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.
If you don’t have time to read these previous posts, do read on, as I give a brief introduction to the Chef’s Essences below. Today’s post focuses on the Magnolia Flower Chef’s Essence. Scroll down to read my review of this essence and to find several recipes using magnolia.
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 the following: Frankincense, Fir Needle and 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 Sprays samples arrived beautifully packaged with a hand written note from Mandy with some suggestions for use.
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 Magnolia Flower Spray
In Part Four today I will focus on Magnolia Flower Chef’s Essence, a lovely floral flavour. I’ve never eaten magnolia before, and I’m not overly familiar with the smell of magnolia flowers. Mandy said that she finds magnolia shares much in common with jasmine, but is greener, and the Aftelier website states that it is a cross between the sharp, sometimes green and rosy scent of geranium and the heady/tropical ylang ylang. Smelling Aftelier’s Magnolia Chef’s essence, I detect the lush headiness of jasmine, but it’s a much sharper and less narcotic floral aroma.
Magnolia flowers are one of my favourites, as in South-Eastern Australia they herald the start of spring and warmer weather. I love how the sculptural blooms erupt from spare, leafless branches. In the Melbourne Botanic Gardens there is a dedicated Magnolia Garden, which boasts the most magnificent and huge blooms I’ve ever seen. The flower in the photo below was bigger than my head.
I should mention here that Mandy Aftel made up my sample of Magnolia as a spray, for ease of use, but currently the Magnolia 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 quantities) in the recipes below.
How I Used Magnolia Chef’s Essence Spray
Magnolia Genmaicha Tea
Mandy suggested I try this essence with tea, and as it is similar to jasmine, I thought it would work well with green tea, which is a common pairing. We only had Genmaicha in the house – a blend of green tea and roasted brown rice grains, so I used that. The result was wonderful.
To make two cups of Magnolia Genmaicha Tea
Place 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of Genmaicha (or regular green tea leaves) in a pot for two and spray two sprays (or use 1 drop of essence) of Magnolia 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 magnolia evenly. Now boil the kettle. This gives the magnolia a minute or two to infuse into the dry leaves. Fill the teapot and steep for about 3 minutes. You can keep refilling the pot with fresh boiling water and enjoy another cup or two if you like as the leaves and flavour are strong enough to withstand multiple brews.
Magnolia & Honey Baked Custard
This is a simple baked custard that showcases the delicate, floral flavour of the magnolia essence. Honey is used as the sweetener for this custard. As honey is the end product of pollen harvested from flowers by bees, it is a very suitable accompaniment to the magnolia. You can make this as one large custard, as I did, or pour it into individual ramekins and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
(Makes 4-6 serves)
1/4 cup honey (I used Manuka Ti Tree, a local Australian honey with a medium-strong flavour)
2 cups scalded milk – semi-skim or full fat are both OK
nutmeg to sprinkle on top10-12 sprays Magnolia Chef’s Essence (or 2-3 drops if you’re using the dropper bottle)
Preheat the oven to 160º celsius/325º fahrenheit.
Beat eggs in an oven proof dish or pudding basin to combine. Heat the milk in the microwave until hot but not quite boiling, or on the stove. Add honey to the scalded milk and very slowly pour the mixture into the eggs while stirring. If you add all the milk at once you risk curdling and partially cooking the eggs with the hot milk. Add the Magnolia Chef’s Essence and stir. Sprinkle a light layer of ground nutmeg on top of the custard.
Place the custard in a deep pan of hot water, so that the water reaches an inch or so up the sides of the custard dish. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. The cooked custard will be firm to the touch, yet still a little wobbly.
Eat on its own, hot or cold. As the flavours are so delicate and the custard is so creamy, it doesn’t need anything else to accompany it.
Consume within 2-3 days.
Magnolia Coconut Chia Pods
This is another simple recipe. Chia is flavourless, and the chia pods are made using a very subtle base of coconut milk and banana, to allow the magnolia flavour to shine. It’s very healthy too, and is mostly sweetened with bananas, and a touch of maple syrup. Chia pods are great for afternoon snacks or dessert, or you could even eat them for breakfast.
(Makes 8 serves)
2/3 cup chia seeds (I used black, but you can use any kind)
400ml tin coconut cream or milk
1/2 tin (200ml) water
3 small ripe bananas, broken up into 3-4 pieces each
4-5 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla essence18 sprays Magnolia Flower Chef’s Essence (or about 5 drops if you’re using the dropper bottle)
The beauty with this recipe is that you can add and taste the flavourings (maple syrup, vanilla, magnolia) as you go, and add more if need be.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Taste to see if you’re happy with the flavourings and level of sweetness. Add more vanilla/magnolia/maple syrup if desired.
Spoon into ramekins, creme brulee or panacotta moulds, or small glasses. I used some panacotta moulds (6) and then spooned the rest into small tumblers. Cover with lids or plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating. The chia mixture will thicken and set in the fridge, forming a jelly-like texture. These are best eaten out of the container as they don’t set enough to unmould.
Consume within 4 days.
I hope you’ve enjoyed Part Four 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!
Magnolia Flower Chef’s Essence is available to purchase at the Aftelier Perfumes website. You can peruse and purchase the rest of the range of Chef’s Essences and Sprays at the Aftelier Perfumes website also. The website also has suggestions on how to use the various flavours, as does the Aftelier Perfumes Pinterest account.
A review of Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences Frankincense Spray, including a recipe for a delicious Orange & Frankincense Almond Polenta Cake. Stay tuned or follow this blog so you don’t miss out!
Warmest thanks to Mandy Aftel for providing me with generous samples of the Chef’s Essences to review.