Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Extracts & Flavorings

I'm going to pause our cake assembly, to take a moment to discuss extracts and flavors. As you can see, I have a bit of a collection (this isn't all of it), and I'm still collecting more. Flavorings can take a baked good or candy to the next level. Homemade marshmallows are fantastic, but homemade POMEGRANATE marshmallows?!?! Out of this world.

Now, you might think, "Why can't I just use pomegranate juice in my candies or cakes? Why the flavor/extract?" Well, baking and candy making are . . . science. Acids, bases, exact temperatures, exact ratios, are all part of baking and candy making. It's kinda funny that The Physicist is not a fan of baking, but, I guess he's The Physicist, not The Chemist. (The Physicist is a big fan of candy making, but that's more dealing with temperatures, which I guess is more physics-y.) So, if you're making something that needs to puff in the oven, you're counting on a specific reaction of acids and bases, so adding orange juice (an acid), could possibly keep your cake from rising. BUT, adding orange flavor, keeps all your ratios in line, and lets you have that punch of flavor. Also, if you want the flavor of something chunky, like a nut, in something smooth, like a ganache, nut flavorings can be a lifesaver.

I should also mention that a little goes a long way with extracts and flavors, and the potency varies depending on what extract you're using. I tend to add a ton of vanilla to baked goods, but I wouldn't add nearly as much peppermint to anything (peppermint = very strong!). Always give it a good sniff before you add anything, to make sure you know how strong it is.


  1. Where do you find the more obscure flavorings? Do you order them through a specific catalog or website? And is there one particular brand that you prefer (I noticed that a lot of the bottles have similar labels)? I have a very small collection of extracts, but they're all McCormick brand :)

  2. April, King Arthur Flour is your new best friend. I get a lot of my obscure ingredients from them, like nut flours, black cocoa powder, and flavorings. Also, Penzey's is a great resource for extracts and spices. There is one in the Strip District.

  3. I love baking and candymaking, probably because that's the closest this former chemist gets to chemistry anymore. ;-)

  4. I love baking, but our oven is unreliable so I haven't been able to do as much as Id like. Thanks for the resources!