This month’s installment of “A Plating Palate” features a decadent, yet raw, peppermint truffle brownie that comes together effortlessly in a food processor. For the dessert to have a polished, composed look, the plate entertains an array of garnishes — two sauces (chocolate sauce and coconut whipped cream), a fresh herb (mint), contrast in texture (cacao nibs, hemp and/or black sesame seeds), and an element of surprise (green tea powder and/or silver dust).
The first plating emphasizes asymmetry. The brownie is purposely placed off center, leaving a generous border off the rim. The white space is balanced with randomized dollops of chocolate and cream that additionally complement the flavor profile of the brownie itself. Always use logical garnishes that add flavor, and not ones that simply lend themselves to aesthetics. The cream guides the eye to the brownie itself, adding a contrast of color and height, while giving the plate a composed finish. Plating in odd numbers helps the plate look more natural — try threes or fives, like with this piped coconut cream. The rectangular brownie mold makes the portion look slimmer and elongated. To execute this look, choose a white plate with large flat surface area to allow for enough white space to showcase the sauce accents.
This next style uses sauce as an outline. The circular shape is recurrent in the shape of the cake. The black sesame trail atop the cake completes the circle into a continuous 360 degrees. It is usually a good idea to plate at least one sauce underneath all food items; this way you can showcase your finished dish, and the diner can choose how much sauce they want to consume with each bite. The garnishes should be edible and bite-size friendly, here effectively scattered along the sauce perimeter. For a less contrived effect, try dusting powders like green tea or silver dust, to give the dish a less “definite” feel.
This third look is a bit more avant-garde, with garnishes occupying most of the plate, with the brownie cut into smaller uniform squares, converging at the lower right quadrant of the plate. The chocolate pattern is created by applying droplets of sauce half an inch apart, and dragging a skewer through to connect the droplets. For the illusion of composition, there are three sets of trios — sauce, squares and coconut cream. Some of the white space is occupied with a liberal dusting of green tea powder. In this case, the cream garnish is also in the corner of each square of brownie, to add a touch of contrast.
For chocolate brownie:
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup dates, pitted
½ cup hemp seeds
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon sea salt
For peppermint cream:
1 cup cashews, soaked
¾ cup cacao butter
¼ cup coconut nectar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup matcha powder
¼ teaspoon peppermint oil, to taste
For coconut whipped cream:
1 can coconut cream, chilled
1 vanilla bean
½ cup bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 small bunch mint leaves, picked
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1 teaspoon edible silver dust
1 tablespoon green tea matcha powder
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
For chocolate brownie: Add walnuts, hemp seeds, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt into food processor and pulse until mixture is combined.
For peppermint cream: Add cashews, cacao butter, coconut nectar, and lemon juice into food processor and pulse until creamy. Season to taste using matcha powder and peppermint oil, until desired color and mint flavor is achieved.
For coconut cream: Add the chilled cream and vanilla bean into a medium bowl. Use a hand mixer to whisk until whipped. Transfer to a piping bag to plate.
To serve: Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a mold of choice, press ¼ cup of the chocolate layer in the bottom. Follow with ¼ cup of the peppermint cream, and add a third layer using an additional ¼ cup of the brownie. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with melted chocolate, mint, black sesame seeds, silver dust, matcha, and/or cacao nibs.