Heating things up

by Donna Berry
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Few ingredients can highlight a food like the wide range of flavor and heat profiles found in varietal chili peppers, according to Michael Swenson, director of business development at Sensient Natural Ingredients, Turlock, CA. “From spicy to bitter to sweet to savory, chili peppers span the flavor wheel.”

There are more than 2,000 varietal chilies used in cuisines around the world. “Reaching deep into our Asian sources, we have identified some great hot red chili types like Byadgi and Devanur deluxe,” Mr. Swenson said. “From our South American growers, we source milder, sweeter varietals such as mirasol and panca.” All of these can be incorporated into baked goods, either as a subtle addition or as a big, bold, characterizing flavor.

“When we pair savory and sweet, or sweet and heat, finding the right ‘bridge’ that offers the perfect balance between the two is important,” said Nestor Ramirez, division chef at Sensient Natural Ingredients. “People love macarons, and we’ve seen many fruity or nutty flavors in the market. There is opportunity to update the sweet fillings with chili, but going with habanero would be too far. A chili with mild-to-medium heat that complements fruits and nuts would be ideal, like guajillo, jalapeno or aji panca, and then we have new macaron flavors like guajillo berries, jalapeño pistachio and aji panca mango.”

Bell recently launched a line of sweet to fiery-hot pepper flavors to spice up any taste profile. “With one in four people throughout the world eating chili peppers every day, we see a growing captivation with the range of flavors and heat that chili peppers deliver,” said Kelli Heinz, director of marketing and industry affairs. “In the US, we see many embracing exciting new varieties, such as the aji amarillo from Peru, which has more fruity notes, or the guajillo from Mexico, which has more sweet and smoky notes.”

Using some of these varietals, along with other flavorful ingredients, makes it possible to turn familiar baked goods into an adventure. Peppers work particularly well in flatbreads, tortillas and snack crackers. But desserts are not off limits.

“Interesting new flavors include combining citrus with herbs and spices, such as white pepper, lime and vanilla in granola bars, cupcakes frosting and cookies,” Mr. Augustine said. “We see some interest in trying pepper extracts, such as cayenne and chipotle in chocolate brownies and cookies, or cinnamon combined with capsicum in quick breads and cinnamon rolls.”

Pepper heat can also come in the form of adding hot sauce to batter or dough. New opportunities are now possible with the introduction of a spray-dried version of the original Louisiana hot sauce.

“Our new spray-dried flavor can readily be used in dry mixes for the baking industry,” said Judson McLester, executive chef and manager of ingredient sales, McIlhenny Co., Avery Island, LA. “It can be applied topically to snack foods or baked into biscuits, crackers and even cookies. It can even be included in a glaze or filling.

“At low usage levels, you don’t really get the heat, rather the ingredient functions as a flavor enhancer,” he said. “It’s flavor followed by heat.”
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