Move over America’s Test Kitchen. When it comes to taste tests, you’re not the only game in town. My discerning and delightful taste testers are on the job. They checked out the Safeway brand of almond extract and the Organic Whole Foods (365) version to figure out which one they prefer.
Actually, in this case it’s a smell test rather than a taste test, but you get the drift.
Why do a taste test to see which brand of almond extract is best?
- By nature, I’m curious. Previous taste tests checked whether homemade vanilla makes a difference and whether filtering improves vodka. I’m always interested in whether higher-priced or special ingredients taste better than a less expensive version of the same ingredient. That’s why I tested different varieties of shrimp – farm-raised and wild, fresh and frozen.
- I had almost used up my Safeway almond extract between the homemade marzipan and the upcoming gluten-free cake from Marguerite that uses almond extract. Instead of buying more of the same brand, I saw this as an opportunity to test a different brand.
- America’s Test Kitchen did a test of almond extracts, but you can’t see the results without a year-long subscription to their site. (I’ve subscribed in the past, but found that I didn’t use the site enough to justify the expense of a subscription.)
While I applaud ATK’s painstaking research and wanted to see the results, I couldn’t justify a subscription just to satisfy my curiosity about almond extract.
Instead, I gathered the only available subjects: my son Liam and 4 of his friends. I’m not sure how willing they would have been if I’d simply invited them to participate.
However, I’m no fool. I began by offering them cake, banana bread, and fruit salad, with the prospect of more goodies to come. So by the time I made the “ask”, they agreed without hesitation.
Both brands contain water, alcohol, and bitter almond extract. The Whole Foods version also includes glycerin. That is a colorless and odorless sweetener sometimes used in making vanilla, almond, and other extracts. And it is organic because, well Whole Foods:). So it uses purified water, organic alcohol, and natural bitter almond oil instead of the “not organically certified” versions of those ingredients.
With the exception of Kevin (the guy with glasses), all my testers are in the Commedia dell’Arte troupe Tut’Zanni. Being actors, they passed around the bottles of almond extract with great pomp and flourish. Their exclamations were remarkably clear and exquisitely pronounced.
The guys went first. They unanimously preferred the Safeway brand of almond extract, which they found more assertive and “almond-y”. Then it was the women’s turn. They preferred the Whole Foods extract, describing it as more complex and pleasing. What to make of the split verdict?
We did question (jokingly) whether a taste for more expensive ingredients is a female trait. However, we decided that neither brand of almond extract is better. Both were acceptable – they smelled of almond and had no unfortunate “notes.” Between these brands, the choice is a matter of your taste buds – or more precisely, your scenting sensibilities.
Unfortunately, you can’t smell a brand of extract before you buy it. But you could ask neighbors and friends who bake to let you check theirs and compare brands that way before buying your own bottle.
Even if brands smell different in the bottle, we still don’t know whether you could tell the difference if you used them in an unbaked (marzipan) or baked (cake or cookie) confection. Anyone up for almond sweets taste testing?
The Tut’Zanni Troupe- Molly Tomhave, Liam Mulshine, Ali Landvatter, Allegra Libonati, Dory Sibley & Patrick Berger
Please pardon the plug for a lovely group of talented young actors. Note to the FTC – this isn’t a sponsored post, it’s a mother post. I get no compensation or reward for mentioning Tut’Zanni, other than a table-full of hungry and appreciative actors during their run in DC and an occasional hug.