchased from gourmet food stores, look like shiny stained glass–curled on top of ice cream or sprinkled around the border of a plate, these pretty crystals really brighten things up.
  • Introduce herbs. A properly placed mint leaf or sprig of lavender can give your dessert a touch of natural beauty without overwhelming the plate–the essence of understated beauty.
  • Spice it up. Sprinkle your dish with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or cocoa powder, using a stencil to create eye-catching patterns. Too intricate? Go freehand and just dash a little over the top of your dessert.
  • Bake some cookies. Little ones, big ones, flat and curly. Just because cookies play the starring role on some plates doesn’t mean they can’t join the supporting cast on others. Great for creamy desserts, cookies double as tasty spoons when set next to the right partners.
  • Go nuts on your plate. Slightly bitter and always crunchy, nuts can add more than just a good look to your plate. Toasted, spiced, or candied, these little pieces bring a welcome dimension to most every dessert, from bold berry compotes to complex chocolate creations.
  • Use flower power. Edible petals, natural or crystallized, give rise to some of the most exquisite garnishes. Use roses of all colors to sprinkle over a medley of ice creams or a special occasion cake. The floral flavor charms crème anglaise and vanilla ice cream like no other.
  • Give it some sugar. Experiment with cooked sugar forms. Create a bees’ nest with spun sugar, try molding petite fondant flowers, or break into some brittle. Using a variety of cooking methods, this common household ingredient can be magically transformed into a variety of garnishes.

Good to the very last morsel, garnish your desserts with a little something special and they’re certain to taste as good as they look from start to finish.