Mostly, when menu planning, I give dessert an exemption from a dinner’s theme. So long as the sweet fits the balance of the meal–airy after something heavy, rich in the wake of something light, or easy after a main that requires full attention–there’s no imperative to seek total authenticity in terms of nationality or style or tradition.
That’s why I surprised myself when, tasked with bringing dessert to a sushi-and-soba dinner at a friend’s, I fixated on green tea flavors and couldn’t dissuade myself once I’d begun. On the Wednesday before, I ordered a supply of matcha online and started to brainstorm.
My mom helped. My first idea was a green frangipane tart with apples or pears. She bested me with a matcha meringue pie. I spent a lot of time picturing an emerald-hued coconut custard filling topped generously with swirls of billowy toasted meringue. I bookmarked the best coconut custard recipes. But then I wondered if I wanted to hide the green color, rather than show it off. And, would my friends endeavor to cut and eat a whole slice of pie after dinner on a Saturday night? After more reflection, the matcha pie seemed overwhelming and hard to transport. I stored the concept away for an afternoon barbecue at our place.
After cycling through cookie concepts and ice cream ideas, I ended up where I should have started: with my irresistible, addictive, and delicious old friend, chocolate bark. In addition to tasting great and looking charming, bark is an accessible dessert, meaning that even those who claim they didn’t leave room will try some. Like mini cupcakes, bark wants you to acquiesce, and saying yes is as easy as nibbling on piece after piece–far less daunting than cutting into a meringue pie.