Aah, the essence of it all

special ingredient

What gives an ice-cream its flavour or a baked item like cupcake or muffin their perfect smell? It is the essence which when added to any dessert or confectionery item adds its flavour to it. 

Essence, also known as flavorant is not a new ingredient in food, since it has been used for ages - right since the time when humans learned the technique of extracting perfume from flowers! The purest form of water released from the flowers like rose or kewra have been mixed with traditional desserts like petha and kheer for that special flavour.

Today, you may not easily get the natural food essence and even if you do manage to lay your hands on something authentic, chances are it will be very expensive. Today, the authentic has made way for the synthetic, which are nature-identical or so their makers claim.

Basically, they are the chemical equivalent of natural flavours but chemically synthesised rather than being extracted from the source. These include almond essence, peppermint essence, vanilla, butterscotch, lemon, rum,  strawberry, mixed fruit, pistachio and banana - which are usually added in baked items, ice creams and fruit drinks.

“Essence is used in desserts and confectionery to add flavour or remove a certain kind of flavour from food items. For instance, in a dish prepared with eggs, one can add vanilla essence to remove the smell. To add flavour to dishes like soups one can add almond essence to the same,” says Executive Chef Suman Sharma of Tonino Restaurant.

She advises that essence should not be mixed with other preservatives. “Food essence should be prepared from natural sources. Even if you are using artificial essence then too, add only an appropriate quantity so that it does not overpower or ruin the actual flavour.”

“People can also go in an alternative. It could be use in fresh fruit puree or as an ingredient that you wish to add to the dish you prepare,” she says.

According to her, there are no health benefits of the food essence because it is synthetic. “Moderate quantity is most suited and will never harm one’s health but of course if one could get natural ingredients that would be the best,” says Suman.

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