Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tip #167: Maximize Flavors with Umami

‘Tis the season for experimenting with flavors. Research has shown consumers are more open to trying new products and flavors seasonally. Familiarize yourself with this secret flavor weapon to ensure your flavors offer maximum impact that customers won’t soon forget!

Dating as far back to 350 BC, Aristotle first identified the two most basic tastes, sweet and bitter. Thanks to Aristotle and other inquisitive minds, most of us are familiar with the four basic tastes identified by the human palette; salty, sweet, bitter and sour. It’s only been since 2002 that umami has been identified as the fifth taste.

Umami makes a great partner with chocolate because it can balance the bitterness of cocoa and enhance sweetness. Often described as “savory,” “delicious,” “dimensional” and “mouthwatering,” the characteristics of umami are difficult for most of us to discern and even describe. However understanding how to harness the fifth flavor could unleash a secret weapon for chocolatiers.

At the very basic level, umami shares similar characteristics to salty and savory flavors, which can be found in hard cheeses, pickled vegetables and cured meats. Although even the most daring chocolatiers would have a difficult time incorporating many umami ingredients into a truffle, some ingredients are more versatile than others.

Tiramisu and cheesecake are popular desserts made with fresh cheeses, however chocolate and parmesan are not unheard of. Take it from these daring cheese lovers for inspiration on how to make taste buds melt with desire for this flavor combination.
Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles with Parmesan, Wisconsin Cheese

Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps with Chocolate and Sea Salt, Whole Foods Market

Black Truffles
The more obscure of the two “truffles” in the confectionery industry, the earthy flavor of a black truffle marries quite well with chocolate and nuts. The Mast Brothers of Brooklyn create their own blend of 74% cacao with Oregon black truffles and sea salt for their seasonal Black Truffle Chocolate Bar, available October through May.
Mast Brothers Black Truffle Chocolate Bar

Gearharts Fine Chocolates takes salted caramels to the next level by adding Japanese Miso and toasted sesame seeds to their caramels.

Miso Caramels, Gearharts Fine Chocolates
The coveted bacon may already be gracing your shelves, but Sir Francis Bacon’s play on sweet and salty peanut brittle with umami-rich bacon is sure to leave bacon lovers drooling for more.
Sir Francis Bacon Chocolate Peanut Brittle

Sake is another source for umami flavor. It has been said that sake accentuates the taste of chocolate more so than fine wine. Xocolatti incorporates sake distilled from Thai-style rice into their ganache as a pleasantly surprising complement to the dark chocolate.

Xocolatti Sake Truffles

If incorporating these umami flavors into your product line puts you well beyond your comfort zone, start by simply adding a pinch of kosher salt to one of your current pieces for a little added umami zing. Note how it changes the flavor and share your experience.

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