Smokin’ Desserts

Smoking for me has almost always been about the meat. Whether it is a brisket, pork shoulder, chicken wings or a fillet of salmon, I am happy to smoke it. I dabble with smoking vegetables. Well actually, jalapeno peppers, stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon, might just be my most smoked item. But other veggies like tomatoes and onions do not get smoked near as often. I enjoy smoking nuts and cheeses as they really do enhance the flavour. But up until recently, there was one kind of food that I had rarely smoked – desserts.

I only got into smoking desserts about a year ago. I remember watching a food show on TV where someone smoked some yogurt for a dessert and I was quite intrigued. I am all about trying new things, and using my Bradley Smoker for desserts was a lot of fun. Also, I discovered that adding some smoke to a dessert can add both complexity and depth to a dish. Now it didn’t work great every time, and I quickly learned that some desserts work with infusing some smoky flavour notes much better than others. But hey, that is the fun of cooking – you try new things and sometimes you find a real winner of a dish!

Here are a couple recipes that work very well by adding an infusion of smoke to the menu.

Smoked Strawberry Shortcake

Smoked Cheddar and Jalapeno Shortbread

This past week I tried to smoked something else – vanilla beans. I always keep vanilla beans on hand as they are far superior to vanilla extract and awesome added to creamy or custard based desserts. I wondered how smoking the whole vanilla bean would turn out, so I gave it a try and smoked a few of them. It is the seeds inside the vanilla bean that are used in cooking, so I cut a slit down the bean and opened them up to reveal all the seeds. The smell of a vanilla bean is incredible. I placed them on a sheet of foil and placed that on a smoker rack. I smoked the beans at 200°F using apple wood for one hour. I used one vanilla bean for some rice pudding and I was so impressed with the smoky notes that were added to the dish. It was not overpowering at all, but instead added some complexity to the dessert.

Tips for dessert smoking

  • Be delicate. While smoking meat allows you to blast a lot of smoke onto meat for prolonged periods of time (meat can take a lot of smoke), typically smoking for dessert requires a more delicate approach. Depending on the food being smoked and how quickly it absorbs the smoke, I might smoke it for only an hour or so. You may need to test a small batch first to see how strong the smoke flavour is.
  • Instead of smoking the whole dessert, try smoking one component of the dessert. For the recipes mentioned above, I smoked one ingredient prior to making the dessert (strawberries, cheese, vanilla beans). This allows the smoke to be a subtle addition to the flavours of the dessert instead of being overpowering. Consider smoking cream for ice cream, nuts for pecan pie, etc.
  • Use some of the milder wood options. Personally, I have found that fruit woods like apple and cherry work great for dessert smoking. I have also liked the results with alder and maple. Wood like mesquite is really strong and may be too much for dessert smoking.

By Steve Cylka.