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.
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
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
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!
(Makes 10-12 slices)
100g butter, softened
225g raw (granulated) sugar
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 **)
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
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.
(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)
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!
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!
Warmest thanks to Mandy Aftel for providing me with generous samples of the Chef’s Essences to sample and review.