By Ron Ben-Israel, contributions by Kate Kenny and Nikki Junda
Ron Ben-Israel has raised the bar on the newest season of Sweet Genius with more unusual techniques and inspired flavor combinations. That made the Sweet Genius team think back to the previous seasons. After revisiting the best moments from the episodes, they narrowed down the 10 best ingredient inventions from Seasons 1 and 2 — the creations that truly impressed them.
1. Jessica Mogardo
Dessert: A Formaggio di Fossa and Lime Gelée
Episode: 210/Serpentine Genius
Mandatory Ingredient: Formaggio di Fossa
When I gave the chefs formaggio di fossa — a soft, pungent Italian cheese with a strong flavor — I wanted to taste something absolutely new. Chef Jessica Mogardo more than accepted this challenge when she created Formaggio di Fossa and Lime Gelée. The tartness of the lime toned down the pungency of the cheese and Chef Jessica managed to transform a creamy, heavy dairy product into a perfectly blended, luscious and light-as-air gelée. A remarkable bite and a genius idea.
2. Regis Courivaud
Dessert: Dark Chocolate Bar Filled With White Chocolate and Artichoke Ganache
Episode: 201/Dancing Genius
Mandatory Ingredient: Baby Artichoke
In my kitchen, embracing the mandatory ingredients and making new discoveries is the path to genius. Chef Regis Courivaud’s Dark Chocolate Candy Bar Filled With White Chocolate and Artichoke Ganache was truly remarkable. He transformed a potentially stringy green vegetable into a lush, decadent artichoke ganache inside a perfectly tempered dark chocolate coating. An unforgettable candy bar.
3. Dorian McCarron
Dessert: Dark Chocolate & Lobster Crêpes
Episode: 205/Magic Genius
Mandatory Ingredients: Quince Paste and Lobster
The world of desserts is limitless. In Magic Genius, I asked the chefs to use fresh lobster to create a genius cake. I was enamored with Chef Dorian McCarron’s stacked crêpe lobster cake. Chef Dorian crafted a seemingly impossible balance of flavors by preserving the buttery character of the lobster meat, while evading a seafood flavor by pairing the lobster with naturally sweet quince paste and dark chocolate ganache. The soft, sumptuous crêpes were sheer dessert magic.
4. Anisha Jagtap
Dessert: Caviar Cream Puff
Episode: 103/Candied Genius
Mandatory Ingredient: Domestic Caviar
It is delightful to see the chefs take risks in my kitchen. That is why I was so pleased with Chef Anisha Japtap’s baked dessert plate. Chef Anisha encased small round beads of domestic caviar within a larger round cream puff, cleverly using the spherical shape of the cream puff to mirror the mandatory ingredient hidden inside. With every bite of Chef Anisha’s cream puff filled with a delectable pineapple pastry cream, I received small bursts of flavor from the perfectly preserved caviar. Maintaining the structure, shape and flavor of the domestic caviar within the cream puff took great risk and great skill.
5. Alina Eisenhauer
Dessert: Trio of Sands: Marrow, Chocolate and Peanut Butter
Episode: 107/Dark Genius
Mandatory Ingredient: Marrow Bones
I was utterly surprised to taste Chef Alina Eisenhauer’s Trio of Sands dish. I gave her a challenging mandatory ingredient, marrow bones, which she turned into an airy powder using tapioca maltodextrin. She then tempered the rich, savory flavor of the bone marrow powder by presenting it with both a chocolate powder and a peanut butter powder. And since sand was the test’s inspiration, Chef Alina’s choice was especially ingenious. Perfect. Unexpected. Fantastic.
6. Amos Hayon
Dessert: Dark Chocolate Wheatgrass Bonbons
Episode: 106/Hidden Genius
Mandatory Ingredient: Wheatgrass
Nothing is better than a well-balanced dessert, especially when the chosen flavors are bold and burst to life with the first bite. That is what I experienced when I tasted the dark chocolate wheatgrass bonbons that Chef Amos Hayon made for me. What really made Chef Amo’s bonbon stand out was his ability to extract enough of the wheatgrass flavor to counterbalance the sweetness of the white chocolate interior and elevate the bonbon into a wonderfully sophisticated adult treat.
7. LaSheeda Perry
Dessert: A Tiered Galangal Sponge Cake With Jackfruit Syrup Filled With a Galangal and Jackfruit Custard
Episode: 207/Puzzled Genius
Mandatory Ingredients: Galangal and Canned Jackfruit
I love surprises. And the sponge cake that Chef LaSheeda Perry made for me using galangal and canned jack-fruit was truly surprising. The two mandatory ingredients I gave her are both bold and intense. Chef LaSheeda fashioned a wonderfully aromatic and creamy custard using both mandatory ingredients and a light galangal sponge cake soaked in a subtle jack-fruit syrup. The result was a transformation of adventurous ingredients into a delicate, moist cake, perfect for tea time and perfect for my Buckingham Palace inspiration.
8. Erin Gardner
Dessert: Layered Vanilla Chiffon Cake With Tahini Buttercream Covered With Toasted Quinoa and a Blood Orange Sabayon
Episode: 204/Baby Genius
Mandatory Ingredients: Tahini, Quinoa and Blood Oranges
What was so remarkable about Chef Erin Gardner’s Taj Mahal-inspired vanilla chiffon cake was the skill required to produce such a cohesive, controlled and fully balanced dessert using three unusual mandatory ingredients. I was so delighted to see Chef Erin fully embrace the tahini paste by showcasing it in her buttercream covered with the very complementary toasted quinoa. Add to that a gorgeous blood orange sabayon, and I had in front of me an exciting new dessert. She took seemingly unrelated ingredients and interwove them into a well-balanced whole.
9. Torben Bang
Dessert: Dark Chocolate Wasabi Candy Bar
Episode: 102/Global Genius
Mandatory Ingredient: Wasabi Root
Fresh wasabi root is difficult to use because exposing the fresh gratings from the root to air will cause the wasabi to rapidly lose flavor. Chef Torben Bang worked quickly to arrest this process and lock the spicy, elusive flavor of the wasabi root into a creamy ganache. By adding ginger and sesame seeds to this ganache and encasing it inside a perfectly tempered candy bar, Chef Torben created a memorable and satisfying treat.
10. Natalia Machado
Dessert: Tres Leches Cake With Black Beans and Sugar Sticks Paired With a Black Bean Ice Cream
Episode: 209/ Genie Genius
Mandatory Ingredients: Black Beans and Sugar Sticks
Tres Leches cake is usually a very sweet treat and that is why I was so surprised by Chef Natalia Machado’s astounding balance of flavors in her Tres Leches cake made with black beans and sugar sticks. She adjusted the classic Mexican recipe by replacing some of the sweetened condensed milk with sugar sticks. She then used the black beans to enhance the creaminess of the cake while curbing its sweetness, producing a surprising depth of flavor. To top it all off, she paired her cake with a black bean ice cream, creating a unique take on a familiar dish.