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5 of the latest restaurant dessert trends

See the top 5 dessert trends from Nation’s Restaurant written by .

Photo courtesy of Trentina restaurant

American diners aren’t just looking for adventure when it comes to savory food; they also want it at dessert, according to chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association. The nearly 1,300 chefs polled for the NRA’s annual What’s Hot survey indicated that guests were looking for unexpected flavors and surprising combinations in their final bites of a meal.

No. 5: Smoked ingredients

Smoking’s not just trendy in savory food. Desserts augmented with a bit of earthy smoke are also in vogue, such as the Black Cocoa Sponge Cake at Better Half in Atlanta. It’s flavored with the Mexican dairy caramel cajeta that chef Zachary Meloy studs with chipotle peppers, which are smoked jalapeños. He serves it with coffee ice cream, the base of which has been given a flavor boost by treating it with a cold smoking gun.

No. 4: Hybrids

New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s croissant-doughnut hybrid, the Cronut, has seen many imitators, such as the Cron’t, pictured, at Donut Savant in Oakland, Calif., not to mention the croissant doughnuts and Dunkin’ Donuts, Jack in the Box and assorted supermarkets. Au Bon Pain has a hybrid of its own in the croisbun, and IHOP has Criss-Croissants, which is croissant dough cooked in a waffle iron. Chefs say you can expect to see more variations on this theme over the course of the year.

No. 3: Savory sweets

Chiles, herbs, salt and other flavors normally found in savory dishes are making their way into desserts, where they add new dimensions to end-of-the-meal dishes, such as pastry chef Peter Schmutte’s tempura fried curry pound cake at Cerulean in Indianapolis (pictured), which is accompanied by peanut butter ice cream and banana orange crémeux. Schmutte said it’s currently outselling his chocolate desserts.

No. 2: Bite-sized or mini desserts

Sometimes the end of a meal just needs a little something sweet, not a hunk of layer cake the size of your head. Miniature desserts also make a nice snack, such as the mini blueberry and strawberry rhubarb pies that Au Bon pain introduced out last May.

No. 1: House-made and artisan ice cream

Chefs say the biggest trend in desserts is house-made and artisan ice cream, which is a relatively easy way to give guests something they can’t get anyplace else. That’s what Vince Griffith, pastry chef of Trentina in Cleveland is doing with his olive oil gelato, pictured here, which is garnished with wood sorrel, almond vanilla pizzelles and Luxardo cherries.

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