This post is sponsored by Sweet Street.
When it comes to desserts, just about anything goes with today’s adventurous eaters. It’s no longer the sweet tooth that prevails when diners are choosing baked goods, ice cream and other confections — salt, heat and umami are having their moment as well.
The combination of sweet and salty has been a pastry chef secret weapon for ages. A sprinkle of salt intensifies the flavor of chocolate desserts, and salted caramel has a much more complex flavor than one made with just sugar.
Umami takes things one step further by bringing a savory element that has become synonymous with craveabilty. The so-called “fifth taste” appeared in the dictionary for the first time just last year, Food & Wine reported, but the idea of umami as a flavor booster is more than a century old. A Japanese scientist first discovered and named umami in 1908, according to the Umami Information Center.
It took several decades for the term to gain traction in the US, but it has become a go-to for chefs and food manufacturers looking to create dishes that diners can’t get enough of. In fact, a group of chefs surveyed for the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2020 Culinary Forecast named “Japanese umami” among the top five flavor profiles for this year.
A wide range of ingredients — from meat and mushrooms to seaweed and cheese — can lend umami to dishes, but miso is one of the most popular for dessert applications. Dessert company Sweet Street tapped into the savory flavor of the fermented soybean paste for its newest cookie, called Zoe’s Crush.
“In Zoe’s cookie, miso is the savory element that makes it so ‘crazy in your mouth’ addictive,” said Solmon, who explained that the flavor of the cookie is a result of several layers of umami. Toasted almonds and sesame, as well as fermented single-origin Peruvian chocolate, add additional umami flavor that complements the miso. In addition, the complex cookie also features toffee and candied ginger.
“All these ingredients were chosen intuitively through taste memory and impulse, with the goal of creating an ‘umami bomb,’ layering ingredients that create the mouth- watering sensation of umami over and over,” said Sweet Street founder and CEO Sandy Solmon, whose daughter, Zoe Messinger, developed the cookie in honor of Sweet Street’s 40th Anniversary.
For pairing and plating options to boost the umami level even further, Solmon and Messinger suggest rolling a scoop of vanilla bourbon ice cream in a crumbled Zoe’s Crush cookie, or brushing a swathe of smoked caramel across the plate and topping with shards of caramelized bacon.
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