Smell of the Day: Homemade Bread

Homemade bread

Homemade bread

Smell of The Day is about noticing and appreciating the smells around me. Just one smell. It might be a perfume, a fragrant flower, the odour of something cooking, an unpleasant smell. All smells are equal. All smells are interesting. All smells affect us. Smell of The Day posts will feature one smell that made an impact on me that day.

Smell of the Day: Homemade Bread

Yesterday Olly Technic, my partner in crime, made bread. It’s a recent obsession of his. Olly’s always been a mad connoisseur of bread, beer, and all things yeasted, but recently has immersed himself in the art of making bread, thanks to the discovery of James Morton’s book Brilliant Bread in a local remainder book shop a couple of weeks ago. So yesterday, with Olly making a wholemeal wheat loaf, the house smelt of bread for four hours.

First, the measuring and mixing stage, during which the scent of dusty, grainy wheat flour predominates. The yeast and salt are dry until the water is added, and don’t really permeate the air as smells yet. Once the water is added and the yeast is left to do its microbial thing, the smells of salt and yeast fill the kitchen, fungal and wet, slightly funky, a bit cheesy. Through the various stages of rising and shaping the smell of yeast gets wetter and stronger. Finally, the baking of the bread, and a smell so good, so toasty, warm, a tad salty and reeking of nourishment, that I want to devour the whole loaf.

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A Taste of Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima

Recently I was fortunate to receive a Discovery Kit from Italian niche perfumer Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima to review. “Odori d’Anima” translates as “scents of the soul”, and this is certainly a soulful collection of perfumes, with interesting and emotive concepts underpinning them that collectively seem to hint at a yearning for the complete expression of the soul, a longing and nostalgia for the past, and a respect for the elemental beauty and wild spirit of nature.

The kit features samples of the entire range of Mendittorosa’s seven fragrances, presented in the most beautiful way with information cards and decorative packaging, all arriving sealed in a golden envelope. In fact, Mendittorosa’s packaging for their bottled perfumes is beautiful too, and sculptural, as you will see in the photographs below. The packaging has been designed in Italy, with the interesting bottle caps and metal features being crafted by hand.

Mendittorosa is a small-batch production perfumery, and sources its materials from Grasse, in the South of France. All of Mendittorosa’s fragrances are designed as unisex, to be worn by women and men.

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Mendittorosa Discovery Kit

Mendittorosa is the brain-child of Stefania Squeglia, who founded the house in 2011, after an epiphany about her true purpose in life, at the base of the Stromboli volcano in Sicily.

“It was here on this island at one of the most southern points in the Mediterranean that
Stefania Squeglia was gifted with her true vocation in the form of a memory that had been
out of reach until that moment: as a young girl in Naples, she would take the glass jars her
grandmother used to store homemade tomato sauce and fill them with foraged rose petals and oils. She would then hide them in the dark to discover them later. Erupted. Changed.” (courtesy of Mendittorosa marketing brochure)

Stefania works with perfumers Amelie Bourgeois and Anne-Sophie Behaghel to create the Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima range.

Today I will present to you a taste of Mendittorosa, a glimpse at and an impression of each of their seven fragrances. I have worn each of these fragrances a few times now, but to give each of the fragrances full justice would take a full blog post for each. Consider these mini-reviews to be an introduction to Mendittorosa. They are meant to convey how the perfumes smell to me, how I feel about them, and hopefully they will pique your curiosity to find out more and try them for yourself.

Sogno Reale

Sogno Reale

Sogno Reale. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Sogno Reale is the latest release from Mendittorosa. In fact, it is so new that there is a waiting period of 30-50 days to receive this fragrance! Sogno Reale translates to “real dream” in English, and is all about achieving one’s dreams in life. Sogno Reale is “Created for people, who will search and find their dream and make it come through. The ultimate companion for your way of life based on our philosophy: Search and you will find…” (Source: Mendittorosa’s website)

Sogno Reale sample

Sogno Reale sample

Concepts of dreams aside, as a scent, Sogno Reale is said by Mendittorosa to combine “a trilogy of sun, earth and sea blends together”, which gives a very accurate impression of this fragrance. Sogno Reale is a very sunny and interesting fragrance, and would be great for a hot summer’s day. To me the dominant characteristics are a salty marine note, something grainy, like unprocessed wheat, a bright lemon top note, and animalic notes. The combination of these ingredients results in a fascinating smell that is a little like salty, human skin that’s been in the ocean and then dried in the sun, overlaid with a touch of citrus, which fades as the perfume develops. The wheat note that I smell has no basis in the notes provided, but whatever ingredient creates this olfactory illusion, it hints at wheat grains and bread, and salty bread at that. There are some interesting basenotes used – including sandalwood and volcanic olibanum – and they are detectable, but not at all dominant. What they do is provide a grounding for this interesting and layered creation, in which the top, middle and base notes seem to hover, somewhat distinctly from one another. The sandalwood rounds out the composition slightly, while hyrax, an animalic note that is redolent of musk, civet and castoreum, helps create the skin-like and animalic characteristics of Sogno Reale. Unlike many animalic fragrances, this one is not heavy or overwhelming. It’s sweet, and it’s light and bright, yet very interesting and complex.

Le Mat

The philosophy behind Le Mat is as follows: “Le Mat is the “odour” of bravery, gumption and change. With a mantle of nutmeg and black pepper that protects its heart of geranium and rose, the scent unleashes whiffs of patchouli and cashmere wood. A blend of celestial and earthy aromas that instills a sensation of freedom.” (Source: Mendittorosa’s website)

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Le Mat. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Le Mat is my favourite of Mendittorosa’s creations. It is a rich creation housed in fabulous packaging, featuring the tarot card “Le Mat”, or “The Fool” as this card is known in English. The title of “The Fool” is somewhat deceptive in tarot – the fool does not represent a simpleton or an idiot – rather, he represents newness, purity and childlike innocence, or prophesies the beginnings of a new spiritual path.

Le Mat sample (right) shown with Sogno Reale sample (left)

Le Mat sample (right) shown with Sogno Reale sample (left)

I adore Le Mat. It’s a spicy, musky rose with honeyed nuances and an immortelle note that emerges more and more as the fragrance develops. It is sweet, but not too sweet, and a little woody. It reminds me of Turkish Delight, that rose-flavoured middle-eastern sweet, and Musk Lolly sticks. It smells like the most delectable, rich and luxurious blend of two fragrances I already own and love: L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Safran Troublant, and Mor’s Marshmallow. The rose melds with a geranium note (which has a rosy, green quality), and is supported by musky and woody cashmeran, loads of nutmeg, and pepper. Base notes consist of an earthy yet not overdone patchouli, and a hint of clove.

Trilogy: Alpha, Omega & Id

These three fragrances were conceived as a Trilogy. Mendittorosa has the following to say about the three fragrances: “Because in opposition, we find balance, the three scents in The Trilogy line—Alpha, Omega and Id—are designed not just to complement each other, but to complete a journey.” (quoted from Mendittorosa’s marketing brochure) These fragrances are designed to be worn alone, or layered. Due to time constraints, I did not layer these fragrances for this review, so I cannot comment on how they combine and work together.

Id

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Id. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa

Mendittorosa describes Id as follows: “Essential, rich, and wild, Id is the dark passion that drives us towards our dreams. Inspired by the nickname “Iddu” the locals give to the Stromboli volcano, Id is an olfactory dedication to the fiery being that first breathed Mendittorosa into life.”

I can imagine Id is a very popular fragrance in the Mendittorosa line. It is so appealing and woody-sweet, warm and very wearable. It smells so much to me like Donna Karan’s iconic Black Cashmere that I feel it is difficult to review it objectively. Id features nutmeg and incense (labdanum) and woods, a strong cinnamon note and a touch of clove. For those who loved Black Cashmere and can no longer find it, you will love Id and be thrilled to have a replacement. Compared to Black Cashmere, Id is a little softer, a bit less incensey, and also a touch sweeter than Black Cashmere.

Omega

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Omega. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Mendittorosa decribes Omega as: “The last letter of the Greek alphabet, ‘omega’ denotes the end, the final limit. It is Alfa’s polar opposite, deriving its elegance and composure from an awareness of its mortality. Its leather core is draped in velvet layers of Egyptian cumin and white musk.”

This description doesn’t match my experience of Omega. To me, Omega smells like a burnt vanilla fragrance with a hint of musk. On first application, I find this “burnt” aspect a little hard to handle. I think the burnt note is ambroxan, which often has this effect on me: I find it too much for my nose in this case, and a bit acrid and bitter. I believe that many perfumers use ambroxan to replicate the smoky qualities of oud, but this is just my suspicion. Despite my dislike of ambroxan, this note calms down about twenty minutes into the fragrance’s development, and Omega ends up smelling quite approachable and wearable, a bit like Rochas’ very popular Tocade, but without the rose. I do not detect any leather, cumin, iris or frankincense (all listed notes). There is a hint of very well blended jasmine that lifts and sweetens the composition. Omega will appeal to people who like vanilla but want something a little left of centre.

Alfa

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Alfa. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Mendittorosa describes Alfa thus: “Alfa is the beginning—a naked Venus rising from a clear blue sea. Deceiving in its simplicity, it tells a tale of earth, milk, and vineyards, but its saffron heart contains deep yearnings for the sensuality of nutmeg, sandalwood, jasmine and thyme.”

When I first smelt this perfume (before I read the notes above) I thought it was a classic masculine fougère, which, sadly, is probably my least favourite category of perfume. I was then very surprised to find that conceptually, this fragrance is linked to Venus, the female and very feminine goddess “whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and desire.” (Source: Wikipedia) Nevertheless, let me continue with my own impressions of this fragrance, as they are very different to Mendittorosa’s description above. Alfa smells like a masculine fougère, with fresh citrussy, woody, and herbaceous notes dominating. The sharp (and in this case somewhat citrussy) note of ravensara dominates the opening of the fragrance, and white thyme is also apparent. It’s slightly woody too at first, with a soft frankincense in the base. The woods develop quite intensely about twenty minutes in: again, I smell the burnt note of ambroxan, or “oud”. If saffron is in this fragrance, it is used subtly as I find it hard to detect. A hint of jasmine warms and sweetens the composition ever-so-slightly. This is a well-constructed perfume and is a fresh and slightly interesting take on the classic fougère formula, even if it is not to my taste.

North & South

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North and South. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

“Each North has its South, and each South, its North. Two opposites longing for completeness.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

As with the Alfa/Omega/Id Trilogy above, North and South can be worn together, or alone. I did try them together, and will discuss my findings below.

North

“Bright and pure, light, and nostalgic, North evokes memories of empty white pages, dry leaves, crisp wood of Swedish saunas, children’s drawings.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

North features a light and airy cedar wood, like that used in Comme des Garçons’ Kyoto. This cedar dominates, but is blended with a lovely bergamot and pepper. My impression of North is that it is a fresh and woody forest scent and when I smell it I feel like I’m walking amongst a plantation of fragrant, camphoraceous trees. North has moderate  sillage, without being overwhelming. It is a calming, dry scent that would appeal equally to women and men.

South

“Sultry and slow-moving, South ushers 
in memories of hot bread, white linen sheets dried in the sun and of pure Marseille soap. It is the colourful clutter of our favourite things in a nest of softness.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

South is sharp and creamy and slightly sweet all at once. Creamy sandalwood in the base is offset by a very lemony, citric basil top note. Hazelnut, a rounded, sweet and nutty note, is also quite detectable. Syringa (similar to orange blossom and jasmine) is quite noticeable too. South reminds me a little of a softish Samsara by Guerlain or Allure by Chanel, both of which feature a combination of jasmine and sandalwood, but here the composition is made much more interesting with the basil and hazelnut, and an interesting “hot bread” note that appears after about fifteen minutes of wear. This bread note reminds me of the “wheat” note I detected in Sogno Reale. South is quite soft in character and moderate in sillage and is more feminine than masculine. It is a very pretty, yet interesting scent.

North and South Layered

These two fragrances layer well. The notes of South dominate, in particular the hazelnut and bread notes, although the cedar is also very apparent. It probably goes without saying that this combination is much richer and more complex than North or South alone.


Summary and Where to Buy

I hope you’ve enjoyed my survey and brief impressions of Mendittorosa’s current range of fragrances. The Discovery Kit is an affordable way to try these lovely creations and to explore them for yourself.

You can buy the Discovery Kit on the Mendittorosa website for 40 Euros (including shipping), which includes a 20 Euro refund voucher to use with any full bottle purchase for two months.

Mendittorosa’s fragrances all come in 100ml, extrait de parfum strength bottles. They range in price from 185-225 Euros each and can be purchased from Mendittorosa’s online shop and from selected retailers.

Disclaimer

My Mendittorosa Discovery Kit was provided free of charge. Many thanks to Stefania Squeglia and Jakub Piotrovicz for generously providing the kit. All opinions are my own and I strive to be both honest and respectful to the perfumers and their creations in my reviews.

Smell of the Day: Almond Blossom

almond_blossom

Almond Blossom

Smell of The Day is about noticing and appreciating the smells around me. Just one smell. It might be a perfume, a fragrant flower, the odour of something cooking, an unpleasant smell. All smells are equal. All smells are interesting. All smells affect us. Smell of The Day posts will feature one smell that made an impact on me that day.

Smell of the Day: Almond Blossom

The old almond trees are now in full bloom. The weather oscillates between winter and spring: sun, rain and wind alternate rapidly. The almond blossom covers the tree in little white balls and an intoxicating, buttery, honey-like vapour radiates out for metres around. Hundreds of bees visit the blossoms, happily drunk on the sweet nectar. Their buzzing vibrates my eardrums. I want to lie on the grass and look up at the blue skies through the trees, but it’s still too cold. Already the wind and rain are blowing the blossoms off the tree. It snows blossom petals and they will soon be gone, but spring will soon be here.

Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences Review, Part Six: Coriander Leaf

ChefsEssencesAndSprays

Some of the Chef’s Essences and Chef’s Essence Sprays from Aftelier Perfumes. Photo credit: Mandy Aftel/Aftelier Perfumes

Previous Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences Reviews

A couple of months ago I published three posts about Aftelier’s Chef’s Essences, which included an extensive introduction to the flavour essences, a brief review of perfumer Mandy Aftel and chef Daniel Patterson’s book Aroma (which inspired the development of the Chef’s Essences range), and a survey of my experiences using four of the Chef’s Essence Sprays: Litsea Cubeba, Black Pepper, Sarsaparilla and Violet (Alpha Ionone).

You can read my longer introduction to the flavour essences and about Aroma, as well as my experiences using Litsea Cubeba and Black Pepper in this blog post. You can read about how I used Sarsaparilla by clicking this link, and if the idea of cooking with Violet takes your fancy, click here.

A few days ago I reviewed Frankincense Chef’s Essence and earlier last week I reviewed the Magnolia Flower Chef’s Essence. These were both fascinating, “perfumey” flavours to work with and I found it creatively challenging to come up with uses and recipes for them. I think I discovered some winners though: I used them both in tea and created a lovely orange frankincense cake and a baked magnolia and honey custard, amongst other things. Click on the links to find out more.

If you don’t have time to read these previous posts, please do read on, as I give a brief introduction to the Chef’s Essences below. Today’s post focuses on the Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence Spray. Scroll down to read my review of this essence and to find some suggestions for use and recipes.

What are Chef’s Essences®?

Put simply, Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences are essential oils, natural isolates, resins and absolutes that can be used to flavour food and drinks. They allow the creation of magical, multi-dimensional, heightened and brand new flavour experiences. They seem high-tech, almost Willy-Wonka-esque, like something from the future, space-age. And yet, they are all based on natural ingredients. One or two sprays or drops of these essences will transform your food or drink into an experience like no other. Known flavours become dramatically intensified, others display flavour nuances and characteristics that you haven’t noticed before in the raw ingredient, and new flavour experiences become possible. Have you ever eaten Fir Needle or Tolu Balsam? I haven’t, and I know I want to experience these ingredients, not just as smells (which is how they are most commonly used and encountered), but as flavours too.

Chef’s Essences come in both concentrated form (5ml bottles with a dropper cap) and in spray form (30ml), in which the essential oils and natural isolates are diluted with organic grain alcohol. There are 17 Chef’s Essence Sprays to choose from and 54 Chef’s Essences in concentrated form. All of them can be purchased from the Aftelier Perfumes website. The sprays are very versatile and easy to use as they can be added both during and after cooking, to complete a dish.

I recently interviewed Mandy Aftel for my Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series, and we had some email chats back and forth at the time. In one of these emails I expressed an interest in writing a piece about Mandy’s Chef’s Essences. As Perfume Polytechnic is all about smell (not just perfume), and as this blog has explored phenomena such as synaesthesia, I thought this would be a very suitable and interesting topic for my readers. Mandy very generously offered to send me some samples of some of the Chef’s Essences Sprays. My Chef’s Essence Spray samples arrived beautifully packaged with a handwritten note from Mandy with some suggestions for use.

Chef's Essences

Mandy’s gorgeous parcel, along with a handwritten card containing some suggestions on how to use the Chef’s Essence Sprays.

When I first used the Chef’s Essences sprays I was struck instantly by how much more intense the aroma of my food had become. Particularly when sprayed onto something just before eating it, I experienced the sense of a strong and beautiful aroma hitting my nostrils first, followed by the taste of the essence as I ate the food. That two-part sensation: smell, then taste (combining to form flavour), is not something I really notice much when I eat food generally, so I think that the Chef’s Essences really highlight and intensify the aroma component of eating, almost as a separate and discreet thing. I noticed that my eating also became more mindful and I ate with more care and took more time to savour the smell, taste and flavour of each Essence. Each mouthful was a heightened, sensual, novel, intensified flavour experience.

Chef’s Essences Coriander Leaf Spray

CHEF-SPRAY-CorianderLeaf-2

Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence Spray – photo courtesy Mandy Aftel/Aftelier Perfumes

In Part Six today I will focus on Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence Spray. As coriander is used widely in cooking, I like to think of this spray as a great replacement for the fresh herb, which isn’t always possible to get (depending on the season, or your location) or affordable. I’ve also had trouble growing my own coriander – it always bolts to seed much too quickly.

With this in mind, I’ve chosen to approach using this essence in a more practical way. I’ll provide some suggestions for use below, and also a couple of simple recipes.

This chef’s essence comes in both spray and dropper versions, and Mandy sent me a sample of the spray. If you’ve got the dropper version at home, please note that there is a ratio of approximately 3-5 sprays per drop of essence, and adjust the recipes accordingly, and also according to your personal taste!

You can use this essence anywhere that you would use fresh coriander. In terms of cuisines that use coriander, this includes Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Moroccan, to name but a few. This sharp, green, fresh herb is unlike any other, and Aftelier’s Chef’s Essence is a great replacement if you can’t get it fresh. It tastes quite like the original herb, but a little sweeter to my taste buds.

Mandy suggested pairing the coriander with citrus, and I tried it with both lemon and lime, which complimented the sharpness of the coriander flavour, which also has a slightly citrussy quality.

General Use Suggestions

Add Coriander Chef’s Essence Spray to guacamole or baba ganoush, try it on tacos and use it to dress chilli beans or Moroccan tagines before serving. Add a spray or two to margaritas, or to a glass of gin and tonic, instead of a slice of lemon.

How I Used Coriander Chef’s Essence Spray

Nasi Goreng

I sprayed 3-4 sprays of Chef’s Essence Coriander Leaf Spray to a bowl of Nasi Goreng, which is Indonesian fried rice, and added a squeeze of lemon. The two ingredients elevated the dish from simply tasty to delicious.

On Vanilla Ice Cream

This is one of the most unusual pairings I can imagine, but it’s sublime. Just remember to go easy with the coriander, as you can end up with a bitter taste if you use too much. Just one tiny spray onto a bowl of ice cream is all you need, and either wait a few minutes for the essence to meld with the ice cream, or stir it through to mix the flavour in. The sharp green herbal flavour contrasts with the creaminess of the vanilla ice cream and the sweetness of the ice cream in turn enhances the natural sweetness of the herb.

Simple Salad Dressing With Coriander and Lime

coriander_salad_dressing

Salad dressed with Coriander Chef’s Essence and Lime

This is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe at all. Dress a simple salad of greens, avocado and tomato with a drizzle of olive oil, a generous squeeze of lime juice, 2-3 sprays of Coriander Chef’s Essence Spray, and some salt and pepper. Toss to combine. So fresh and delicious!

Sweet Potato Wedges with Coriander Aioli

sweet_potato

Sweet Potato Wedges (Photo credit: Stacy Spensley https://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/3001628444/in/photostream/ Creative Commons License 2.0)

I based this delicious recipe on the Homemade Mayonnaise recipe from Molly Katzen’s classic Moosewood Cookbook. I changed a few ingredients to make this into a coriander flavoured aioli. This is fabulous with sweet potato wedges, regular potato wedges or chips, and also as a dip for any steamed vegetable, Provençale style. I first tried aioli in Avignon in 1999, served with a plate of simple, steamed and boiled vegetables, whilst sitting in a small restaurant near the Papal Palace. I always think fondly of that meal whenever I eat aioli.

Ingredients
(Serves 3-4 as a side dish, or two as a large snack, with plenty of aioli for leftovers)

For the aioli:
1 large egg
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 small cloves raw garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 1/4 cups oil (canola or olive)
20-25 sprays Coriander Chef’s Essence (approx. 6-8 drops, if you’re using the essence with the dropper bottle)

For the sweet potato wedges:
750g sweet potato, cut into wedges
olive oil to drizzle
sea salt flakes and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180º celsius. Wash and cut the sweet potato into wedges, leaving the skin on. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper, drizzle with oil and sprinkle over salt and pepper. Toss and turn the wedges with your fingers to coat them in the oil. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, but check to see if they need turning every 10-15 minutes or so. At the 20 minute mark, turn the oven up to 200º celsius and cook for a remaining 20 minutes, or until well cooked and nicely caramelised all over.

Place egg, salt, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the oil and crushed garlic into a tall measuring jug (one that holds 4 cups is a good size). Using a hand-held blender, process for a few seconds. Now, keeping the motor of the blender running, slowly drizzle in the remaining oil, and blend until the aioli thickens and all the oil is incorporated. Add the Coriander Chef’s Essence and stir in thoroughly with a spatula. Use the spatula to scrape the aioli out into a bowl for serving.

Pile the wedges onto a plate, dip into the aioli and enjoy. Magic!

This is enough aioli for several meals, as it is very rich! You can serve the leftover aioli with steamed vegetables, more wedges, or spread it on sandwiches.

Consume the aioli within a few days as this recipe uses raw egg.

Note: if you don’t have a hand-held blender, a food processor or regular blender will do the trick just as well. This is a foolproof aioli – I’ve never had a problem with this recipe in the 20+ years I’ve been making it!


I hope you’ve enjoyed Part Six of my review of Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences. Have you tried any of the range? If so, please let me know in the comments box below which ones you’ve tried and how you used them. I would love to hear about your experiences!

You can buy Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence Spray here. You can peruse and purchase the rest of the Chef’s Essences and Sprays online at the Aftelier Perfumes website. The website also has suggestions on how to use the various flavours, as does the Aftelier Perfumes Pinterest account.

Acknowledgements

Warmest thanks to Mandy Aftel for providing me with generous samples of seven Chef’s Essences to sample and review over the last few months. It’s been such a fun creative challenge for me!

Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences Review, Part Five: Frankincense

ChefsEssencesAndSprays

Some of the Chef’s Essences and Chef’s Essence Sprays from Aftelier Perfumes. Photo credit: Mandy Aftel/Aftelier Perfumes

Previous Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences Reviews

A couple of months ago I published three posts about Aftelier’s Chef’s Essences, which included an extensive introduction to the flavour essences, a brief review of perfumer Mandy Aftel and chef Daniel Patterson’s book Aroma (which inspired the development of the Chef’s Essences range), and a survey of my experiences using four of the Chef’s Essence Sprays: Litsea Cubeba, Black Pepper, Sarsaparilla and Violet (Alpha Ionone).

You can read my longer introduction to the flavour essences and about Aroma, as well as my experiences using Litsea Cubeba and Black Pepper in this blog post. You can read about how I used Sarsaparilla by clicking this link, and if the idea of cooking with Violet takes your fancy, click here.

In my last blog post I reviewed Magnolia Flower Chef’s Essence Spray, which was a very interesting floral note to work with. If you’d like to read about that and try some of the recipes I came up with, including Magnolia Gen Mai Cha tea and Magnolia and Honey Baked Custard, click here.

If you don’t have time to read these previous posts, please do read on, as I give a brief introduction to the Chef’s Essences below. Today’s post focuses on the Frankincense Chef’s Essence. Scroll down to read my review of this essence and to find several recipes using frankincense.

What are Chef’s Essences®?

Put simply, Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences are essential oils, natural isolates, resins and absolutes that can be used to flavour food and drinks. They allow the creation of magical, multi-dimensional, heightened and brand new flavour experiences. They seem high-tech, almost Willy-Wonka-esque, like something from the future, space-age. And yet, they are all based on natural ingredients. One or two sprays or drops of these essences will transform your food or drink into an experience like no other. Known flavours become dramatically intensified, others display flavour nuances and characteristics that you haven’t noticed before in the raw ingredient, and new flavour experiences become possible. Have you ever eaten Fir Needle or Tolu Balsam? I haven’t, and I know I want to experience these ingredients, not just as smells (which is how they are most commonly used and encountered), but as flavours too.

Chef’s Essences come in both concentrated form (5ml bottles with a dropper cap) and in spray form (30ml), in which the essential oils and natural isolates are diluted with organic grain alcohol. There are 17 Chef’s Essence Sprays to choose from and 54 Chef’s Essences in concentrated form. All of them can be purchased from the Aftelier Perfumes website. The sprays are very versatile and easy to use as they can be added both during and after cooking, to complete a dish.

I recently interviewed Mandy Aftel for my Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series, and we had some email chats back and forth at the time. In one of these emails I expressed an interest in writing a piece about Mandy’s Chef’s Essences. As Perfume Polytechnic is all about smell (not just perfume), and as this blog has explored phenomena such as synaesthesia, I thought this would be a very suitable and interesting topic for my readers. Mandy very generously offered to send me some samples of some of the Chef’s Essences Sprays. My Chef’s Essence Spray samples arrived beautifully packaged with a handwritten note from Mandy with some suggestions for use.

Chef's Essences

Mandy’s gorgeous parcel, along with a handwritten card containing some suggestions on how to use the Chef’s Essence Sprays.

When I first used the Chef’s Essences sprays I was struck instantly by how much more intense the aroma of my food had become. Particularly when sprayed onto something just before eating it, I experienced the sense of a strong and beautiful aroma hitting my nostrils first, followed by the taste of the essence as I ate the food. That two-part sensation: smell, then taste (combining to form flavour), is not something I really notice much when I eat food generally, so I think that the Chef’s Essences really highlight and intensify the aroma component of eating, almost as a separate and discreet thing. I noticed that my eating also became more mindful and I ate with more care and took more time to savour the smell, taste and flavour of each Essence. Each mouthful was a heightened, sensual, novel, intensified flavour experience.

Chef’s Essences Frankincense Spray

Frankincense Chef's Essence by Aftelier Perfumes (Photo courtesy www.aftelier.com)

Frankincense Chef’s Essence by Aftelier Perfumes (Photo courtesy http://www.aftelier.com)

In Part Five today I will focus on Frankincense Chef’s Essence, which is a really interesting and unusual, “perfumey” flavour to work with. It took me a while to come up with some interesting uses and recipes as I have never eaten frankincense before and it is not widely used in cooking. Apparently it is used in Oman to flavour ice cream, and the smoke of the incense from a combination of aromatics – including frankincense – is used to flavour Kanom Kleeb Lumdual, a Thai cookie.

Despite its limited use in food and my unfamiliarity with it, as frankincense is one of my favourite perfume ingredients I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it. As I’m familiar with frankincense as a smell rather than a food ingredient, I tried to think like a perfumer, pondering which ingredients would combine well with frankincense in perfume, and then tried to base recipes on these combinations. Immediately I thought of citrus: frankincense always blends well with citrus in perfumes, so this gave me the idea to create a frankincense and orange cake.

I should mention here that Mandy Aftel made up my sample of the Frankincense as a spray, for ease of use, but currently the Frankincense is only available to order as an essence in a dropper bottle. I have provided instructions on how to use both the spray and the dropper bottle (and the relative quantities) in the recipes below.

How I Used Frankincense Chef’s Essence Spray

Frankincense Black Tea

Mandy suggested trying the Frankincense Chef’s Essence with tea, and it is divine! As a lover of tea I will be adding this regularly to my tea-drinking repertoire. The frankincense adds the most beautiful woody, resinous, pine-like flavour to the tea. It’s great with milk and sugar too.

To make two cups of Frankincense Tea

Place 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of black loose-leaf tea of your choice in a pot for two and spray two sprays (or use 1 drop of essence) of Frankincense Chef’s Essence onto the dry tea leaves. If you’re using the chef’s essence with the dropper bottle, give the leaves a thorough stir with a teaspoon to distribute the frankincense evenly. Now boil the kettle. This gives the frankincense a minute or two to infuse into the dry leaves. Fill the teapot and steep for 3-5 minutes for maximum flavour. Enjoy black or with milk and sugar.

I used T2’s Morning Red tea, which is a blend of Assam and Keemun teas and is quite a strong brew with a tiny hint of smoke.

Orange & Frankincense Almond Polenta Cake

orange and frankincense cake

Orange & Frankincense Almond Polenta Cake

As I wrote above, combining citrus with frankincense seemed like an obvious combination as these ingredients blend well in perfume. As with the tea, the piney, woody, resinous notes of the frankincense really come to the fore in this recipe and compliment the orange beautifully. I set about modifying a recipe from Sophie Dahl’s cookbook Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights, and changed enough of the ingredients and flavourings that I think I can safely call this my own!

Ingredients
(Makes 10-12 slices)

100g butter, softened
225g raw (granulated) sugar
3 eggs
1 cup plain organic wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup polenta
1 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
1/3 cup plain yogurt (thick, Greek-style or pot-set)
Juice and zest of 1 large orange
**20 sprays (or 5-6 drops) Frankincense Chef’s Essence (see note below **)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180º celcius/350º fahrenheit. Grease and line a 20cm baking tin with non-stick baking paper (I used a tin with a removable base).

Cream together the softened butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, then add the eggs, one at a time, whisking them in. Sift the wheat flour and baking powder over the butter/egg/sugar mixture, add the polenta and almond meal, and stir it all together. Add the yogurt, orange juice and zest, and the Frankincense Chef’s Essence and stir to combine well.

Pour into the cake tin you prepared earlier and place in centre of the oven for about 40 minutes. Check at the 30-35 minute mark as this cake has a tendency to brown round the sides and on the bottom quickly. Don’t worry if it does brown as it helps create a lovely, slightly crunchy, caramelised “crust”. The cake is ready when it is firm and slightly golden on top and if you insert a skewer or knife into the middle, it should come out clean.

Remove the cake from the tin if you’ve used a tin with a removable base and pop it on to a cooling rack. Otherwise, let the cake sit in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then invert it onto a rack to cool.

This cake is delightful served warm with cream, and has a lovely texture from the tiny amount of polenta used, which adds a nice crunch and grit to it, while the almond meal and wheat flour result in a surprisingly light and fluffy cake.

**The frankincense in this cake is a delightful accompaniment to the orange, and I’ve used a moderate amount here so that it didn’t overwhelm the other flavours. If you’d like a more pronounced frankincense taste, spray 4 sprays of frankincense evenly over the top of the cake when it has just come out of the oven – this will add a lovely resinous layer of extra flavour to the top of the cake. The heat of the cake will help soak up the essence. Alternatively, you can add one spray per slice when you serve the cake. If you’re using the original dropper bottle instead and want a more pronounced flavour, add 1-2 more drops of frankincense to the batter before baking the cake.

Candied Almonds With Frankincense and Cinnamon

almonds1

Candied Almonds With Frankincense and Cinnamon

These are so yummy as an afternoon snack or even after dinner. They are not too sweet, and the salt counterbalances the sweetness. The cinnamon and the frankincense are an interesting match. I borrowed this recipe by Amy Johnson of She Wears Many Hats and altered the flavourings and quantities for my version below.

Ingredients
(makes enough to fill a medium size jar)

175g raw almonds
30ml honey (1/8 cup, or 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (I used Murray River salt flakes)
1 tablespoon muscovado or coconut sugar
20 sprays Frankincense Chef’s Essence (or 4-5 drops if you’re using the dropper bottle)

Method

Preheat the oven to 160º celsius/325º fahrenheit

Heat a non-stick frying pan to a medium heat on the stove. Add honey and cinnamon and heat until it melts and warms up. Stir. Tip in the almonds and stir to coat them. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and salt and stir again to combine. If you’re using the Frankincense Chef’s Essence in the dropper bottle, add it along with the sugar and salt and stir well. If you’re using a spray bottle of the Frankincense, wait until later before adding it (read on)…

Place almonds on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Try to spread them into a single layer so that they cook evenly. Cook for 13 minutes or so, checking at about the ten minute mark to make sure nothing is burning. Turn them if necessary.

Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes on the tray. At this stage you’ll have to get your hands into the almonds to pull them off the baking paper and break up the clumps. They will be quite stuck together at this stage, but they are also easy to break apart, so don’t worry. If you’re using a spray version of the Frankincense, spray the still-warm almonds now with 20 sprays of the frankincense. Toss and stir the nuts quickly and well, so that the frankincense flavour infuses into the warm, toffee-coated nuts.

Allow the almonds to cool fully before eating them, for maximum crunch! These are addictive, so you might want to make a double batch.


I hope you’ve enjoyed Part Five of my review of Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences. Have you tried any of the range? If so, please let me know in the comments box below which ones you’ve tried and how you used them. I would love to hear about your experiences!

You can buy Frankincense Chef’s Essence here. You can peruse and purchase the rest of the Chef’s Essences and Sprays online at the Aftelier Perfumes website. The website also has suggestions on how to use the various flavours, as does the Aftelier Perfumes Pinterest account.

Mandy Aftel also sells her own Frankincense Oolong tea at the Aftelier Website, for those of you who aren’t so keen to DIY!

Coming Soon…

A review of Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences Coriander Leaf Spray, including a recipe for a delicious Coriander Aioli. Stay tuned or follow this blog so you don’t miss out!

Acknowledgements

Warmest thanks to Mandy Aftel for providing me with generous samples of the Chef’s Essences to sample and review.