Dessert Soups

A great alternative to rustic fruit pastries, chilled soups are both elegant and effortless.
dessert soups

With a full roster of fresh fruits in play, summer is a great season for pastry chefs. Yet we have to act fast, using as many of these fruits as we can while they’re at their peak. One of my favorite tricks is to turn these bumper crops into dessert soups: Light, fresh, and vibrant, a cool soup is exactly what you want at the end of a hot day. Since making a chilled soup involves minimal (if any) cooking, the bright flavors of the fruit remain intact (not to mention the fact that you don’t have to heat up your kitchen by using the stove). And while a fruit soup can be prepared in advance, making use of slightly blemished or overripe ingredients, the finished product comes across as more refined than, say, a crumble or a crisp.

When coming up with ideas for dessert soups, I’ve taken some cues from the savory side of the menu. Here, the “stock” is fruit juice or purée; I often begin by infusing it with spices, herbs, or tea. Whereas savory soups often have cream added for body, in delicate chilled soups I prefer to add yogurt, a touch of buttermilk, or even coconut milk or banana for a similar effect. Thinner purées and juices can be clarified like a consommé: Dissolve a small amount of gelatin (1/4 teaspoon per cup of liquid does the trick) in the soup and freeze, then thaw the frozen block over cheesecloth to produce a clear nectar. Or use a soda siphon to give your soup a bit of fizz. And garnishes can add new dimensions of texture and temperature: Try using thin tuiles or sweet, crunchy “croutons” of cake or brioche; ice cream, sorbet, or icy granita; or more fresh fruit, sliced in elegant rounds or thin strips. For an added level of elegance (and convenience), I often “plate” these desserts in shot glasses.

Stone fruits are a favorite of mine, so I use them in soups whenever possible; with ripe peaches, I make a purée and infuse it with verbena and vanilla, then serve the soup with blackberries, crunchy streusel, and a light crème fraîche sorbet. To a purée of apricot I might add notes of honey and lavender, and then garnish with pitted cherries and roasted almonds. Berries are another excellent option. One recipe I’ve had success with recently: blend raspberries with simple syrup and a few drops of rose water, then strain the mixture and garnish with plump lychees and chopped pistachio. Strawberries are mostly water, so to coax that sweetness from the flesh I macerate roughly chopped berries with sugar, lemon, and orange, along with a few torn leaves of basil. When the mixture has become an intensely red liquid, I strain and chill it, then add chewy pearls of tapioca or a smooth panna cotta for textural contrast. Finally, if I want something really complex, I blend tomatoes and berries to create a sweet take on gazpacho; or I combine citrus and coconut milk, then infuse the mixture with lemongrass and fiery Thai chilis.

And dessert soups have a place even as the dog days wane and autumn fruits emerge. The underrated quince makes for a great base, especially when simmered with a heady spice blend like Moroccan ras el hanout. Apple cider makes an instant sweet broth; in the fall, I like to mull cider with cinnamon and vanilla bean, then serve it warm with a foamy head of sweetened steamed milk and cinnamon beignets.

These sweet soups are often spontaneous creations based on what the market has to offer. Most pastry work involves calculated decisions and measurements, inevitably making bakers slaves to technical recipes. But with a little imagination and some perfect fruit, you can experiment and create your own repertoire of cool dessert soups.

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