Plating & Styling Brownies

My students always want to make fancy desserts and who can blame them! This lesson teaches them a little about plating and styling foods, using brownie desserts to help accomplish the mission!  After learning about plating and styling desserts, students practice by making, plating and styling brownies.  They also must create a feature for a restaurant menu based on their results!  I like this lesson, activity and lab because it’s a great mix of activities. Plus, students get to use technology, create food, apply creativity and eat all in one lesson! My students loved this and were super proud of their accomplishments…I’m confident yours will too!

Set

  • Bell Ringer: Explain the quote “You eat with your eyes first”.  Many responses will include the idea that if it looks good or is visually appealing on the plate then we will be more likely to eat or try the food.
  • The truth is how a food is plated or presented has a lot to do with our food experiences.  If it looks visually appealing, studies show we are more likely to try a food and maybe even like it as opposed to something just thrown together.
  • Ask: Who is responsible for how the food looks on a plate?  That depends!  If you’re at a restaurant, it would be the Chef or Food Stylist.  If you are at home, it would be whoever is preparing the food such as yourself or your parent(s).

Materials

  • iPads or Laptops
  • Screen or White Board
  • Cameras or Devices with Cameras
  • White Plates (optional)
  • Decorating Syrup (I like Smuckers)
  • Bamboo Skewers
  • Lab Ingredients

Activities

  • Discuss most people preparing food at home are not going to put forth all of the effort that chefs or food stylists do in restaurants as it’s time consuming and just not realistic or practical unless you are planning a big event. While all foods should be presented in a visually appealing manner, we are going to focus on plating desserts
  • Begin by looking at simple tips for plating desserts effectively via this article titled “10 Tips for How to Plate Desserts for Restaurant Style Results“. Students will write the tips and briefly explain why it’s effective on the provided note sheet.
  • Have students use this information to analyze a dessert.  I typically project a dessert picture onto the screen and as a class analyze it via the included questions.  Then, I have them count off and individually analyze another visually appealing dessert for a grade using the Dessert Analysis Photos.
  • Students learn about the 4 components of a plated dessert by summarizing the information and including examples from this website.  The guide sheet is provided below.
  • When a chef plates a dessert, they often do so as they were painting on a canvas.  Use the video links in the lesson below to see how creative you can be with decorating syrup.  Label and draw 8 designs on the provided guide sheet..  Discuss which one you think would be the simplest to recreate.  Most difficult?
  • Now for the fun part–students are given the following scenario:  A new restaurant is opening in town and you have been asked to create a brownie dessert for the dessert menu. You will create a visually appealing brownie dessert for this new restaurant, applying your knowledge of plating desserts.  You will receive a  brownie, decide how you want to plate it and then photograph, name and write a menu description for your decadent brownie dessert.
  • Students will select between a brownie recipe or mix.  I allow mixes as my class is only an introductory class, not a culinary class so their experience level is still pretty basic.  However, I do provide an easy recipe for them if they want to attempt a scratch version. I also provide a list of possible ingredients they may choose 3 from.  This helps to keep costs to a minimum. I also buy the Smuckers Plate Scapers for them to use because it is an introductory class. **Note:  You may also want to bake a pan of brownies and provide each person with one to ensure they have a great brownie to work with and you don’t have a lot of extras.
  • Once students have have their brownies, each student plates/styles a brownie to photograph from several angles. Of course, after photographing, students may eat their efforts!
  • Finally, students upload their brownie photos into a Dessert Menu Project Template and complete the prompts by naming, describing and analyzing it with the provided criteria

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