modern dessert sauces

The following sauces borrow techniques from the culinary/savory world. In most cases the sauces have little or no fat, which makes them the perfect accompaniment to an entrée item made with lots of heavy cream, eggs, or butter. Additionally, their lack of fat results in strong top or base notes. These sauces are a wonderful way in which to complete a dessert’s full plate profile.

1- Reduction Sauces

Reduction sauces are as simple as reducing down a liquid. The liquid can be a juice, liquor, or poaching liquid. A reduction sauce is thickened through evaporation. Some, or all, of the water in a juice, liquor, etc., is evaporated, which, in turn, transforms the remaining liquid into a syruplike consistency. Slow simmering will allow the sauce to thicken on its own. As the water evaporates the flavors of the sauce intensify. Do not use a slurry to thicken reduction sauces, as it is the process of evaporation that intensifies the flavors of the sauce while it thickens the sauce. The concentration of flavors is what makes a reduction sauce so special.

2- Pan Sauces

Pan sauces are the result of other either dry or combination cooking methods, such as sautéing, roasting, or braising. After the products are cooked, remove them from the pan. Deglaze the pan with the desired liquid, scraping up the fond. Reduce the mixture to desired consistency. Strain (if desired) and serve. Sometimes cold butter is added to the sauce, which adds a sheen and buttery mouth feel to the end product. Be wary of this step if the dish’s entrée item already contains a large amount of fat.

3- Clear Sauces

Clear sauces are those made without any fat. The “clear” refers to the crisp, clean, clear flavors that result when fat is left out of a recipe. The clear caramel sauce. In this case, water was added to the caramelized sugar instead of the more traditional heavy cream and butter. You experienced the depth of flavor, the full deep plate profile that was the result. Consider infusing the liquid for a clear sauce with an herb or spice to make this sauce even more flavorful. Liquids such as fruit juices, liquors or purées can be substituted for the water.

3-1 Herb Clear Sauces

The idea of clear sauces is continued with these herb clear sauces. There are two types of herb clear sauces and in both cases they consist of only an herb and a sweetener. The sauces’ composition allows the true nature and flavors of the herb to shine through. Both methods of preparation offer strong herb flavors; in the first sauce the herbs are cooked and the second sauce they are left in a raw state.

3-2 Infused Herb Clear Sauces

Infusing fresh herbs into a simple syrup is one way of producing an herb clear sauce. Rinse the herbs and pat them dry. Add the herbs to a simmering simple syrup. Continue to simmer the sauce until the desired flavor is reached. Strain the syrup and store the sauce in the refrigerator until needed for service.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to making an herb clear sauce in this manner. The heating/steeping process brings a depth of flavor to the sauce as well as some great back notes. This is certainly an advantage. The disadvantage is that the heating process also gives the herbs a distinctly cooked flavor. They lose their fresh grassy notes. Once the herbs have been strained from the simple syrup, the resulting sauce is relatively colorless and fairly thin. Because simple syrup forms the base of this sauce, further reduction can sometimes cause the sugar to crystallize. A grainy or crystallized sugar syrup is certainly not desired in sauce work.

The sauce’s colorless and thin nature makes this a good sauce to use in tandem with another sauce. It works especially well together with a thicker or denser sauce. A few drops of the clear sauce can be placed on top of another thicker sauce in a tie-dye or oil spill type of pattern. This technique works best when two sauces of different densities are used. The thick sauce is placed on the plate first, followed by the thinner sauce. In this way the thinner sauce is held in place. You can then use a toothpick or the point of a paring knife to create a pattern between the two sauces. Alternatively, the sauces can be left alone to form a type of tie-dye pattern on the plate. Remember that the flavor of the sauce being used is of primary importance. If the sauce tastes great but is too thin, do not despair. There are many beautiful ways of incorporating that sauce into your final plate design.

3-3 Uncooked Herb Clear Sauces

An alternative to an infused herb clear sauce is an uncooked herb clear sauce made with a light corn syrup base. Blanch the fresh herbs quickly. Place the herbs in a chinoise before blanching. This makes it much easier to move them in and out of the boiling water and the ice bath. Pat the herbs dry with paper towels immediately upon removing them from the ice water. Place herbs and light corn syrup in a robot coupe or food processor and blend until a vibrant green syrup is formed.

Like the infused herb sauces, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this type of sauce. The advantage is that this sauce maintains the integrity of the fresh herbs’ flavor. This sauce is saturated with the herbs’ crisp, fresh, grassy flavors. It has a thick viscosity and a deep, dark green color. While the infused sauce may be a bit subtler, flavorwise, the fresh sauce is a loud burst of fresh herb flavor. The disadvantage of using raw herbs is that the sauce lacks the greater depth of flavor that is achieved when the herbs are infused.

Think about the flavors of the entire plated dessert when making the decision as to which herb clear sauce to use. Either used alone or in tandem with a more traditional dessert sauce, a full plate profile will be achieved when these sauces are employed.