An ethnic twist
November 12, 2015
by Donna Berry
Currently, one of the biggest flavor trends is adding traditionally ethnic elements to American staple foods. By adding such flavors to everyday, all-American baked goods, consumers find comfort in the familiar and are more willing to explore new flavors they might otherwise be hesitant to try.
“As more people travel outside of the US and experience other cultures, more innovation will hit our US food markets, and the demand for more ethnically inspired foods will continue,” said John True, food scientist, director of regulatory compliance, Integrative Flavors, Michigan City, IN.
According to Lisa Stern, vice-president, sales and marketing, LifeSpice Ingredients, Chicago, the fusion of unfamiliar flavors in everyday foods is stronger than it has ever been. “For example, ranch seasoning can be jazzed up with wasabi for an Asian take, poblanos for a Mexican twist or aji armarillo for Peruvian flare,” she said. “These flavors work topically on crackers and other snack foods.”
Consider a long-time American favorite. “Apple pie has long been served with a slice of cheddar cheese,” said Jean Heimann, culinary scientist with LifeSpice. “That cheddar could have chipotle peppers. As for New York-style cheesecake — well, how about giving it a twist with some matcha?”
Matcha is finely milled green tea powder made from premium green tea leaves. Its traditional use is in Japanese tea ceremonies, but it is fast becoming popular as an ingredient — in sweet and savory foods — for its healthy antioxidants, as well as its fresh and herbaceous taste, according to Rona Tison, senior vice-president, corporate relations, Ito En (North America) Inc., New York. “Innovative matcha applications include cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies,” she said. “It also readily blends into coatings, frostings and icings, adding both color and flavor.”
Indeed, many traditional Asian flavors are being recreated in unique ways in familiar baked goods. “Imagine a mini cupcake with the sweet floral notes of lychee, topped with diced lychee fruit,” said Cindy Cosmos, senior flavor chemist at Bell Flavors & Fragrances.
Pairing ethnic ingredients, such as miso with butterscotch in a cookie filling or cardamom and pomegranate molasses in a pear upside-down cake, gives consumers a feeling of new and different, while still satisfying their desire for classic sweets, according to Mr. Rasmussen.
Asian desserts and flavors are also starting to grow on their own. “Pandan, a Southeast Asian plant with a nutty aroma of sweet coconut and jasmine rice, can be used to flavor a custard filling for Boston cream donuts or as a flavoring in the batter of a classic Southern coconut cake,” Mr. Rasmussen said. “Other Asian ingredients such as sweet red bean, ube, calamansi lime and coconut milk are showing up in traditional American sweet goods, while some more savory profiles, such as sriracha, gochujang, seaweed and toasted sesame are making their way into dinner rolls and crackers.”