All About Acid

There is an ingredient you can add to virtually every dish you make that is guaranteed to make it taste better. Be it vinegar, or fruit juice, a little acid goes a LONG way toward making your food taste better.

To begin, let’s look at the way foods interact with your tongue. The 5 scientifically proven “tastes:” savory, salt, sweet, bitter and sour are believed to have developed as an evolutionary response.

For example, “savory” tells your body that it is eating protein. In experiments have shown that when the savory part of the tongue is stimulated, the body starts releasing chemicals to process meat. Further, stimulation of the umami tastebuds has been shown to convince the brain that the body is no longer hungry. Salt helps scents separate from the food, making food taste stronger, but it also tells the body that electrolytes are on their way. Sweet tells your body that calorie rich food is on its way. And bitter is a sign of danger, as most poisonous alkaloids taste bitter.

Then there is sour. The taste that accompanies virtually every calorie rich fruit on the planet. Too much sour and the brain instinctively thinks the food is either spoiled or underripe -both potential for a tummyache. But just a little bit or sour tells the brain that the food is ripe and delicous, and ready to eat!

The trick is balancing sour correctly.

A few tips:

Add some acid to meat based soups such as chicken noodle, or beef and barley. A little bit of vinegar or lemon juice on the tongue will cause the brain to perceive a brighter/more flavorful soup!

Add a little lemon juice to your gravy prior to thickening. The addition will make the gravy much more lively and more complementary to the meat dish.

Be bold in your salad dressings! Don’t be afraid to mix oil and vinegar on a 50/50 ratio, then add some additional herbs, salt and pepper. With the wide array of flavored vinegars on the market the flavor combinations for a delicious homemade salad dressing are endless!

Look at ways to add acid to your desserts. Although baked goods can be impacted by too much acid, most recipes calling for milk can easily be improved by replacing it with buttermilk or thinned yogurt. Does the recipe call for cream? Try using sour cream.

Sour Creme Brulee

1 3/4 cups cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange zest
6 tsp Sugar
7 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sour cream
6-8 tsp Turbinado/Raw sugar

1 – Preheat oven to 325 Degrees.

2 – Combine vanilla, orange zest and 1 cup cream in a saucepan over medium high heat.

3 – Combine sugar, egg yolks and remaining cream and whisk well. Bring vanilla/cream mixture to a boil.

4 – Slowly add hot cream mixture to cold egg mixture, starting with a small amount of hot mix whisking well and then gradually adding more hot cream, until the two are combined.

5- Add the sour cream and salt to the custard mix and whisk well.

6 – Place 4 ramekins of at least 1 cup in volume each into a larger baking pan. Pour the custard through a sieve into ramekins, filling no more than 2/3rds of the way full.

7- Add water to the larger baking pan, filling until the water level is 1/2 of the way up the ramekins.

8- Bake for 25-40 minutes, until the middle of the custard reaches a temperature of 175 degrees. The edges will be set, but the center will be just slightly jiggly. There is a HUGE difference in time baking as the amount of water added to the pan, and the volume of each ramekin will cause cooking times to vary greatly. On this recipe, “doneness” is more important than the actual time in the oven.

9- Transfer ramekins to a cooling rack for 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge for at least 4 hours for custard to set. You can keep the custard in the fridge for up to 4 days.

10- Prior to serving, gently blot up any condensation from the surface of the custard with a paper towel, sprinkle 2 tsp of turbinado/raw sugar over each ramekin and then turn the ramekin, making sure the an even layer of sugar is distributed evenly across the top of each custard. Clean the edges of the ramekin of any excess sugar.

11- Using a either a butane “creme brulee” torch or a propane blowtorch (the kind you find at your local hardware store, and also my preferred method) apply heat to the sugar in a circular motion until the sugar is bubbly and brown. Once the sugar is browned, the custard can be stored in the fridge for up to 45 minutes, but best served immediately.

12 – Garnish with chocolate shavings and berry fruit.

Notes: Egg proteins have a very narrow window between setting and curdling, be very careful not to overcook the custard (you’ll know it if you do it as the custard will be far from smooth.)

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