Hedy Goldsmith's Nontraditional Approach to Desserts

As the executive pastry chef at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, Fla., the author of Baking Out Loud, a frequent guest on Cooking Channel's Unique Sweets and FN Dish's own resident dessert extraordinaire, Hedy Goldsmith isn't your average sweet tooth. She's been known to put a homemade red-velvet twist on traditional Twinkies and even bake pies in jars, so when FN Dish visited Hedy at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival last month, we knew we'd be in for a treat — and it turns out that we were greeted with an entire plateful of treats.

Speaking to a packed room at the Shelborne South Beach Hotel, Hedy along with Josh Wesson, a New York City-based sommelier and the co-founder of Best Cellars, offered guests an interactive seminar on the pairings of desserts and beverages, both wines and liqueurs. They agreed that the key to blending any food and drink is finding among them elements that are similar and contrasting, an idea that's similar to what Hedy follows when making her confections.

Known for expertly bridging the gap between sweetness and saltiness — the combination of which she describes as "the story of my life" — her signature creations are not typical desserts in that they're not overly sweet, and they utilize seemingly eccentric and out-of-place ingredients. To Hedy, baking is all about "checks and balances," not just between the amount of sugar and salt in a recipe, but also the flavors of the other ingredients she uses.

"I pair [a dessert] with things that aren't sweet, that really kind of change the way we perceive it," she explained. "By putting the pickle with it or something that's a bit salty, it really kind of helps compensate for the sugar."

At the seminar, she introduced a chocolate cake made with cardamom and vadouvan curry — a blend made with shallots and garlic — and served it with pickled cherries and coconut-ginger raita, a bite that's at once spicy and savory but still somehow sweet. "I think it's a great way to eat this rich cake, to have something to cleanse your palate," she said of the side of cherry chutney. "I'm all about balance … I want people to want to keep eating, so in order to do that, you have to play with the palate a little bit, you have to clean the palate up."

Her Chocolate Caramel Peanut Bars, a reinvented version of the classic Snickers, also managed to achieve that key balance between sweet and savory, thanks to one key ingredient: salt. She reaches for the salt shaker to prepare many of her desserts, but when doing so, she's careful to use only kosher salt, as anything else, like iodized table salt, would make her treats far too salty.

In what was perhaps the ultimate combination of sweet and savory, Hedy served guests something she deemed "meat candy": maple-laced pork belly that's been cured, smoked, and baked with sugar and molasses. Deliciously sticky and chewy-crispy, this treat is simply bacon at its finest — something that Hedy says "works on everything" and Josh called the "make-your-food-better helper."

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