Awhile back, chef Juan Muñoz of San Francisco-based Proper Food was exploring desserts that would satisfy his sweet tooth without compromising health and nutrition.
“I wanted to create a bar that tasted indulgent, but wasn't chockfull of refined sugar and unhealthy fats,” Muñoz said.
The result is the Proper Energy Bar, a dessert made with a mixture of coconut, peanut butter, rolled oats, cherries, goji berries, dark chocolate, flax seeds and sea salt.
Muñoz says the bar is not only delicious, but the ingredients have health benefits, such as antioxidants in the goji berries and the dark chocolate, omega-3 fatty acids in the flax seeds, complex carbohydrates in the rolled oats, and protein and monounsaturated fats in energy-rich peanut butter.
Like Muñoz, chefs across the country have been responding to consumers’ growing interest in healthy food and beverages over the past few years by adding them to their main menus, and, more recently, to their dessert menus.
The culinary team at Coolgreens, a chain based in Oklahoma City, Okla., with a focus on healthy lifestyles, sought to do a more nutritious take on an American classic: The chocolate chip cookie.
“Our cookie is baked with whole-wheat flour, dark chocolate, oats, coconut, almonds and bananas,” said Coolgreens vice president of operations Todd Madlener. “Each of these ingredients have their own health benefits like fiber, antioxidants and vitamins.”
Madlener says the cookies have been “flying off the shelves” since they were introduced to the menu.
Little Sesame, a new fast-casual hummus bowl and pita sandwich concept in Washington, D.C., seeks to bring exciting Israeli flavors to its guests, and to satisfy their sweet tooth with all-natural, dairy-free soft serve.
Made with ingredients such as silken tofu, vanilla, and raw tahini, the soft serve is available in flavors such as Vegan Vanilla and Dark Chocolate, and with toppings such as unsweetened cocoa nibs, sesame-based halva dust, and a “soomsoom crumble” of sesame and rose petals.
“It’s good for you and good for the environment,” said Nick Wiseman, Little Sesame’s co-owner and chef.
On April 3, True Food Kitchen, the seasonally-based casual chain founded by integrative medicine’s Dr. Andrew Weil, will launch its spring menu with a healthier twist on a traditional Key lime dessert.
Both vegan and gluten-free, True Food’s new Key lime mousse is made with Key lime juice, lime zest, coconut cream, and avocado, and is served over an almond crumble and topped with macerated strawberries.
But it’s not just concepts founded by doctors or focused on healthy lifestyles that are getting in on this dessert trend — even the meat-centric Saxon and Parole in New York City neighborhood is offering a better-for-you take on a classic dessert.
“One of my favorite desserts is pavlova,” said executive chef Brad Farmerie. “I have a pavlova every year for my birthday, and as much as I love the traditional strawberry/kiwi/lemon curd combo, I wanted to bring a healthier twist to the classic dessert.”
To make his version of the meringue-based dessert, Farmerie uses aquafaba, the leftover liquid from chickpeas, instead of traditional egg white, to make a meringue, then in place of the traditional whipped cream or lemon curd, he uses a black bean pasty cream, made from black bean powder, almond milk and vanilla. He finishes the dish with orange and grapefruit segments.
Similarly, at Rhubarb, a “freestyle American” restaurant in Asheville, N.C., pastry chef Kaley Laird offers a Brownie Batter Bowl.
To make it, Laird mixes dates or prunes, sweet potato, white beans, melted chocolate and a touch of honey in a food processor and then layers the mixture with cashew butter, pieces of chocolate ganache and candied nuts. Then, as if you were sneaking an illicit spoonful of cake batter before baking, the dessert is served in an oversized metal bowl with a wooden spoon.