Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tarts
iPhoneOgraphy – 15 Nov 2016 (Day 320/366)
Dessert is a course that concludes a main meal. The course usually consists of sweet foods and beverages, such as dessert wine or liqueurs, but may include coffee, cheeses, nuts, or other savory items. In some parts of the world, such as much of central and western Africa, there is no tradition of a dessert course to conclude a meal.
The term “dessert” can apply to many confections, such as cakes, tarts, cookies, biscuits, gelatins, pastries, ice creams, pies, puddings, custards, and sweet soups. Fruit is also commonly found in dessert courses because of its naturally occurring sweetness. Some cultures sweeten foods that are more commonly savory to create desserts.
The word “dessert” originated from the French word desservir, meaning “to clear the table.” Its first known use was in 1600, in a health education manual entitled Naturall and artificial Directions for Health, which was written by William Vaughan. In his A History of Dessert (2013), Michael Krondl explains it refers to the fact dessert was served after the table had been cleared of other dishes. The term dates from the 14th century but attained its current meaning around the beginning of the 20th century when “service à la française” (setting a variety of dishes on the table at the same time) was replaced with “service à la russe” (presenting a meal in courses.)”
Sweets were fed to the gods in ancient Mesopotamia, India and other ancient civilizations. Dried fruit and honey were probably the first sweeteners used in most of the world, but the spread of sugarcane around the world was essential to the development of dessert.
Sugarcane was grown and refined in India before 500 BCE and was crystallized, making it easy to transport, by 500 CE. Sugar and sugarcane were traded, making sugar available to Macedonia by 300 BCE and China by 600 CE. In South Asia, the Middle East and China, sugar has been a staple of cooking and desserts for over a thousand years. Sugarcane and sugar were little known and rare in Europe until the twelfth century or later, when the Crusades and then colonialization spread its use.
Europeans began to manufacture sugar in the Middle Ages, and more sweet desserts became available. Even then sugar was so expensive usually only the wealthy could indulge on special occasions. The first apple pie recipe was published in 1381. The earliest documentation of the term cupcake was in “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats” in 1828 in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook.
The Industrial Revolution in America and Europe caused desserts (and food in general) to be mass-produced, processed, preserved, canned, and packaged. Frozen foods became very popular starting in the 1920s when freezing emerged. These processed foods became a large part of diets in many industrialized nations. Many countries have desserts and foods distinctive to their nations or region.