Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ratios and Combining Flavors

At the age of 34, as a relatively adventurous eater, there are few discrete 'flavors' that I have not yet tasted. Therefore, as a general rule, new taste experiences are created by combining multiple flavors. Along with simply finding flavors that blend well together, it's crucial to mix them in the correct ratios.

One such example is the Twix bar. The chocolate, caramel, and cookie in a Twix bar are all optimally proportioned. Consider a Twix with significantly more chocolate. Along with calling attention to the fact that the quality of the chocolate doesn't hold up on its own against a good solid chocolate bar, it would begin to overpower the subtle caramel flavor. The caramel itself is well-proportioned to provide a little chewyness to contrast the cookie as well as provide an injection of sugary sweetness as you bite into the bar.

The cookie, the key to Twix's success, is also perfectly proportioned. Not only does the cookie provide the correct ratio in terms of flavor, but more importantly, it provides just the right amount of crunch. What differentiates the Twix bar from other candy bars is its combination of textures. A thinner cookie wouldn't provide enough crunch while a thicker one would overpower the caramel and chocolate.

An example of the subtleties of ratio can been seen when you look at Twix's crunchy cousin, the Kit Kat. Like the Twix, the Kit Kat is well proportioned for both flavor and texture. Unlike the Twix, the Kit Kat has an estranged big brother, the Big Kat. Released in 2000 the Big Kat is essentially the same thing as the standard Kit Kat, but about four times the size. Somehow, in the process of making the Kit Kat larger, they lost track of the ratios. The larger size is harder to bite and the chocolate on the outside overpowers the wafer.

Sooo... next time you eat, think about not just the individual ingredients, but the ratios of those ingredients and how they work together. Think about the interplay between the elements that make up the food you're eating.

Salad needs dressing and dressing needs salad. Chocolate enhances peanut butter and peanut butter enhances chocolate.


Dawn Haley Morton said...

Bravo! Aside from Twix being an all-time favorite for reasons cited here, I have to add a footnote about ratios and other snack foods.

SNACK APPLE PIES: Hostess (one half-moon pie) versus Drake's (two square pies).
a) The Hostess Apple pie is totally it... Perfect amount of apple pie filling, sweetly coated crust surrounding it in the strangest shape - why does it look like a half moon? Who cares, damn it's good - about 60% apple filling, 40% crust.
b) Drake's - you bite into Pie #1 and you're half done. Aside from being unfair, the crust to filling ratio is WAY off, polar opposite of Hostess.

If you're a crust lover, buy Drakes. If you just need some sort of dry vehicle to hold your apple filling, pick up a Hostess pie.

And the other famous ratio issue... Oreos vs. Doublestuff. Why screw up a classic? I've eaten my weight in doublestuff over the years, but as my palette has become more, ahem, refined-ish, I have to say the cookie men did it right the first time with the regular Oreo.

Brian Grossman said...

Dawn - Those are great examples of ratios. I'm totally anti double-stuff!

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