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This week’s obsession: The Mathematics of Extracts

Wow, what a boring title!

Sorry about that! I know that most of us don’t want to ever think about doing math on the weekend, but sometimes one must go to great lengths to achieve great things. And to me, doing math is a great length.

But if you're with me on that, never fear! I’m here to help explain a bit about why math is important to baking and why you’ll REALLY want to do what I’m calling “extract math.”

To begin our journey to math today, let’s start with why we even need extracts. Especially since I’ve been avoiding extracts (aside from vanilla) for most of my baking career. You see, I grew up learning how to bake simple things like muffins, cookies, and brownies, and just about every recipe I used included vanilla extract. This was always a normal, necessary ingredient (you can read all about it in one of my very first blog posts) and I never thought about why it was acceptable to me but no other extracts were.

That is until I started testing out very mild extracts on occasion. The first one being almond extract. In New Orleans, almond extract is used to create a flavor often called “wedding cake” and even as a child I absolutely knew that I did not want anything that tasted like wedding cake. But why?

I truly believe that it's because of the the type of extract that was used to make almond flavoring, and trust me we’ve come a long way in the world of extracts so it's gotten a lot better since I was a kid. But growing up, I used to hate any kind of flavoring because it tasted so chemically to me, and I basically just wrote them off. However, I noticed recently that a lot of my baking colleagues have been using extracts and making incredible flavors, so I started dabbling a bit. The knowledge that successful pastry chefs were ok with these extracts coupled with the fact that no amount of squeezing and/or zesting fresh fruits could get me the bold flavors I envision for my products really pushed me into trying it out.

I decided to dip my toe into the world of extracts by figuring out what the most popular brand is amongst my peers. Hands down, that brand is Amoretti. I signed up for their website, got my 10% off coupon, and started browsing.

It took me a very long time to make my way through their website because holy moley they offer a ton of products!! Eventually I settled on their orange zest extract because I knew I wanted to make a chocolate and orange macaron, so I got the smallest bottle available (when I say dip my toe into the world of extract, I mean I barely brushed my toe into the water. BARELY.).

The beauty of extracts though is that a little goes a looooooong way, so I knew that even though it was merely a 2 fl. oz. bottle, I would likely get a ton of use out of it.

Now, this is where the extract math comes in. Thankfully, Amoretti provides the usage amount right on the label of their products, so you don’t have to guess how much to use. But in order for the usage amount to make sense, you must follow one of my other rules about baking: weigh your ingredients.

To determine how much of the extract to use, you must first know the total the weight of the recipe that you’re making. For example, here is the recipe I followed to make my chocolate ganache:

  • 100g semisweet chocolate

  • 100g heaving whipping cream

  • 20g butter, room temp

  • 5g vanilla extract

My recipe has a total weight of 225g. The orange zest extract has a food use level of 1%, meaning that the amount of product I need to use is equivalent to 1% of the weight of the ingredients - in this case, 2.25g. (The Amoretti website has a worksheet to help you figure out this number as well, but it is a bit more intense than calculating the percentage the way I did). I like to round, so I used 2g of the product in my ganache, and it is PERFECT! The flavor is bright and citrusy, without any hint of chemical flavors. And there shouldn’t be because the only thing in the extract is orange zest and vegetable oil.

If you're wondering why I can't just juice or zest an orange directly into the ganache, the answer is that I can, but merely putting zest in the ganache won't be as flavorful as the extract. If I wanted to fresh squeeze the oranges into the ganache, I would need to use so much orange juice that the consistency of the ganache would change from pipeable (think toothpaste consistency) to extremely fluid (like tomato soup. Or freshly squeezed orange juice.) For my needs, the extract absolutely made the most sense.

Once my ganache set up, I piped it into my lovely little orange mac shells for a delicious, zesty, and deeply chocolatey dessert that I hope you will all enjoy because I will be adding it to my menu soon.

And since my shipping testing has been going fairly well, you should be able to order these from anywhere in the U.S. so you, too, can taste what all the extract hubbub is all about.

New packaging, who dis?

If you happen to take a peek at the Amoretti website, let me know if any extracts/flavors strike your fancy for delicious new mac flavors to try. I’ve already tested out the birthday cake flavoring and will be adding that to my menu shortly, too!

Birthday Cake macs!

Happy eating, y’all!

If you tried this dessert, or any other desserts in my blog, please share my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posts about them and let people know what you think! Mahalo!

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