Culinary Canvas

David Vidal’s Fairytale Forest on a Plate

A rich Dulcey chocolate mousse with cocoa sorbet and sea buckthorns from Sweden's west coast.

Words by Sophie Miskiw. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.

David Vidal’s intricate desserts are often born out of a simple idea: start with what’s available. In Sweden, that can be tricky but it’s certainly not impossible. Autumn in Scandinavia is far from barren, with a cornucopia of mushrooms, root vegetables, and berries ripe for the picking.

Sea buckthorn is one such berry, often growing in silvery-leafed bushes along Sweden’s rocky coastlines. It was this orange-yellow berry that sparked the idea for David’s dessert of Dulcey chocolate mousse with cocoa sorbet and sea buckthorn. The sea buckthorn is a raw ingredient which David, who grew up in Malta but has lived in Sweden for 15 years, didn’t encounter as a youth and so still holds a certain exoticism for him.

“I wasn’t brought up with sea buckthorn and so I’m always keen to try different combinations with it. It was November when I was creating this dish, so I used the sea buckthorn and then wanted to add something sweet to it. When I’m making a dessert, I want to have sour or acidity, always, and then something that’s sweet.”

For the sweetness, David went with Dulcey chocolate - a blond chocolate somewhere in-between white and milk chocolate. The deeper, toasty flavour has been popular among pastry chefs for some years and is beginning to acquire mainstream status. The chocolate itself is extremely versatile, with a taste not dissimilar to dulce de leche, and works well in many different forms, such as David’s Dulcey mousse.

“The Dulcey is so big in this, the taste is very powerful but I didn’t want it to overtake the sea buckthorn. I like desserts that are more sour, but that also probably comes from being a savoury chef before I started working with desserts.”

“I was really inspired by the idea of sea buckthorn in the forest. The colour of it is really awesome. It’s autumn so I like to use a lot of orange and yellow, and then I wanted the dessert to look like the forest, so I added some leaves and a tree branch and so forth.”

“I was really inspired by the idea of sea buckthorn in the forest. The colour of it is really awesome. It’s autumn so I like to use a lot of orange and yellow, and then I wanted the dessert to look like the forest, so I added some leaves and a tree branch and so forth.”

Despite having only spent the last five years of his twenty-year career working with desserts, David is evidently a natural. Even the composition “just comes together” in his head, he says, adding that he’s now arrived at a comfortable place where he has to test less and less when it comes to both presentation and new flavour combinations.

“With the taste combinations, I have some which I like to use and probably I won’t change them so much for a while. It takes a while for me to find something else that I want to try. And then when I do want to try something new I will, but it doesn’t happen every day.”

When creating new desserts David tries to stick to three main taste profiles, adding texture rather than extra ingredients. With this particular dessert, which has mousse as the focal point, he was keen to include some kind of bite - a resistance that stops it from being too creamy. The composition of the dish, with its autumnal theme, inspired him to decorate with chocolate leaves and a tree branch which adds the desired crispiness.

Words by Sophie Miskiw. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.