In the pastry realm, one has to be exact for the appropriate outcome. Structure and behavior are determined by the correct ingredients and measurements as well as reactions. It's much more chemistry-oriented than what goes on in the savory side of the kitchen.
One can add this and that to a soup (or "forget" to add something) to change the flavor and it won't generally change the soup's form. However, if you forget baking powder or baking soda to your cake, it will probably be hard and flat since the leavener wasn't there to make it rise.
A chemical reaction takes place to make a cake rise.
Along with seven chefs, a coworker and I recently took part in a class at the Callebaut Academy in Chicago taught by Spanish chef Jordi Puigvert. The content was science-oriented information for plated desserts, confection, and pastry. More specifically, it was what is called modern pastry, molecular gastronomy, or culinary physics.
It's about changing the expected textures, chemical phases (solid/liquid/gas), and tastes into something new, and you end up with something surprising and unexpected on the plate as well as for the palate. Those things one might expect to only be appropriate as a visual garnish and not add much to the flavor aspect of a dish easily change the notion.
Here are some examples of a few things we worked on earlier this week.
Blood orange and mint whipped gels.
You might expect them to be gummy, but they aren't. The texture is very light, and more like a vibrantly flavored sponge cake that melts in the mouth. The whipped gels are easily cut and added to other deserts.
A fruit puree mixed with a few other ingredients and dripped from a bottle can create...
Microwave chocolate sponge cake pieces, topped with a quenelle of milk chocolate and macerated semi-sorbet, raspberry flexible ganache, chocolate "clay" coated in raspberry powder, raspberry caviar, and a piped chocolate and blackcurrant frozen foam. Underneath is either a crumbed "dehydrated" peanut paste or hazelnut paste.
Piping the microwave chocolate sponge cake from an N2O charged whipped cream canister to create the light and spongy texture for the cake.
Unmoulded frozen chocolate mint mousse
Dipped into a cocoa glaze while frozen, chocolate mint mousse is placed on a bed of chocolate crumbles and becomes is the center of a dessert flanked by spheres of chocolate and light licorice panna cotta, cubes of whipped mint gel, basil cream, and a cocoa and licorice sauce.
Spherification of blood orange and passion fruit puree-
a very thin semi-solid layer holds the puree inside
A squiggle of lime and white chocolate curd, lime crumble, orange juice soaked passion fruit sponge cake, whipped blood orange gel, white chocolate and passion fruit flexible ganache, orange and passion fruit spheres, topped with a lime and white chocolate semi-sorbet and lemon bubbles.
(Sorbets will eventually melt and bubbles will eventually dissipate... even for chefs.)
Blackcurrant and chocolate marshmallows
The photo above shows piped interiors of mojito truffles, below are the finished truffles on either side of chocolate-coated pina colada dragees with coconut cubes, pineapple and lime flavors.
Smooth interior sesame and hazelnut truffles coated in chocolate and rolled in caramelized sesame seeds (center)... (apparently you can finish a 1kg bag of the seeds at the cinema- no problem), flanked by vibrant-tasting lime, basil, and yogurt truffles, some chocolate-coated and others left uncoated.
Chocolate financiers with a heat-resistant raspberry filling. The raspberry slice is like an extremely thick jam, reminiscent of membrillo, that very easily dissipates in the mouth. When the cake is cooked the raspberry will melt, but it solidifies again once the cake cools.
Frozen green apple mousse being coated in thin fruit glaze
Yogurt foam spooned into a mould and frozen so it can be sliced
Green apple mousse moulded around apple confit cubes, vanilla mousse, and an eggless caramel bavaroise, dipped in apple glaze, placed upon a bed of yogurt and green tea sponge cake, iced apple gel, frozen yogurt bubbles, apple meringue, and sliced fresh green apple.