Umami is the fifth flavor, discovered recently, it gained traction around the 2000’s when the receptors for it were found in the human tongue. Although Japanese cuisine uses “umami” since forever
What is it?
Umami can be translated as “savoriness”. It’s the flavor that lasts longer in the palate and makes you feel satiated. You can almost say umami is what we natural call “delicious or decadent in a dish”. That sensation of a “deep” flavor, well-known, irresistible, it acts like a punch
How was discovered?
Discovered by chance, Japanese scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda from Tokyo, isolates the glutamate found in Kombu (algae) in 1908. Umami flavor multiplies when glutamate and nucleotides make a combo: glutamate is in algae, tomatoes, mushrooms, parmesan and other cheeses, anchovies, egg yolks. Nucleotides are present in meats, shiitake, cooked potatoes, bonito flakes, sardines, etc.
What it does…
Umami plays a delicious role in the flavor equation. It enhances sweetness and that’s why is essential in the creation of astonishing or unique desserts. It does bring to life any dish that is lacking character or is “too bland”. If something is lacking flavor or depth, umami can help. It also covers or neutralizes bitterness. If a dish has too much umami, you can balance it out with any of the other flavors aka: saltiness, sourness, sweetness, bitterness
How to obtain Umami
Besides using the ingredients that contain glutamate, you can caramelize, brown, rub or marinate to obtain umami. Fermentation and drying are too methods to obtain umami as well. Cooking and Preserving foods enhances umami more than that found naturally in the ingredients
Umami in Desserts / Bakes
If you pair or combine ingredients for your desserts that contain umami you can create unusual and delicious desserts. Typically we use fresh cheeses for a cheesecake instead of aged cheeses, but an aged cheese like Parmesan can be used to create a crust that combines with sweet fruit or roasted walnuts for example.
Miso and miso paste can be used to marinate certain fruits or vegetables.
If you dry some ingredients this can bring up umami.
A tomato tart, a French classic, is a perfect example of a bake with lots of umami, if you add a cheese crust, this will multiply the savoriness.
White chocolate combines perfectly with umami rich ingredients.
A milk could be infused with savoriness.
You can create a dessert pairing with a sauce, adding umami to the sauce
What could be used in Desserts and Bakes:
Toasted flours and grains
(aged) Cheese foams
Fermented dough for breads or cakes
Matcha green tea powder
Umami ingredients by excellence
Dried Meats: Bacon, Prosciutto, Jamón
Seafood: scallops, shrimp, lobster, squid
Dried Fish, flakes: Bonito, Sardines
Fish Sauce, Anchovies, Anchovy paste
Fishes with a dark meat
Tomatoes, Sun dried tomatoes, tomato paste
Kombu, Wakame (Algae)
Aged Cheeses (Pecorino, Parmesan)