Without the essential component of texture, crunchiness, pastry chefs run the risk of creating boring desserts. To combat this, they will add crunchy ingredients and crispy garnishes to make their creations more enjoyable. We’ll look at some of these options in addition to some unusual bodily responses.
The way food feels is thought to be a major driving force behind someone’s choices. Whether it’s crunchy, chewy, or creamy, it’s a key factor in determining satisfaction. Yes, the way something tastes matters to us, but there’s no mistaking that full sensation comes across when we sink our teeth into something crunchy.
Pastry chef Megan Ketover prefers to use multiple textures in her desserts and adds, “When there are more textural elements, it is interesting how each bite is different depending on the composition of each ingredient.” Take for example her cardamom Basque cake to which Ketover will add a layer of Marcona almonds with a caramelized white chocolate coating in addition to dried corn. This last element is complemented by the sweet corn ice cream it’s served with.
But you don’t have to visit a fancy restaurant to enjoy the crunch. Crunchy desserts are all around us in the form of chocolate chips, sesame seeds, and salted caramel toffee. There’s the crunchy granola used in crisps and crumbles, plus tall and delicate parfaits, too. Other crispy garnishes we find in desserts include chocolatey pretzels, caramel corn, honeycomb, and even freeze dried fruit! Pralines and feuilletines are two more classic components.
Sometimes the textural crunch is the star of the show, and without it the dessert is a flop. They’re a key ingredient when it comes to making food satisfying. Take for example the Mexican shortbread, hojarascas, named after the crunchy and crackling sounds we experience when we step on crispy autumn leaves. Yes, the cinnamon cookies crumble just as you’d expect when you bite into them. Two more loud desserts hailing from Italy include biscotti and cannoli. The latter have even more of a crunch when you’re lucky enough to find little green pistachios in them! This feeling of a tingling sensation is sometimes addressed as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).
Interestingly, crunchy desserts may have the opposite involuntary reaction known as misophonia. Whole-brain MRIs show higher levels of myelination of nerve cells in individuals with misophonia, activating emotions like fear and anger. Common misophonic auditory triggers include chewing, crunching, swallowing, and talking with food in the mouth. While that last one should trigger negative emotions, it’s hard to imagine sitting through a movie while neighbours are enjoying buttered popcorn or sweet caramel corn!
Let’s hope you have more of an ASMR tendency that allows you to enjoy the crunchiness of certain desserts, like the crunch we get from tapping a spoon on the surface of creme brulee. For crunchy desserts near you search here.