When one thinks of savory flavors, baked products or sweetgoods don’t customarily come to mind, but don’t mention this to the makers of Vosges Haute Chocolat, a Chicago-based company touting its new exotic chocolate bar flavored with applewood-smoked bacon and alder-smoked salt. Granted, this chocolate bar belongs in the confectionery category and not the bakery, but perhaps Vosges gives some indication that flavors are trending toward the “exotic” in multiple product categories.
Many ingredients in the savory flavor category not only add distinctive flavor, but add value as well. Flavors give bakers the option of replacing ingredients for a variety of reasons, which can result in unplanned and yet highly valued cost savings.
Made to order
Whether a flavor is savory or sweet, it can give bakers the opportunity to custom formulate products with distinction.
“We feel the types of flavors suitable for use in baked products are as endless as the mind’s imagination,” say Mary Maile, senior flavor chemist, and Cynthia Clery, senior principal food scientist, Innova Flavors–A Griffith Laboratories Co., Oakbrook, Ill. When asked about the types of flavors they would recommend for breads, pizza doughs, sweetgoods, bars, bakery fillings, muffins and cakes, Maile and Clery cited the following flavor concepts: Garlic flavor may be roasted, sautéed or fried; possible spice blends include Moroccan, Asian, Mexican or Italian; cheese flavors include Asiago, cheddar and bleu; chiles, such as guajillo, chipotle and cascabel, add a dimension of heat and smokiness; meat flavors, such as pepperoni, salami, ham, smoked ham or bacon, add their own distinctive character; and savory/sweet combinations, such as chipotle raspberry or bacon chocolate, add an interesting flavor twist to sweetgoods.
Stefan Strehler, senior development chef, Givaudan Flavors, Cincinnati, concurs that the possibilities for savory flavor use are limitless. “Think of savory puff pastry-based finger foods with a variety of spices or chopped ham and mustard rolled up in a croissant; savory muffins containing cheeses, bacon, ham, chile peppers; chopped puff pastry bars with sweet peas and shallots; and think of pizza dough and the endless possibilities of making pizza.”
Many bakers request flavors for breads, pizza and some sweetgoods, notes Doug Jump, national trade marketing manager, Puratos Corp., Cherry Hill, N.J. Puratos’ Sapore products include flavors that have a cheese, bacon, beef, salt or butter-enhancement flavor. “By using either our sourdough technology or yeast extract technology, we’ve been able to achieve an incredible amount and variety of savory flavors. One of the most popular is the enhancement of cheese flavors in baked goods,” Jump adds.
Dairy flavors are used not only for enhancement, but flavor masking as well. Ingredients used to achieve more nutritious, healthful products also can contribute off-flavors to finished foods. Dairy flavors, especially milk, cream and butter flavors, can mask off-notes in baked products, resulting in a more balanced flavor, notes Anand Rao, Ph.D., director of technical sales and services, Edlong Dairy Flavors, Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Savory dairy flavors, in general, blend particularly well with bakery items. “Aged cheese flavors add mouth-watering umami notes to complement the yeasty base notes of baked products,” Rao says. “Butter flavors also play an important role in enhancing the savory notes of cheese and cheese flavors.”
The versatility of flavors often sets these ingredients apart from others. “Flavors can be added to grain or fat-particle systems,” Maile says. A layering of flavors similar to that found in Nestlé Hot Pockets®, which incorporates the flavors of meat and cheese inside a sandwich pocket with another flavor mixed inside the bread dough itself, produces a finished product with a complex blend of base flavors and top notes. “Flavors provide uniform dispersibility in a complex product such as this,” Maile adds.
Base, mid and top notes form a flavor pyramid. “The base note delivers the savory impression, the mid note the distinctive flavor and the top note is the finishing touch,” Strehler says.
Process flavors characteristic of those generated during baking can improve the eating quality of a product. For example, a “fresh baked” flavor can give a frozen pizza a flavor profile reminiscent to that of pizza made fresh in an oven. In addition, certain flavors, such as aged cheddar or asiago, can enhance the sensory experience of baked breads, notes Carrie Schroeder, technical sales manager, Edlong.
Savory flavors not only add flavor complexity and dimension to a product, but also add value, in often unexpected ways. Flavors help reduce or replace an upscale, pricey ingredient not readily available to the market on a consistent basis, notes Clery. An ingredient with limited shelf life or one that requires refrigerated or frozen storage often can be replaced with a flavor. Even those ingredients that take up an inordinate amount of warehouse space become candidates for flavor replacement.
Many of these flavor usage ideas result in cost savings, as well as quality improvements. When a flavor is used to replace ingredients that have higher water activities, such as vegetables, fruits and certain dairy products, the shelf life of the finished product may effectively be increased, adds Clery.
Another quality-related benefit achieved by using savory flavors is flavor enhancement. “By using [one of] our cheese extracts, which enhances cheese aroma and taste, the amount of actual cheese used in the dough or baked product can be decreased,” Jump explains. “This gives our industrial partners the ability to reduce fat and actual cheese in a product, while increasing the sensory experience for the consumer. Aside from a reduction in fat and calories, these all natural bio-fermented flavors provide a clean label and meet the increasing demand for the use of all natural products.” One particular yeast extract allows for a 25 percent reduction in real cheese without sacrificing flavor.
Salt reduction is another growing market trend. “Though bakery products are naturally low in salt, some dairy products and seasonings can contribute significant levels of sodium,” Rao says. “By using savory dairy flavors and reducing the amount of dairy solids, baked products can be formulated to have lower sodium content without losing the overall flavor impact.”
Consumers also are seeking gourmet flavor experiences from baked products, adds Schroeder. Bakers can formulate products with gourmet cheese flavors, such as emmental, gorgonzola or brie, that give consumers a rich, sensory experience without having to incur the expense, storage and quality variability associated with authentic gourmet cheeses.
Although these gourmet cheese flavors are not quite as exotic as some of those used by Vosges Haut Chocolat, such as Indian green cardamon or Mexican ancho chiles, the baking industry may yet venture toward more unusual savory flavors as bakers strive for originality and quality improvements–all at a marginal cost.