Posts Tagged ‘parmesan’

TGRWT #9: Chocolate tagliatelle with parmesan cream

Monday, February 25th, 2008

chocolate-pasta-5.jpg
Chocolate pasta suspended for drying.

For this round of TGRWT I decided to use the recipe (Chocolate Carbonara with Parmigiano Reggiano Cream and a Chocolate-Dipped Grissini Wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma) by Masaharu Morimoto which I’ve blogged about previously. I was quite intrigued by that recipe and wanted to try it! So here it is, converted to metric units with some small adjustments. The original recipe called for 4 eggs, but this rendered the pasta dough to hard. I added two of the whites which were left over from the sauce. BTW this is why one of should better weigh out eggs instead of count them (too bad I didn’t think about his from the beginning so I could have weighed the eggs I used). The original recipe called for bread sticks with chocolate and prosciutto di Parma which I skipped (but which nonetheless sounds like a good accompaniment – as you’re probably aware of meat and chocolate also go very well together!).

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Glutamic acid in tomatoes and parmesan

Friday, July 6th, 2007

mono-sodium-glutamate.jpg
Pure mono sodium glutamate from Taiwan

A recent article (found via Harold McGee’s News for curious cooks) featuring Heston Blumenthal as a co-author emphasizes the huge difference in glutamic acid contents between the flesh and pulp of tomatoes. Glutamic acid and it’s sodium salt (mono sodium glutamate or MSG) are responsible for the characteristic umami taste. On average the flesh contains 1.26 g/kg glutamic acid whereas the pulp on average contains 4.56 g/kg glutamic acid. Similar differences are found for several nucleotides which posess similar taste qualities. These differences can explain the perceived difference in umami taste between the flesh and pulp of tomatoes – and is worthwhile considering when cooking.

Those concerned about food with added MSG should read the chapter about MSG in John Emsley’s excellent book “Was it something you ate?”. First thing to note is that you can’t be allergic to MSG because our body needs glutamic acid to function properly. Emsley retraces the history of the Chinese restaurant syndrome (CRS) back to it’s roots in 1968 when a letter was published (R.H.M. Kwok, New Engl. J. Med. 1968, 278, 796) describing a series of symptoms experienced after having eaten at a Chinese restaurant. To make a long story short, in 1993 Tarasoff and Kelly reviewed previous studies and conducted a double blind test which led to the following conclusion:

… ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ is an anecdote applied to a variety of postprandial illnesses; rigorous and realistic scientific evidence linking the syndrome to MSG could not be found.

Following the publication, a critical reply was published by Adrianne Samuels, to which the authors have replied.

Anyway, it was in John Emsley’s book that I first read about the record levels of glutamic acid found in parmesan cheese: 12 g/kg! That’s nearly three times the amount found in tomato pulp. In some cheeses there is so much that it crystallises out in small white crystals visible to the naked eye. Think about this when you sprinkle your food with parmesan. And if you ever wondered why Italian food tastes so nice, now you know that MSG is one reason (but of course not the only one …).

pasta-tomatosauce-parmesan.jpg

Two flavour pairing case studies

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

In previous posts and comments I have suggested that flavour pairings based on key odorants could be explored by looking at odor activity values (= ratio of volatile compound to it’s threshold). If two foods share one or more key odorants, chances are that they will go well together. It is also reasonable to assume that the more key odorants are shared, the more similar the flavours will be and the more likely it is that the foods will blend well and match each other.

Having initiated the TGRWT event I figured I should try to see if there was any OAV data available for coffee, chocolate and garlic. I was lucky to find OAVs for coffee (both arabica and robusta beans) and cocoa. To compare coffee and cocoa I sorted the flavour compounds in a descending order based on the OAV, keeping only the 20 first compounds. I turned out that 7 out of 20 key odorants in coffee and cocoa are shared, corresponding to 28/25% and 39% respectively of the total “odor activity” (= sum of OAV of top 20 odorants). Here’s the whole list:

coffee-chocolate-oav.jpg
(I hope the authors stuck to the IUPAC naming conventions as I did not take the time to check if synonyms were present in the compounds lists)

To compare this with a random pairing I search for more OAVs and found data for parmigiano reggiano and mango, so I repeated the excercise. Among the 20 odorants with the highest OAVs respectively for coffee and mango there was no overlap. A neglibile overlap was found between cocoa and mango: one odorant (linalool) was present in both with OAVs corresponding to 0.03% and 0.05% of the “odor activity” respectively. The fact that there is no overlap between coffee or cocoa and mango does not imply that they don’t go well together, only that their key odorants don’t match. Parmigiano reggiano and cocoa however had a lot in common, as seen from the table below. In fact 6 out of 20 key odorants, representing 36% and 89% of the “odor activity” for parmigiano reggiano and cocoa respectively.

parmesan-cocoa-oav.jpg

The degree of overlap between parmesan and cocoa is in fact better than for coffee and chocolate when judging by the percentages (albeit with one less odorant), so this pairing will certainly be included in a future TGRWT event! A quick google search revealed that chef Masaharu Morimoto has come up with a recipe combining cocoa and parmesan:

Chocolate Carbonara with Parmigiano Reggiano Cream

Chocolate Pasta:
1 pound all-purpose flour
4 eggs
½ cup cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Pasta Sauce:
2 cups cream
4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano

For the Chocolate Pasta:
Sift flour and cocoa powder together and knead in the eggs and olive oil for 15 minutes. Rest for another fifteen minutes then roll and cut in a pasta machine. Heat up a pot of lightly salted water and boil pasta until al dente.

For the Pasta Sauce:
In a medium sauce pot scald the cream. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, Parmigiano Reggiano, and sugar. Temper this mixture into the hot cream and bring to a light simmer, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any OAVs for garlic, so I haven’t been able to verify the triple pairing forming the basis for TGRWT #1. The claim was that coffee has dimethyl sulfide in common with garlic, and methyl pyrazine in common with chocolate. The table above confirms that coffee and chocolate have several methyl pyrazines in common, but dimethylsulfide is not among the 20 key odorants in coffee. This puzzles me, but there could of course be other volatile compounds that garlic shares with coffee. There should also be quite a difference between raw garlic (not to mention between whole, crushed and possibly even minced) and roasted garlic. If I overlooked something (or perhaps a paper with OAVs for garlic), please drop me an email about this. The OAVs of garlic could easily be calculated if data on volatile compounds in garlic and threshold concentrations are available.

I did a search on coffee, cocoa and garlic on The Good Scents Company website as described previously and found the following compounds either naturally occuring or used for recreating the aroma of coffee, cocoa and garlic:

  • 5-methyl furfural (found naturally in all three, used for coffee and garlic)
  • benzothiazole (found naturally in cocoa, used in all three)
  • 2-furfuryl mercaptan (found naturally in coffee, used in coffee, garlic cocoa)
  • isovaleraldehyde (found naturally in coffee and cocoa, used in all three)
  • ethyl methyl sulfide (found naturally in coffee and cocoa, used in coffee and garlic)
  • bis(2-methyl-3-furyl) disulfide (used in all three)
  • butyraldehyde (found naturally in all three)
  • S-(methyl thio) butyrate (used in all three)
  • isopropyl mercaptan (found naturally in garlic, used in coffee and cocoa)
  • So there are obviously similarities similarities between coffee, chocolate and garlic, but the question is whether these compounds are key odorants or not.

    It’s only fair enough to add that the concept of odor activity values has it’s limitations. Some are related to matrix effects, because thresholds are not necessarily recorded in a matrix mimicking the food product. Possible synergies between flavour compounds are disregarded (examples are known where sub-threshold concentrations are detected in the presence of other volatile compounds). Also, the underlying assumption that the odor intensity increases linearily is not quite correct. The typical intensity vs. concentration curve is more ‘S’ shaped with an expansive, linear and compressive region as shown below. At low concentrations (expansive region) synergism (also known as hyperadditivity or mutual enhancement) is observed. At high concentrations (compressive region) antagonism (or subadditivity or mutual suppresion) is observed. This means that a high OAV overestimates and a low OAV underestimates the impact of the individual compounds. This also means that the odor activity percentages calculated for the pairings above should be take with a pinch of salt. In between these extremes normal additivities are observed.

    intensity-vs-concentration.jpg

    Even though OAVs are not phsychophysical measures of the perceived odor intensity, they compare quite well with models that take different aspects of sensing into accout. The validity of the found OAV can also be tested by a recombination of the flavour compounds to see how good it imitates the original product studied. I can recommend the freely downloadable article “Evaluation of the Key Odorants of Foods by Dilution Experiments, Aroma Models and Omission” (DOI: 10.1093/chemse/26.5.533) for those interested in reading more about the science.

    Despite the drawbacks and limitations I think OAVs can and will be helpful when studying the flavour pairing hypothesis.

    Tips: You can read more about OAVs in books which are (partly) available through Google books.