All traditional cuisines have prescribed ways of combining and contrasting flavours and textures in food. However, chefs these days seem to be taking more of an experimental approach in their choice of flavours… be it in food or drink. What is most interesting about these new trends is that many of the combinations that work really well are indeed contrasts! Many of the new food products that have been successful fall into this category.
The highly popular salted caramel, a direct influence from France, is a perfect case of contrasting flavours finding success. Anything from candies and ice cream to cakes and macaroons are available in this flavor which was unheard of in the mass market, just a few years back. In fact, an article in the New York Times talks about how 2008 was the lucky year for ‘sweet caramel seasoned with fancy salt’.
Though the theory that different areas of the human tongue are responsible for detecting different basic tastes has been debunked, scientists are still of the opinion that some parts of the tongue taste some flavours before the others. Would that be a likely explanation why contrasting tastes prove to be very satisfying sometimes?
Right now, what sent me in the direction of contrasting flavours is the thought of some cookies. You bite into one… you are a bit confused at first… is it spicy, hot, sweet? All at the same time? As the pepper cumin cookie crumbs melt in your mouth, you realise… aah, it is a combination of all those flavours!
Or some sweet wine will work equally well.
P.S. The contrast of flavours is so enticing… check back for a Caramelized Pears and Roquefort Tart soon.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Zest the lemon and keep aside 1 tablespoon of zest.
- Coarsely crush the black pepper and cumin.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit.
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and crushed pepper and cumin.
- Cut the butter into pieces and drop in the flour.
- Add the vanilla extract.
- Using finger tips, mix the butter into the flour mixture, till it resembles bread crumbs. Do this quickly and do not over mix.
- Gather together the mixture and form into two logs, about 1 ½ inch thick.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the dough rolls into uniform rounds.
- Place the rounds on the cookie sheet, leaving 1 inch space between them.
- Place in the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, till the cookies are lightly browned.
- When done, remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on a rack.
- Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep fresh for up to one week.