There are a few things that people love to see when they eat food. First of all, presentation is key. They are willing to pay for the looks of it so they can seem up scale when the photo lands on their foodstagram or snapchat. How many times have you heard words among these lines: “Eh.. it wasn’t that great but I bought it for the aesthetics” ,”buy it for the insta”, “overpriced but aesthetic”…. sigh, it’s very telling. Food nowadays is all about show, especially in this generation where with the click of a button, the world of social media can see what you are currently eating right now.
With that being said, aesthetic does not need to be expensive. I wanted to gift a nice dessert to a colleague but did not know what to make. I made a japanese fluffy cheesecake but didn’t love how it turned out, I made cream puffs and was annoyed that they weren’t the same size, I made a roll cake which I had accidentally overbaked… so my last resort was boxed brownies. I felt so defeated because I had really stooped this low, but I knew brownies, let alone boxed ones, were impossible to mess up. I had planned to make an extravagant dessert and ended up with my box of $2 Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix. At least I knew it’d be decadent and taste good. But then… I gathered up a few ingredients in my pantry while the brownies were in the oven and realized I could make these brownies look from $2 to $15. No JOKE. With sugar, butter, flour, chocolate chips, cream, and chocolate chip cookies, I elevated these brownies to the next level. “I’m on a new level” as A$AP Ferg may say.
Here are the simple tips that can elevate any dish:
- A simple pattern or design: elegant, and shows an extra step of skill in baking.
- Contrasting colors: a light on dark or vice versa makes the food pop. Looks more 3D and is more enticing to the human eye.
- Monochromatic colors: shades of a single color is very desirable as well. People love monochrome and explains why ombre is so pleasing to look at.
- Texture: In terms of appearance and taste, people love texture. People love crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside, or smooth with a crunch. Ice cream with crushed cookies or gummies are appealing because it adds texture.
- Layers of texture: This is a difficult one because too much can be overwhelming, but the right amount is perfect. I’m talking smooth on top of crunchy, on top of sharp on top of…. you know, the list could go on.
- Packaging: This is key because it’s the first thing that is seen. Before opening a box, packaging gives the first impression. Of course they sayings goes “paying for packaging”..
- Mini or bite size: Ever seen a bundt cake and thought you didn’t want it? Well what about bite size bundt cake… all of a sudden you do want it. It’s because it has become finger food and no plates or utensils are required, and it’s so adorable that it’s irresistible. This is exactly why cupcakes cost so much more than cakes and why donut holes are more desirable than donuts.
And with that being said, transformation of boxed desserts is rather simple once you know how to apply the rules.
With the supplies I had, I did the following:
- Made the cookie crumb topping from my Full-proof puffs recipe and let it set at room temperature to form a swirl for pattern and contrasting colors. [white on black]. Cookie crumb topping was reduced to about 1/4 since I didn’t need that much.
- Pour 3 tbsp hot heavy cream over 4 tbsp chocolate chips to form a ganache for layers of texture. Ganache was drizzled on brownies.
- Crush 1 chocolate chip cookie into coarse crumbs (large and small crumbs included for texture and monochromatic colors. Cookie crumbs will partially stick onto the ganache.
- Cut the brownies into small 1″ x 1″ squares and fit them into a box that already had squares in them for packaging and bite size. It’s difficult to find a box with square placements in them so this definitely isn’t required.
- Lastly, tie a bow on the box if it is a gift and leave a cute note.
Hopefully after reading the guide, you can elevate your next box or cake, dessert, or cookies. Wow your guests when in reality you probably only spent $2 and used whatever you had at home :’) Tricky huh?