What We're Watching: 'Dessert First' with Anne Thornton

Anne's approach to desserts is refreshingly decadent and unapologetic, but also refined.

It's been quite a while since the Food Network aired a quality baking show. The channel's most recent venture into the sweet side of cooking was Gale Gand's Sweet Dreams, a show that I watched avidly when it aired from 2000 to 2008. Sure, there's Ace of Cakes for the reality junkies and Cupcake Wars for those enthralled by low-stakes competition and hyperbolic commentary. But the Network is undoubtedly dominated by savory chefs, who show us how to chop, sauté, and broil everything under the sun—except dessert.

Personally, I think food television gets no better than the luscious folding of egg whites into chocolate mousse, the beating of cake batter, or the dolloping of whipped cream on a pile of fresh fruit. So I was pretty excited when I heard word of a new show coming to Food Network this month: Dessert First with Anne Thornton. I had high hopes but low expectations as I checked out an advance copy of an upcoming episode. After all, the Network is inexperienced in pastry food porn; could they pull it off?

Thornton, whose most recent culinary gigs were as head pastry chef at the Waverly Inn and later at Hotel Griffou in New York City, is a great host. She tends towards the overly bubbly, but her food looks so delicious that one can understand her excitement. For this episode, she made a salted creamy caramel sauce that she then draped over two different desserts: apple turnovers, and banana pudding pie.


Anne smothers her bursting pie with whipped cream. [Photograph: Food Network]

It's already apparent that this show is not for those afraid of a sugar rush. Anne's approach to desserts is refreshingly decadent and unapologetic, but also refined. Take for instance her banana pudding pie. This dessert consists of a Nilla wafer crumb crust, which is then filled with layers of homemade vanilla pudding and bananas drenched in salted caramel, with whole wafers studded throughout. The finished pie is draped in whipped cream and looks like it weighs about five pounds.

And yet one can easily assume that this pie is not a sugar bomb. Anne makes restaurant desserts accessible to the home cook. That is to say that her recipes, while indulgent, are still classy. Her expertise is apparent in both her narrative and her finished product. Overall, this show is not fluff—accompanying Anne's flirtatious smile are some serious baking tips.

I'd love to see even more sweet original programming on the Food Network, but Dessert First is a great start. And Anne's Red Velvet Brains Cupcake could make the perfect spooky Halloween treat for your holiday!

Check out Chef Anne Thornton on Dessert First, premiering Sunday October 24th at 12pm ET, on the Food Network.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves consuming and learning about as much food as possible. She blogs at Feasting on Providence.