Thursday, September 30, 2010

The essence of taste: How to give a flavor boost to sweet and savory dishes

(ARA) - The tastes and scents of holiday food are a source of cherished memories over generations. A whiff of grandma's vanilla-infused cookies is enough to put a smile on any face. The holiday table will always have room for time-honored traditions, as well as new interpretations of classic recipes. Chefs at restaurants and home cooks alike often have a secret weapon in their kitchen to give dishes that extra "something." Many times this weapon comes in the form of pure flavor extracts.

Adding pure flavor extracts to dishes can offer convenience and flavor without compromising your dishes. When pure coffee extract is added to cocoa it makes a delicious mocha drink, and you can even punch up the flavor of tea by adding a touch of pure lemon extract. Manufacturers like Nielsen-Massey offer top quality pure flavor extracts that are ideal for both sweet and savory fare.

The most exciting part of working with pure flavor extracts, for many cooks, is finding out how to make new and creative flavor pairings that are unexpected, and delicious. Vanilla and sweetness will always go hand in hand, but the flavor and scent profile of different types of vanillas can vary widely. Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract has a creamy, sweet, velvety flavor that is perfect for a range of products from baked goods to ice creams, salad dressings to barbeque sauces, while Mexican pure vanilla extract is known by its creamy, spicy flavor that has a special affinity for dishes that contain chocolate, cinnamon and other warm spices, and Tahitian pure vanilla extract is especially symbiotic with fruit-based products such as fruited yogurt and sorbet.

It's the variety and complexity that make vanilla perfect to experiment with in new and treasured recipes, from savory breads and meat rubs to soups. Home cooks can also intensify tastes with other pure flavor extracts such as pure chocolate extract that can add a rich character, without sweetness, or pure peppermint extract that can bring the standard pairing of lamb chops and mint jelly up to date.

The change of season is the perfect time to get in the kitchen and prepare delicious cool weather treats. The savory flavors of fall and winter are ideal to accent with extracts like orange, lemon or coffee. Try these recipes for entertaining and you'll introduce your guests to the sweet and savory sides of your cooking repertoire.

Rich Corn Bread
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon each salt and sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12 x 16 inch pan or large cast iron skillet. Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and vanilla. Add eggs lightly beaten with milk and beat until the batter is thoroughly blended. Stir in heavy cream and butter. Spread the batter into baking pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until well browned.

Golden Squash Bisque
2 acorn squash, peeled and quartered (about 2 cups)
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups (or more) organic chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 whole fresh sage leaves
1 cup heavy whipping cream, warmed
1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the squash in a covered baking dish with the water. Bake for 30 minutes or until fork tender. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and saute until golden brown. Whisk in the flour until blended. Add 1 1/2 cups chicken stock gradually, whisking constantly. Add the squash, salt and white pepper. Mash with a potato masher. Add the bay leaf and sage leaves. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove the bay leaf and sage leaves. Spoon the squash mixture into a blender. Add the warm cream a little at a time, pureeing after each addition. Add the orange extract. Pour into the saucepan and reheat thoroughly. If the bisque is too thick, you may change the consistency by adding additional stock 1/4 cup at a time.
Serves 4 to 6.

Mexican Hot Cocoa
1 cup powdered nondairy coffee creamer
1 cup fine granulated sugar (or powdered sugar)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla powder
1 teaspoons cinnamon

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container. To serve: Add 2/3 cup boiling water to 1/3 cup Mexican Hot Cocoa Mix in a sturdy mug. Stir. Top with marshmallows, if desired.

Any-Flavor Cookies
Any flavor extract can be used in this recipe, or they can be made entirely with vanilla extract. Chopped nuts can be added to the dough, or whole nuts or decorative sugar can be placed on top.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey pure extract (any flavor)
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, beat butter until soft, add sugar and mix well. Add the egg, pure vanilla and pure extracts and mix thoroughly. Add in the flour and salt and mix well. Shape dough into a log, wrap in waxed paper and chill until cold.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Thinly slice the dough with a sharp knife and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Makes 42 cookies.

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