A Season of Sweets

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Explore the latest dessert trends of the harvest season with Executive Pastry Chef Kurtis Baguley.

By Rachel Roberts Quartarone

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Along with brilliant colors and brisk weather, fall ushers in the season of sweets. The decadent desserts of the holidays abound beginning in November, and the parade of indulgence continues well into the New Year.  At Sea Island, Executive Pastry Chef Kurtis Baguley is especially inspired by this season of harvest and home. Baguley directs the dessert and pastry program for the resort and works in consultation with the other executive chefs and pastry chefs to develop desserts and baked goods that are fresh, flavorful and seasonal—a process that begins in July. This fall, he really wants to showcase desserts that deliver rich seasonal flavors but are lighter in texture: “Flavors can get a little heavier [in fall and winter],” Baguley explains. “Nuts, chocolate, caramel and dried fruits are featured prominently. However, citrus is also in season and can help to lighten up the flavors and bring focus.”

20130723_deserts_red_velvet_donut_0032_RetouchThe fall season also gives some of the biggest dessert trends of the year a little more time to shine. Doughnuts, for example, are making an appearance on fine dining menus nationwide. Some say they are the “next cupcake.” At Sea Island, you can find miniature red velvet doughnuts on the small plates menu in the Georgian Room Lounge. The tiny, cake-inspired treat, topped with vanilla glaze, is a great way to satisfy a late night sweet tooth. Regional and international variations on the doughnut—from beignets and fritters to Italian bomboloni—will be on restaurant menus throughout the fall and winter seasons. Apples, caramel, bacon and fall fruits such as citrus, persimmon and quince pair perfectly with luscious deep-fried dough. Reminiscent of county fairs and fall festivals, and often paired with hot cocoa or coffee, the doughnut is on the rise for 2013 and 2014.

The rise of the doughnut plays into an overall dining trend focused on comfort and nostalgia—but incorporating a modern touch. Classic desserts may appear on a menu, but in a deconstructed or frozen form. Artisan ice creams are a major trend that has been embraced by fine dining establishments. Even in the winter, a touch of the frozen indulgence can add drama and richness to a warm fruit cobbler or slice of pecan pie. “Ice cream is a year-round standard,” Baguley says. Throughout his 28-year career, he has been making his own ice creams and sorbets when house-made ice cream was a relatively new concept. He enjoys playing with nostalgic flavors like orange Creamsicle and banana split. “I love to take the classics and twist them up a little,” Baguley says.

Another dessert trend chef Baguley notes is that restaurants are offering more gluten-free options for sweets alongside their gluten-free entrées and drinks. Chefs are using alternate grains like buckwheat, coconut flour, cornmeal and almond meal to create amazingly decadent desserts. This fall, Baguley will debut a new gluten-free dessert: pumpkin empanadas with spiced vanilla gelato and clear caramel sauce. The empanadas feature a flaky crust and are filled with a delectable pumpkin purée. “I want to give people the sweet flavors that they really want, but still meet dietary needs,” he adds.

Finally, one trend that Baguley believes is here to stay is an increased focus on local, regional and seasonal ingredients. Hyper-local sourcing is growing in popularity. Restaurants are carefully sourcing their ingredients from their own gardens or select artisanal food purveyors in their area. Sea Island is fortunate to have a garden at Broadfield, A Sea Island Sporting Club & Lodge, to supply much of its produce, eggs and artisanal food products. The resort chefs also work with nearby Sapelo Farms. Diners will find their honey on the Georgian Room’s cheese plate and in many resort recipes. Whatever the season, one thing is certain: Desserts taste that much sweeter with fresh, organic ingredients.

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’Tis the Season

Some of the season’s best produce is grown right here in the South. During fall and winter months, these ingredients will be the stars of your sweet treats.

Apples: August – November

Pears: August – November

Pecans: September – December

Pumpkin: August – December

Winter squash: August – December

Sweet potatoes: August – November

Oranges: October – May

Tangerines: September – May

Chef’s Sweet Secrets

Executive Pastry Chef Kurtis Baguley shares a red velvet doughnut recipe, just in time for the holidays.

Wet ingredients: 3 tablespoons red food coloring (liquid, not gel), 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon fine lemon zest, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 ½ cups buttermilk

Dry ingredients: 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoons fine grind salt, 4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons unsalted, melted butter

For the glaze: 4 cups powdered sugar, ½ cup whole milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method: In a bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients except butter. Whisk in melted butter to the wet ingredients and quickly combine wet and dry ingredients. After mixing into a dough, knead the dough a few times to smooth and make consistent. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to ½-inch thick. Cut to desired shapes. Deep fry at 365 degrees F for approximately 4½ minutes, flipping over halfway through frying. Drain on paper towels. Whisk all ingredients for the glaze together until smooth, keep covered. When ready, dip top of doughnuts into glaze and set to dry.

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