Rooting for Parsnips

The humble vegetable joins the pastry party

Most home cooks reserve the parsnip for roasting, mashing and blending into soups. But pastry chefs know better: This humble, earthy root vegetable can become the foundation for intriguing winter desserts.

"Parsnips sound like an odd thing to put into dessert, but for me their natural sweetness and delicate flavor matches my idea of what dessert should be," says pastry chef Danielle Pruett of Portland, Oregon's Clyde Common.

Last winter, Pruett's parsnip cake garnered much applause from her hipster clientele (pictured; click here to download the recipe). This year, she plans to expand her parsnip-based offerings with a chocolate-parsnip tea cake and a huckleberry-and-white-chocolate-cream trifle served with apple-parsnip sherbet.

And Pruett isn't the only chef playing with parsnips this season. Pastry chef Elena Balletta of New York's Counter restaurant tops her vegan parsnip cake with cinnamon ice cream, while chef Slade Rushing of MiLa in New Orleans takes the vegetable in an entirely new direction by juicing it to make the base for a frozen parsnip soufflé.