Flavourings: exploring high gastronomy

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Let us enter the fascinating universe of high gastronomy, where the senses become the brush and palette with which a culinary masterpiece is created. In this sensory journey, taste and flavour are just the beginning of an experience that transports us beyond the tangible, into a realm of flavours, textures and emotions.

Imagine for a moment: you are seated at an elegantly set table, the soft light highlights the vivid colours of the dishes laid out before you. Before you take your first bite, your mind is already immersed in a ballet of sensations: the heady smell of ingredients, the promise of flavours that unfold in layers on your tongue, the anticipation of a culinary experience that transcends the ordinary.

But how do we really perceive flavour, and what role do taste and smell play in this gastronomic dance? Let us take you by the hand into the heart of this sensory experience.

The physiology of taste

The experience of sensory pleasure unfolds through taste, flavour, touch and smell, fusing our perception with the very essence of the senses. While touch connects us to the texture and temperature of physical objects, taste and smell immerse us in a chemical world, where our taste buds and olfactory receptors detect the molecules around us. It is through these senses that we truly taste the world around us, merging the tangible with the intangible in a unique sensory experience.

In the landscape of the tongue, palate and pharynx, our taste receptors are housed, tiny guardians that guide us through a universe of flavours. In total, we have about ten thousand receptors housed in the so-called taste buds, although some people have a higher number (up to 30,000), and therein lies their ability to better appreciate flavours.

The receptor cells are connected to nerve cords, so that the impulses generated reach the brain via one of the four cranial nerves, and there the signals are converted into what we call taste.

The number of receptors decreases with age, so that a young person can appreciate the sweetness of a water solution containing 1 gram of sugar per litre, whereas at the age of 70 it may take ten times as many to appreciate it.

We could say that the sense of taste is intrinsically linked to the fundamental taste sensations: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. These perceptions are distributed heterogeneously on the tongue, with sweet predominating at the tip, bitter at the back, and both salty and sour at the sides. In addition, we cannot overlook umami, a taste sensation associated with proteins, which is not perceived as a separate taste, but enhances and potentiates the other notes. This complex interaction between the different flavours offers a unique sensory richness in every mouthful.

But it is the sense of smell that adds the finishing touch to this sensory symphony. Have you ever noticed how a simple fragrance can evoke vivid memories or awaken dormant emotions? In high gastronomy, flavours are not just condiments, they are key to creating memorable culinary experiences.

Smell, that powerful sense that has been with us since birth, plays a fundamental role in taste perception. It is estimated that 70-80% of what we consider taste actually depends on the aroma of food, a symphony of up to 100,000 different smells that our olfactory receptors can interpret.

In fact, smell is the strongest sense at birth, which is how a baby recognises its mother. It has been estimated that 70-80% of the sensations we perceive as taste actually depend on the aroma of food. This can reach the sense of smell through the nostrils as a connection to the oral cavity during chewing and swallowing.

In the refined art of high gastronomy, flavourings become masterful allies. It is not a matter of replacing the raw material, but of enhancing, correcting or enriching culinary creations with delicate olfactory notes. From bringing out a hint of rosemary in a sauce to a hint of pepper with no perceptible texture, flavourings elevate the sensory experience to new heights.

For master chefs, flavourings are not just tools, but sources of inspiration and knowledge. They allow them to explore non-intuitive pairings and to refine the sensory analysis of each preparation. In this highly demanding world, the most natural aromas possible are valued, while recognising the value of creations that masterfully emulate nature.

Aromatic substances

In theory, the range of scents and flavours could be as extensive as the range of chemical substances or better still as the number of mixtures in various proportions that we can produce with the multitude of chemical molecules capable of interacting with our smell and flavour sensors. It is estimated that the human ability to distinguish between different smells is surprisingly wide, reaching up to 100,000 varieties, thanks to the approximately 1000 unique receptors present in our nose.

To detect a substance using our sense of smell, we need two conditions:

  1. It must be volatile (molecules that individually penetrate the nostrils).
  2. It must be a molecule whose structural properties (shape, polarity, etc.) give it the ability to act upon the olfactory receptors, i.e., it must be what we call an aromatic substance.

Flavourings in high gastronomy

In high gastronomy, flavourings are not simply additives, but multifaceted tools that elevate the culinary experience to a refined art. Unlike in the food industry, where flavourings can be used to replace ingredients, in fine gastronomy they are used for diverse and sophisticated purposes.

  • These aromas serve a variety of crucial functions: from highlighting flavours that have been lost during the cooking process, such as adding a fresh hint of rosemary to a sauce after preparation, to providing delicate nuances without changing the texture of dishes, such as infusing the flavour of black pepper without the physical presence of the grains.
  • In addition, aromas have the power to reinforce flavours that have not been fully developed due to the volatile nature of the ingredients, as in the case of a watermelon soup that requires an extra boost of flavour. They can also enrich preparations with subtle aromatic notes, such as a chocolate ice cream with a hint of ginger, creating a symphony of flavours in every mouthful.
  • They are not only limited to the culinary sphere, but are also used to create olfactory atmospheres in rooms and dishes, transporting diners to complete sensory experiences.

These flavourings not only enhance chefs’ sensory analysis skills, but also allow them to explore flavour pairings in abstract and innovative ways, adding an extra layer of complexity and depth to their creations.

In high gastronomy, the use of flavourings that are as natural as possible is valued, although the value of those that, being identical to natural ones, are true works of sensory art is recognised. In short, flavourings are not only a complement in high-level cuisine, but an essential tool for unleashing creativity and gastronomic excellence.

Types of flavourings

Liquid flavourings

Hydrosoluble liquid flavouring are formed using aromatic mixtures in a glycerin and inverted sugar base.

Glycerin is an emulsifier that helps flavourings to work in both aqueous and fat-based mixtures of up to 95% oil. Ideal in ganaches, sauces, mousses, ice creams and more.

Liposoluble liquid flavouring are formed using aromatic mixtures in a refined oil base.

Both hydrosoluble and liposoluble are made on the basis of making the concentration of aromatic substances adaptable to direct use.

These can be applied to: aqueous bases – the hydrosoluble ones, or fatty bases – the hydrosoluble ones.

Paste flavourings

They are combinations of concentrated ingredients with the addition of aromas and
colourants, mainly natural, adding a glucose base.

These hydrosoluble aromas are generally applicable to ice cream making, although they
can be applied to recipes like creams and mousses, etc.

Powder flavourings

They are produced with a maltodextrin base adding an aroma using impregnation or spray drying. They are used in preparations for we mainly need solids, such as snack coatings or in marinades. It is not recommended in pure fats because the maltodextrin base does not dissolve in the fat phase.

Top applications “flavourings”

In the following video “Top applications” that the entire Sosa Ingredients technical team has developed; you will find everything from simple recipes such as: “Rosemary Oil”, to a little more complete ones such as: Eclairs with amarena pastry cream.

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