Three Pleasures Dessert Winner

Three Pleasures Dessert OG 1

How Sweet It Is–and Healthy, Too! We all have a sweet tooth – some more than others. But we so rarely have that healthy sweet option available to us.


Last summer at the CIA’s Menus of Change conference, Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health mentioned his “three pleasures” dessert challenge, and National Geographic’s food blog, The Plate. The mission is to reimagine a dessert around what the department of nutrition calls the Three Pleasures: fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate, of course, CIA pastry chefs had to get their hands on this challenging project!


The challenge happened to fall on the same day we had to create a healthy dessert in our advanced pastry class with Chef Knaster, so it was a great opportunity to take it on. First things first, I had to wrap my head around creating a dessert with NO sugar! This was extremely hard but, working with so many great chefs, I was able to figure something out. If you think about, when you’re craving dessert, you are craving something sweet and decadent, and almost 90 percent of the time, that means extra added sugars, fats, and flours. When I think about creating a dessert, I think about how I can make an enjoyable dessert without the overwhelming amount of sugar that makes you feel uncomfortable rather than happy and satisfied.


Since we had the opportunity to work on this dessert in our class for the day, I had only one chance to make it perfect, so I could only attempt my recipes once.


For me, it is very difficult to come up with components first and then plate it. I have to first see the dish in my mind and draw it out in order to start thinking about the components. After I drew out my dessert, I had to think about flavor profiles. I thought about what are fruits that have natural sugars in them so that there wasn’t any need to add sugar. I came to the conclusion that my favorite fruits were the perfect fruits for this: coconut, passion fruit, pineapples, and mangos!


Next, I came up with a coconut foam bomb with yuzu roasted pineapples, chocolate almonds, toasted coconut crumble, and a nitrogen mango passion sorbet. As soon as I was ready to get my recipes together, I started adjusting each and every one of them by replacing the sugar with natural grape juice. I juiced the grapes and reduced the juice by half to use it as my sweetener. It served as a syrup to sweeten my dessert, but that also meant I had to adjust my liquid contents so that my recipes would set correctly!


My coconut foam was the most difficult adjustment I had to make. Having to adjust the gelatin level in my recipe just enough so that my mousse would hold was very challenging. Because my coconut milk had absolutely no sugar, every time I added more and more grape juice, the gelatin had to be readjusted to get a mousse consistency stable enough to hold my roasted pineapple insert and freeze enough so that I could dip it in chocolate. I wasn’t sure how sweet the dessert was going to come out. And I was afraid that if I added too much gelatin to the coconut foam recipe, it wouldn’t have the right mouthfeel. It took a couple hours of trial and error of adding small portions of reduced grape juice and gelatin until I got the right consistency for the coconut foam to set.

You never really realize how many unneeded fats and sugars we use until you actually have a challenge like this one, where you can’t use sugars, fats, or flour, to create a dessert. I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, so I often find myself looking for dessert replacements, but there never seem to be good options. As a pastry chef, sugar is known to be the number one ingredient in our recipes, but we rarely think about using natural sugars to replace the added sugars we use.


Even though making a dessert like this was a challenge, I look forward to creating more “Three Pleasures” desserts, because I think it also opens up the door to a new market for a more health-conscious consumer and for those who have dietary restrictions. It is worth the work to know that just because we are pastry chefs, we aren’t stuck with only one choice.  I mean it is dessert, but that doesn’t always have to mean added sugar!


Reduced White Grape Juice



Natural No sugar Added White Grape Juice                  1 Bottle



  1. Pour the bottle of juice into a pot and reduce by half to create a more concentrated liquid where we will use as our sugar supplement.
  2. You may need 2 bottles depending on how much you will use.

Roasted Pineapple



Pineapple                                                      500g

Reduced Grape Juice                                 200g

Lemon Juice                                                 25g

Vanilla Bean                                                 1ea



  1. Preheat oven to 325º F
  2. Cut pineapple to about ¼”  x ¼” x ¼”,  doesn’t have to be perfect because once they are roasted a lot of the sugars will break down the fruit.
  3. Place cut pineapple, grape juice, lemon juice, and scraped vanilla bean in hotel pan.
  4. With a spatula, mix all the ingredients together until the pineapple looks like it’s coated with the lemon juice, reduced grape juice, and vanilla bean.
  5. Put in oven at 325º F for 20 -30 min or until you start to see that there is barely any liquid left and the pineapples are a dark yellow with a little bit of brown from the roasting.
  6. Make sure to mix the roasted pineapple every 5-10 min to make sure they don’t burn and get roasted evenly
  7. Once done place roasted pineapples in silicone mold ( or if you cannot get these molds, another option is to half freeze the roasted pineapples and once they are still pliable but holds together grab about 1 ½ teaspoon and roll into a ball like clay.
  8. Keep in freezer until ready to insert into the coconut mousse.

Coconut Mousse



Gelatin Sheets                                                         23g

Reduced Grape Juice                                             120g

Coconut Puree                                                         1500g



  1. Bloom gelatin by putting ice water into a bowl and submerging gelatin sheets until hydrated. This takes about 4 to 5 minutes. Squeeze excess water from the gelatin sheet and throw away water.
  2. Bring reduced grape juice to a boil.
  3. Put bloomed gelatin sheets into the hot reduced grape juice to dissolve.
  4. Place coconut puree in a bowl and pour the reduction and gelatin mix over the coconut puree. (The coconut puree does not have to be completely thawed out the hot reduction will dissolve the rest.)
  5. Use a hand blender or whisk to make sure all ingredients are fully incorporated.
  6. Place in an ice bath and let rest for 30 min, make sure that you are mixing the in between to make sure it evenly cools down. (This mixture can sit in the refrigerator up to a week and due to the gelatin it will gelatinize but do not worry you can use a hand blender to bring it back to liquid form.)
  7. Once the mixture has completely cooled down, strain mixture into ISI (stainless steel whipped cream dispenser) and charge 2 times with N20 chargers. Shake the can vigorously and test until the mixture that comes out looks like a stable mouse that is not runny and holds its shape.
  8. Place the ISI in the refrigerator so that the mousse is stable when ready to use. If the ISI gets too cold and nothing comes out, place under running water and shake until the mousse comes out.

Chocolate Shell


64% Chocolate                                             500g

Cocoa Butter                                                 400g



  1. Fill a medium size pot with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Put chocolate and cocoa butter in a medium size bowl.
  3. Place the bowl that has the chocolate and cocoa butter on top of the boiling pot to melt chocolate and cocoa butter.
  4. Place in a cup that is deep enough to submerge the sphere and that can be microwavable if you see the mixture beings to thicken when dipping the coconut mouse spheres.
  5. Make sure the mixture is between 83º F when you are ready to dip.


Assembling Coconut Mousse Ball

  1. You will need a silicone sphere mold. (See
  2. Once you have all of your ingredients ready, dispense the coconut mousse into a bowl, then with a spatula, place the mousse into a plastic piping bag. Make sure you do not mix the mouse or move it around too much, because this will deflate it, and it will become liquid.
  3. Once your mousse is in the piping bag, cut about ¼ of an inch from the bottom of the bag and pipe the mousse to about ¾ of the way of the bottom half of the silicone sphere mold. This mold has a bottom and top to it; you will only be using the bottom part at this point so remove the top.
  4. Get the frozen roasted pineapple insert it half way into your piped mousse.
  5. Put the top half of the sphere silicone mold to seal both half’s of the mold together.
  6. With the rest of the mousse in your piping bag, slowly fill the rest of the mold, trying to void all air pockets. If there are some air pockets, you can lightly tap the mold on the table and fill the remaining air pockets to the top.
  7. Run your fingers around the top half of the mold to make sure your mousse has not lifted the top from the bottom. This will also make sure any remaining air pockets are pushed out and will leave you with a perfect sphere.
  8. Put into freezer for about 2 hours until completely frozen so you can unmold a smooth sphere. If when unmolding, the mousse it is not smooth that means it is not ready to unmold, so leave in the freezer for longer. And if the mousse separates from the roasted pineapples, lightly push down on the sphere to stick them back together and leave in the refrigerator for longer until ready.
  9. When ready to unmold, you must work quickly. Cut the bottom of the sphere (the excess from the mousse filling), smooth it out if needed, and place on a sheet pan or plate to freeze for another 10 minutes.
  10. Warm up the Chocolate Shell mixture to 83º F and strain into a cup. The cup has to be big enough to dip mousse spheres in.
  11. Have a plate covered with 3 layers of plastic wrap ready for when you are dipping the mousse spheres.
  12. Put a skewer halfway into the sphere and dip into the chocolate shell mixture completely, take out quickly and tilt straight up while spinning the skewer so the excess drips to the bottom. The chocolate shell will set very quickly because the mousse is frozen. Make sure you do one sphere at a time and place the rest in the freezer.
  13.  Once coated, place the top of the sphere on the plastic wrap, and put a little bit of pressure on the skewer while spinning the skewer to release it from the chocolate.
  14. There will be a hole that you will smooth out and close with the heat of your hand and a little drop of the chocolate coating once the bottom has set. You can flip the sphere over to its bottom and repeat to the rest of the spheres.
  15. Once done, put in the refrigerator so that the mousse will thaw out for about 2 hours (or for 1 hour at room temperature).

Pineapple Caviar



Cold Vegetable Oil                                                  As needed

Agar                                                                            5g

Reduced Grape Juice                                             30g

Pineapple Juice                                                       300g

Pineapple Juice                                                       600g



  1. Before starting this mixture you must have really cold vegetable oil ahead of time in a tall glass.
  2. Combine the Agar and Reduced Grape Juice, making sure that you hydrate the agar completely and don’t let it form clumps.
  3. Add 300g of pineapple juice and the agar mixture, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
  4. Place 600g of pineapple juice into the blender with the pineapple-agar mixture and blend for 1 minute.
  5. Scrape the bubbles that are made from the mixing of the blender and pour into a squeeze bottle.
  6. Drop, one drop at a time, into the cold oil. Little caviar orbs will form on contact with the cold oil and fall to the bottom.
  7. Strain caviar using a fine mesh strainer. Rinse well with water.
  8. Store caviar in water until ready to use.
  9. Lay on a paper towel-lined plate and pat dry.

Toasted Clusters



Almonds                                                                    130g

Dark Chocolate                                                        100g

Salt                                                                             1pinch

Cocoa Butter                                                             100g

Coconut Shavings                                                    130g



  1. Toast chopped Almonds and Coconut shavings separately until golden brown in a 300º F oven Check after 5 minutes and then if not ready check after every minute. Let cool in refrigerator.
  2. Melt dark chocolate and cocoa butter in water bath to 83º F.
  3. Once your toasted almonds and shavings have cooled down, pour the melted chocolate and cocoa butter over them until they are lightly coated.
  4. Add salt to taste and place on a plate or pan with parchment paper in refrigerator.
  5. Once the chocolate has set you can break the clusters to the size you’d like.

Chocolate Branches 



Dark Chocolate                                                        300g



  1. Fill a large bowl to the top with ice water (70% water 30% ice).
  2. Melt chocolate to 83º F and place in piping.
  3. Cut about 1/8 of an inch from the tip and drizzle at a steady stream into the ice water.
  4. Move the ice to the side when piping in the area. (Tip: the faster you make the figure 8 the straighter the branches will come out.)
  5. Once you see they have set, take them out of the ice water and place on a plate with paper towels and put in the refrigerator.
  6. Break them to the size you’d like.

Mango Passion Sorbet



Gelatin Sheets                                                         15g

Mango Puree                                                            500g

Passion Puree                                                         250g

Reduced Grape Juice                                             125g

Salt                                                                             1pinch



  1. Bloom gelatin in ice water. Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatin.
  2. Bring reduced grape juice to a boil; pour over gelatin to dissolve.
  3. Whisk remaining ingredients into grape juice gelatin mix until everything mixed together.
  4. Strain into ISI and charge 2x with N20 and shake vigorously until a loose foam comes out.
  5. Keep refrigerated until needed. (If liquid sets in canister because it is too cold, and nothing comes out, run under hot water and shake until light foam come out.)
  6. When ready to serve, pour nitrogen into a bowl about so it’s about an inch deep and dispense the passion mango foam into the bowl with nitrogen and smash with a ladle to create smaller chunks. Note that nitrogen evaporates quickly so make sure you are finished with the plate, and this is the last thing you have to put on. Always be careful when working with nitrogen.


By CIA Student Brenda Villacorta