Have you ever come across a recipe and think to yourself why is there a need to add that particular ingredient into the batter? Well, in this post we would look at two ingredients that may look insignificant but greatly enhance the flavor of the final product- in this case, we are talking about baked goods.
So what are these mysterious ingredients?
First up is LEMON ZEST! Other zest from other citrus fruits such as oranges and lime can also be used but I personally like to use lemon zest as the lemon has a refreshing smell and adds a little acidity to the cake batter. Zest is often used to enhance the flavor of food such as pastries, cakes, cookies, puddings, sauces, salads, risottos… …etc. So what is zest? Zest does not equal to the peel of the citrus fruit. Zest is the colourful layer above the citrus peel and can be used in both savory and sweet food. Due to the abundance of essential oils the zest contains, it greatly enhances the flavor of food, giving the food a stronger taste. If we cut too deep into the citrus fruit, we may be including the pith (white portion under the zest) inside the batter hence making our final product bitter. Surely we don’t want this to happen so remember to only take the coloured part of the fruit! Adding zest to a recipe would not throw off the chemistry of the recipe but instead it would provide a deeper depth of flavor making the cake more delicious.
Next up is SALT! Salt enhances the flavor of the cake and in pastries the texture as well. This is because salt helps certain molecules in the food to release gas more easily. This adds aroma to the food. Another aspect that maybe unknown to some people is that salt reduces the oiliness of fats. If you compare salted and unsalted butter, you would realize that unsalted butter feels more oily compared to salted butter. Why is this so? Well, salt reduces the fat content in the butter making it less oily. Salt is also added to bread as it affects the rate of fermentation of yeast. Salt helps to strengthen the gluten protein in the bread dough hence minimizing the air pockets formed in the dough and reducing the number of holes in the bread.
The common saying that opposite attracts is true. When salt is added to cakes which are sweet, it enhances the sweetness and flavor of the cake. That is why in most cakes or desserts recipe, a pinch of salt is added. It is said that salt surpasses the bitter taste so addition of salt into sweet or sour food would not only balance out the taste but also make the flavor of the food less one dimensional.
Both these ingredient- lemon zest and salt- are only needed in a minute amount but they greatly enhance the taste. And best thing is they are quite affordable!