The American South is well known for it’s sweet tooth. So am I. Sometimes I even find it acceptable to begin a meal with a slice of decadence.
If you share my passionate pursuit of the sweet life, I bet you’d really love to have a list of must-not-miss Southern desserts: a Southern dessert bucket list, of sorts.
Chef Suggestions are the Best Suggestions
I often ask chefs where to find their favorite menu items or a favorite in a category. I let these recommendations guide me when I visit new places or am rediscovering familiar areas. I’m always in awe of the adventures that these referrals take me on. I’ve followed a chef’s suggestion down an alley in Chinatown, waited 60 minutes in line at a food truck, detoured from a road trip 50 or so miles off the beaten path, and gladly forfeited a hotel room to afford a recommended meal. I never know what may come, but I’ve never been disappointed!
For some reason, when I ask my chef friends for suggestions, we don’t usually discuss dessert. But honestly, the dessert is sometimes the most memorable part of my dining experience. So, I decided it was high time I asked a few Southern chefs where they’ve found their most memorable desserts. I asked. They answered.
And here we are. Now, you can join me in setting out to find these sweet edible gems. May I present the Southern Dessert A-List, y’all!
The Southern Dessert A-List
He says, “Their play on banana pudding is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Creamy, dreamy deliciousness. It brings back a sense of nostalgia combined with a flair for the modern. I could eat two servings a day, every day.”
Vishwesh Bhatt, James Beard Best Chef South nominee and Executive Chef at SNACKBAR in Oxford, Mississippi says he recommends The Butterscotch Pudding at La Petite Grocery in New Orleans and the White Chocolate & Peach Bread Pudding made by the pastry team at SNACKBAR.
Vish says, “The Butterscotch Pudding is everything I think a dessert should be. It is decadent but doesn’t overwhelm. Great flavor. It adds to the great savory courses.” He adds, “The White Chocolate & Peach Bread Pudding that is on the new SNACKBAR menu is one of my all time favorites. The fresh local summer peaches are just so good.”
Nealy says she prefers sweets in the morning, which is why she chose this treat. She says, “It’s hands down the most delicious sweet treat one will ever eat! Potato flour makes this doughnut cakey but still moist and gives it a melt in your mouth taste. The maple glaze on top gives it just the right amount of sweet. I could eat one every single day if I lived closer!”
“I’m a sucker for salt and caramel,” Alex says. Yes, I know that pairing is as old as dirt, but it’s always delicious. What makes Coquette’s dessert so good was it took only that very basic combination, and through various textures and temperatures, made it seem completely brand new.”
Kelly Fields, Executive Pastry Chef at Willa Jean in New Orleans, Louisiana recommends the Hand Pies made by Lisa Donovan, at Buttermilk Road Sunday Suppers and former Pastry chef at HUSK in Charleston and Nashville.
Kelly says, “Everything about that pie was perfect: the crust, the filling, the ratio of filling to crust. As simple as it is in theory, the experience of thoughtfulness and care to each part of the whole was a revelation.”
Martie describes her favorite dessert, “The cake is four layers with a rich coconut filling made from eggs, butter, sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut. The icing is so creamy: made from heavy cream and confectioners sugar with tons of toasted coconut. The special touch: they plate it in a pool of rich vanilla creme anglaise. I’ve never had better. I have the recipe and have made it a couple of times, but it always seems to taste better when Ms. Dol makes it!”
He says, “Too many donuts to name, but one of my favorites was the Vietnamese Iced Coffee donut, filled with pastry cream and tapioca pearls, topped with a coffee glaze. Fantastic.”
Whitney Miller, winner of Masterchef: Season 1, Cookbook Author and Chef at The COOP in Plant City, Florida says her top dessert pick is the Turtle Cheesecake from Cotton Blues in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Whitney says, “I have never been a cheesecake fan until I tried this one. The crust is unbelievable. It has a sweet brittle like crust that provides a crunchy texture. The cheesecake is creamy and light not dense like most cheesecakes. Then there is the warm topping which reminds me of a pecan praline and caramel combination with chocolate. It is absolutely over the top good. I love it so much that this was my wedding rehearsal dinner dessert. Shaun Davis, the pastry chef is very passionate and creative.”
>> So, there you have it, the Southern Dessert A-List! What would you add to the list – and where is your first tasting stop?