The French have perfected the art of dessert. They brought the language of love and their desserts have become a common stay in world-class hotels and inspired boulangeries and patisseries in Nairobi.
No, we are not talking about fruit salad topped with ice-cream, we are talking decadent chocolate, cream, berries, pastry and even nuts that bring the sweet treats together.
“From the day I came to Kenya to now, a lot of things have changed in regard to dessert. More Kenyans now appreciate cakes and pastries. They have a sweet tooth,” says Chef Pascal Poitevin, executive pastry chef at Sankara, adding there is also a rising demand of dessert cooking classes.
This is a fact that Pastry Chef Laurent Grolleau agrees. “Kenyans have a very sweet tooth but their tastes are informed also by trends such as vegan or gluten free,” he explains.
“Eating dessert is a culture that is growing,” says Chef Agnes Atieno, head pastry chef, Le Grenier à Pain.
Chef Pascal says the top dessert at the Opera Patisserie is the Fraisier which is made of sponge cake, pastry crème and strawberries.
Even with a wide array of sweet offerings, fruit still makes up a key component on the dessert table.
Fruit being at the centre of the dessert table makes it an easier for the chefs when it comes to sourcing ingredients.
“Good ingredients are the secrets for a good dessert,” says Chef Laurent.
And with Kenyans craving for sweetness, the sugar in the fruit is used to satisfy the sweet tooth.
“Too much sugar can mask the fruit flavour. The fruit can be used as the sugar in the dessert,” he explains.
French tastes differ from local tastes, as do the ingredients, which means that the different recipes must be adapted to suit palates of Kenyan diners.
“Like the cheese cake, we try to do it in a more trendy way and put an insert in a middle like a fruit confit, or a cremeux so that it sparks curiosity. Egg-less cakes are also challenging to make. We have to be creative but ensure they are still light, flavourful and well balanced in texture,” says Chef Pascal.
According to Chef Agnes, Le Grenier à Pain serves up a Paris Brest with a twist of Kenyan flavour by doing a chai masala Paris Brest.
The Opera cake is one that seems to bode well with Kenyans with all three chefs agreeing that the almond sponge with flavours of coffee and chocolate layered with cream and ganache is the most popular.
If you are looking to make a quick dessert at home, the Opera may not be the best option to try, but a cream tart or fruit tart can be made with fruits available easily.
According to Chef Laurent, for a quick dessert, use banana, chocolate and a pies shell. Caramelise the bananas, mix them with chocolate, add some cream and fill the pie shell. Garnish with some banana caramelised with sugar and it looks like a five-star dessert.