The New Bakers Dozen
Need garnish/plating ideas

The The Bakers Dozen: Need garnish/plating ideas
By ghb on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 10:04 am: Edit

My boss has recently asked that we change all of our desserts over to individual items (i.e. individual tartlets instead of 9", etc.). Ok, no problem. But he also wants a batch of new garnishes and platings for everything. We generally offer 18-24 dessert choices and sell about 200 on a busy weekend night, so we're talking a lot of variety. Desserts are plated by folks who also pull espressos and cash out for waitstaff, so things have to be pretty easy. Among my bosses guidelines are:
1. Has to look "professional" but also "homemade".
2. Should look "like New York" or like Art Culinaire but should take less than a minute to put together.
There are 2 of us in the pastry department--my coworker puts in about 40 hrs. per week and I only put in 10 (I'm on maternity leave). So, any suggestions for what we can do?

By ghb on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 10:04 am: Edit

Part II:

Our current platings tend toward the anglais/choc. sauce/raspberry sauce thing. A lot of the folks we hire for doing the plating do not have a good eye, so we have to be very specific about what we want.

By MarkG on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 10:26 am: Edit

What kind of desserts ghb? I've used Grand Marnier flavored cigarettes, candied fruit slices, tuiles in various shapes, chocolate curls, etc. but I try to have the garnish fit the dessert.


By ghb on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 10:42 am: Edit

Well, it's quite a list but here goes: creme brulee, chocolate pots de creme, tiramisu, molten chocolate cake, mexican choc. mousse, choc raspberry truffle tart, bread pudding, earl grey choc. mousse cake, zuccotto, blueberry frangipan tart, apple walnut tart (or cherry almond), lemon tart, kaffir lime tart, fig walnut tart, white chocolate-macadamia bavarian, vienniese walnut torte, carrot cake, marjolaine. A few others but I can't dredge them up right now.

By George (George) on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 01:08 pm: Edit

An easy one to preset and use-
Get doilies to match the plate, set them and stack. As needed dust with cocoa powder and remove the doily. Leaves a nice inverse impression.

By Panini (Panini) on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 11:11 pm: Edit

You might want to consider doing some of those desserts in sheets. cut triangles or abstract and use the dessert as part of the garnish. Mini are actually easier to work, I think. You can use merngue shapes, choco shapes etc. you know, nice edible garnishes.

By W.DeBord on Friday, May 04, 2001 - 06:58 am: Edit

I also have other people plating my desserts so I have to keep things very basic too. If your serving that much variety you'll need to repeat your garnishes of course. For instance everything served in a container gets a marzipan bee on the edge. Every tart gets a hippen spoon leaning on it, every cake gets a hippen butterflie on top, etc...

Here's some ideas:

Go to the craft store and buy stencils there. You might have to cut them down in size but their cheap. Take a leaf shape and have your server use that like you would a doily with xxxsugar or cocoa powder.

I use tons of marizpan bees. You can make 100 in an hour. Shape it into a rounded cone in your hand, almond slices for wings, with black food coloring quickly paint 2 dots for eyes and three stripes rings on the tail.

By W.DeBord on Friday, May 04, 2001 - 07:14 am: Edit


Hippen spoons and butterflies. Several companys sell stencils for them. You can color some and draw on decorations (like defining the butterflies wings...) in any food color or cocoa. Once baked you can store them in the freezer or on the shelf (you can do this very quickly).

Chocolate grids. NON-temper choc. drizzle choc. in grid shape. This looks best standing not laying on dessert. Can layer over colored choc. with white to make a colorful statement.

Large chocolate curls do wonders.

I draw on plates with those colored "non-chocolate" pellets (because they hold up well and don't need tempering). A simple pattern is to do large swiggles "around the border" (only) of the plate then reverse your swiggles so you have enclosed shapes (the more iregular the better). Then let server fill with three different food sauces, anglaise, rasp. and orange then set dessert in center.

back to the xxxpowder, just blocking of 1/2 of the plate and sugaring the other half looks nice.

By W.DeBord on Friday, May 04, 2001 - 07:30 am: Edit

Sorry, I love this topic and can talk for ever about it.......

When you make your desserts either in rings or cut out as Panini suggests think of easy ways to finish them like:

Roll or dip your items sides in chocolate curls, cakes crumbs, nuts, cookie crumbs, finely chopped candy bars anything edible you can buy or recyle.

Depending on your budget I use acetate rolls (not sheets where you have to cut them) with transfer patterns on them and wrap many items in them....

More garnishes, mini fruit kabobs poked right into the item for height. Assorted chopped fruit around the plate (like salsa).

Make larger drop flowers out of royal icing. Very quick and they last forever. Or use a real flower garnish (make sure it's edible) but you can buy a box of orchids (I think they are) cheaply.

By ghb on Friday, May 04, 2001 - 01:40 pm: Edit

Thanks for the ideas! Keep 'em coming.

I love the fruit kabob idea! My coworker is also really into marzipan, so I'll mention the marzipan bees to her. I'd love to do transfer patterns, but my boss seems to think that these would look "too professional" ( I think he thinks they'd look mass produced).

In the past I've done abstract chocolate shapes, which give nice height, as well as caramel shapes. And with fruit and flower season here, we'll have some nice options. I also like the idea of pairing various cookies w/ desserts for a little contrast in flavor and texture.

Like I said, keep those ideas coming. Once we get through graduation season (3 booked-solid weekends), we'll breathe a sigh of relief and start trying out new ideas.

By W.DeBord on Monday, May 07, 2001 - 08:54 am: Edit

Pair tuile or hippen cookies with your desserts. Their much quicker to produce than other traditional cookies and can easily be made into very decorative items. They can also be made into cups/containers to hold your main dessert.

Marcel Deslaniers (who's name I always miss spell, sorry) mixes chocolate with his melted sugar/carmel for an interesting idea. He uses them as long spines in a cake he titles "vodoo" (oops another thing I can't spell). Anyway the advantage is adding the chocolate seems to strengthen the carmel and it's pretty different. Also try isomalt sugar for easy sugar effects. You can use food colors with this sugar.

Theres a book called "Olives" or Desserts from Olives. They do ALOT of pairing of cookies with desserts for a source to look at. Frankly their dessert recipes aren't worth repeating and are way over complicated but you can get several ideas from it.

By W.DeBord on Monday, May 07, 2001 - 09:01 am: Edit

What kind of place do you work at where you have such a large dessert list?

I hope your boss realizes that his idea will cost him alot more in definately takes more time to make individual desserts plus their respective garnishes. At first it will be painfully slow, but with experience you'll turn them out quicker/but never faster than whole large items sliced.

P.S. Follow Panini's tip about making items in large trays then slicing into interesting shapes. This will save you tons of time.

By ghb on Monday, May 07, 2001 - 11:30 am: Edit

W. DeBord--Thank you so much for all your great ideas! I have the Olives book--I agree that the recipes aren't that great, but I like the looks of some of their platings. I have a bunch of different tuile recipes I need to work on, and I'll try the chocolate caramel (I have the book that has that cake in it).

The restaurant where I work started out as a patisserie--just desserts, breads, and a few lunch items. But now it's an Asian-French fusion place and we've retained the large dessert repetoire. We're the only place in our (fairly small) town that does any kind of dessert business and we've got a good regional reputation. Moving into individual desserts is a bit of a challenge, but I think it'll give us better inventory control. As Panini advised, we have been making sheet trays of stuff and slicing, though we've stuck to circles and rectangles.

Our mantra lately is "we'll work on it after graduation"!

By ghb on Monday, May 07, 2001 - 11:36 am: Edit

Oh, a couple more things. W., how do you store all your garnishes? The boss is willing to buy whatever we need (though it'll take lots of pestering and patience).

Also, how do you teach the people who do your plating? Do you use photos of specific platings or just teach them some basic techniques and trust that they can handle it? Do you have a lot of staff turnover so that you have to repeatedly teach new people? See, we used to try for more interesting platings but ran into the problem of people who felt "artistic" and would pile every single garnish on every plate, no matter what we told them. So we took away everything except a few sauces. Or waitstaff would eat the garnishes and few or none would make it onto plates.

By W.DeBord on Tuesday, May 08, 2001 - 08:13 am: Edit

For alot of garnishes I use those new tupperware like containers that they brag are disposable. You find them at the grocery store 3 for $2.50 or so.
I had a hard time finding larger storage containers with tight fitting lids. We now are buying them from our fish supplier (they send out expensive fish in them), obviously never been used containers! There only $1.50 a piece...but you have to buy their fish occasionally too, hint hint.

I also stuggle getting my desserts plated how I tell them (chef & sous chef included). So now I take polariod photos of each item. With it, a written description and a diagram (since the photos often aren't clear). I've even talked with the dining room manager and told her and her people are not to accept any dessert that doesn't look like my photos (since I am held responsible for how my chef plates the dessert). That's been helpful.

By W.DeBord on Tuesday, May 08, 2001 - 08:27 am: Edit

It's really up to you to think things through and you must really plan your desserts around being idiot proof! Going back to my suggestion before...every item in a container gets this, every slice of cake gets that, etc... simplify!

Get your dessert looking good so all they do is put it on the plate. Then they put 1 or 2 (at the most) garnishes or sauces with the item. When they have to plate 3 or more desserts that's when it's too much trouble and they can't fuss with 6 or more garnishes (on 3 or more plates) because they have coffee and other tasks they have to perform too. Plating dessert will never be their main focus!

As far as anyone eating your garnishes, it's up to management. But where I work you will be fired for eating off the customers plate! That's what your garnishes are for....don't ever eat them yourself in front of anyone, rules are rules.

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