A word to the wise: Don’t sleep on the dessert at Progress in Springfield, Missouri. Since the restaurant’s opening in 2018, pastry chef Kyle Davis has been the talent behind the sweet menu.
Davis created a milk and honey concoction, for example, that’s so popular, he keeps an iteration of it on every seasonal menu. Regardless of the creative spin, it always features milk jam, which is a viscous spread made from caramelized milk and sugar. Recently, his entremet garnished with edible flowers has been turning heads and attracting customers. He fashions the French-inspired dessert out of layers of almond-rosemary sponge cake, black tea mousse, blackberry gel, vanilla crémeux and a white chocolate glaze.
Before finding his niche at Progress, Davis explored multiple industry roles, beginning in college as a dishwasher at Tea Bar & Bites. He then stumbled into the baker position at Relics Antique Mall Tea Room and even worked in catering for Simply Delicious.
We caught up with Davis to learn more about his creative process and where he eats on his days off. He even shares his coveted recipe for the double chocolate chip cookies that his neighbors can’t stop eating.
What’s your favorite ingredient to work with right now? Lately, I’ve enjoyed working with hydrocolloids – that’s a fancy word for gelatin. Technically, it’s anything that’s a thickener, so cornstarch, powdered gelatin, agar. I’ve been using them a lot, as they allow you to build things that will then hold their shape. Have you ever seen really cool desserts that work and wondered, ‘How does that stay?’ Most likely, it’s some sort of gelatin. Gelatin will melt a certain way or coat your mouth, so it’ll seem like you’re eating something really rich. [Hydrocolloids] don’t have a flavor, per se, but they definitely translate the flavors of desserts and make them break down differently. It changes the way you taste the dessert.
What’s the most intriguing dessert you’ve made recently? It’s probably the entremet, which is a little dome cake. Entremets come in all different types, looks and flavors, but generally, they always have layers in them. I’ve always wanted to make them, and I was really proud of [how this one turned out]. I’ve done a few [other interesting desserts], but the entremet was the holy grail. It’s all technique-driven. I feel like I’ve finally gotten to that level that I can make something beautiful and have the flavor match.
In your opinion, what’s the key to the perfect dessert? There are a few things. You don’t want too many flavors, because then you taste it and you don’t know where it’s going. You need to be conscious of your flavor profile and what goes together and what clashes. You also need a variety of textures, like something soft and something crunchy. I think the timing is also important: If it’s summer, you want to serve ice cream or something that’s appropriate for the season. I think some of the best desserts are comforting; comforting things do get boring, but I still think there’s a way you could do a comfort item, put it through your thought process and come out with something that’s elevated. So, to recap, a simple flavor profile, a variety of textures and suitable for the season, plus some element of comfort. You have to meet people where they’re at.
What would be your ideal day of eating in Springfield? I’d start off with a pre-breakfast at Neighbor’s Mill [Bakery & Café]. The owners are super nice, very good people, and they make a great product. I’d probably get a cold brew and a croissant there, and then I’d definitely hit up Rise. They have fantastic bread, their avocado toast is amazing, and their grain bowls are super good – and I low-key hate grain bowls, in general. They have really good coffee, too. For lunch, I’ve been drawn to Team Taco and Skully’s [Ramen] a lot lately. At Skully’s, I always get the Shroom N’ Fu. Their tofu is different and just better – I don’t know how they do it. At Team Taco, I’d order nachos. After all that, I’d get an afternoon snack at European Café – their macarons are phenomenal. For dinner, is it shameful to say I’d come to Progress? Our menu right now is probably one of the best we’ve ever had. Or I would go to Harvest. I will say, one place I haven’t been yet but want to check out is Prairie Pie.
Where do you hope to see the local industry go? There’s a level that is “Springfield good,” and it's kind of the status quo. You’ve got your hometown heroes, and that’s great, but I think it’s also great that now people are really stepping out of the box and saying, ‘How can we look to other places for inspiration?’ When you go to Kansas City or St. Louis, there are so many good restaurants, you can just throw a dart. I would love to see that here, too, with more chef-forward places with menus and food that are thoughtful and intentional. We’ve got little pockets of that, so I hope that they continue to grow.
Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe by Kyle Davis, pastry chef, Progress
According to Davis, these double chocolate chip cookies have been a hit among his daughters’ lemonade-stand customers. Make them at home and give your family, friends and neighbors a taste.
Yields | approximately 16 cookies |
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp salt
- ½ Tbsp baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups dark chocolate chips
| Preparation | Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder; set aside. In a large bowl, add butter and sugars; using a hand mixer, beat, 3 minutes. Stop and scrape down bowl as needed. Add egg and vanilla; beat until incorporated. Mix in dry ingredients. Mix in chocolate chips. Once dough is well mixed, with no visible flour streaks, divide into meatball-size balls; place dough balls on prepared baking sheet, leaving a few inches in between each. Bake, 5 minutes. Rotate pan and continue baking, 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool. Enjoy!
Progress, 2144 E. Republic Road, Suite B101, Springfield, Missouri, 417.799.9388, springfieldprogress.com