Food alchemy...what's changing exactly?
July 6, 2009 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I like almonds (the nut) and cherries (the fruit), but once they're "processed" in any way, the flavor changes and I dislike it to the point where it'll almost make me queasy. Even baked almond slices on a croissant, for example (to a lesser extent) or something like a Yoplait natural yogurt (which I just tried and was what prompted me to write this) which actually has little bits of cherry has a component to the taste that I find really distasteful. And don't even get me started on almond or cherry "flavor".

I found this link which talks about flavors and may be related. But what changes with almonds and cherries that account for this? I know this is kind of vague, and if it helps, the "something" about the flavor change that really gets to me seems similar between processed cherries and almonds.

Upon preview, this is still vague...what I'm trying to get at is, is there maybe a chemical aspect or component that I can point to and say "oh! I don't like processed/cooked almonds and cherries because processing these items releases x compound which tastes y, which is what I don't like." And sorry, I can't even describe the "y" that makes me wince.
posted by edjusted to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know the chemistry, but if it helps, I agree with you on cherries, making you not a freak, or at least a freak in some company. Real fresh cherries are great, but canned or processed or cherry-flavor (even natural) is ungodly awful and reminds me of a dentists' fluoride flavors.

Also in same category: peaches. Not edible unless real and fresh.

I don't like almonds in any form so I can't reflect on that.
posted by rokusan at 12:05 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't have my copy of On Food and Cooking on me, so apologies if this is a little vague (I Am Not A Food Scientist), but both cherries and almonds contain benzaldehyde. Or, rather, cherries contain amygdalin, which decomposes into benzaldehyde.

Cherry flavor comes primarily from benzaldehyde, and benzaldehyde is the base of artificial almond flavor.

I only have a suspicion that a change in benzaldehyde is what puts you off; I'll look around to see how it changes with exposure to heat. The only thing I know for certain is that both almonds and cherries have this aldehyde in common.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:08 PM on July 6, 2009

With almonds, perhaps it's that they're stale.

Have you tried toasting fresh almonds, that you like the taste of, to see if these taste better than the commercial ones? If so, then this would suggest that freshness is the key.
posted by zippy at 12:09 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: This thread might explain a common link:

Science Madness
posted by muirne81 at 12:09 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: "Cherry flavor comes mainly from almondy benzaldehyde, a flowery terpene (linalool), and essence of clove (eugenol). Heating increases both the almond and flowery notes, especially if the pits are left in the fruit. This is why the classic cherry clafoutis, a custardy tart, is intensely flavored by requires care in eating!" -Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking

Sounds like, at least in cherries, cooking intensifies the benzaldehyde "almond extract flavor."
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:13 PM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

This (incomplete) Google books extract lists several complex components of roasted almond flavour.
posted by maudlin at 12:21 PM on July 6, 2009

Oh, thanks for this question. I too hate both fake/processed almond and cherry. And when I tell people that to me, the processed flavors taste very similar they look at me strangely. But now I got some science!
posted by gaspode at 12:33 PM on July 6, 2009

Interesting side note, almond flavored DiSaronno is made from apricot pits.
posted by electroboy at 1:16 PM on July 6, 2009

Separate the flavors. Do you mean bitter almond vs. sweet almond? You will notice a difference between almond pastes and extract flavors once you differentiate between the profiles. Bitter almond is unusual in the US while more common in Europe and in China (e.g., apricot seed soup) For the US bitter almond is not sold because of fears due to poisoning though you would have to consume a ridiculous amount to get cyanide poisoning.
posted by jadepearl at 2:32 PM on July 6, 2009

Response by poster: @Juliet Banana @muirne81: hmm...I'll have to read more but benzaldehyde sounds like it!

@jadepearl: I think I mean sweet almonds...but @zippy: now that I think about it...I like the roasted almonds you get in a can, so maybe the pastries I'm eating with roasted sliced almonds on top also have almond extract as an ingredient.
posted by edjusted at 6:27 PM on July 6, 2009

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