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What is the difference between Extracts, Emulsions, Natural Flavorings, And Flavoring Oils?

Ever wonder what the difference is between extracts, emulsions, natural flavorings, and flavoring oils? You’ve probably heard these terms used interchangeably even though they’re not interchangeable. Here’s a breakdown of the differences and how you can use these terms to your advantage.

Extracts: Extracts are soluble in a liquid medium. They’re usually made by dissolving substances like plants or botanicals in boiling water and evaporating the resulting solution. This leaves behind many chemicals that are soluble in water but insoluble in alcohol or oil. Examples of extracts include vanilla extract, ginger extract, lemon extract, lime extract, honey extract and almond extract.

Emulsion: Emulsions contain tiny particles of one liquid suspended in another liquid. They’re usually made by combining a liquid with an agent that causes one to disperse into very tiny droplets. Examples of emulsions include mustard, horseradish, mayonnaise and salad dressings.

Natural Flavorings: Natural flavorings are extracts that have been added to another liquid-alcohol, water or oil-in order to suspend them in solution. In addition, the flavorings are often changed by the inclusion of other ingredients and/or removal of certain chemicals from the extract. Examples of natural flavorings include vanilla extract, ginger extract, lemon extract and lime extract.

Flavoring Oils: Flavoring oils are compounds made from chemicals that are soluble in oil, but not in a liquid medium like alcohol or water. Flavoring oils have a distinct advantage over extracts because they’re highly concentrated. A little goes a long way! Examples of flavoring oils include almond, coconut, anise and peppermint. In addition to extracting flavor compounds from plants and botanicals, it’s also possible to synthesize them by breaking down molecules into their simpler chemical constituents. These chemicals are then mixed into a base liquid. An example of this would be the manufacturing of vanillin from vanilla beans.

I hope this article has helped shed some light on the differences between extracts, emulsions, natural flavorings and flavoring oils. If you want to learn more about all of these ingredients, check out my book here.

Many people are confused as to what to use to flavor their cakes, cookies, icings and even chocolates. All of the flavorings can be used in more than one application. Each has their own characteristics and we will help you pick the perfect flavoring for whatever you are making.

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Let’s first start with Extracts. These are generally the most common type of flavorings. Extracts are alcohol based and are most commonly found in pure or imitation. Pure extracts are generally stronger than imitation extracts.

So why would you want to use imitation extracts? The main reason is the imitation extracts are usually clear in color so they won’t change the color of your batters and frostings. You can use extracts to flavor cookies, icings, cake batter and candy fillings. Extracts are perfect for all your baking needs.

Next we are going to move on to emulsions. The main difference between emulsions and extracts are that the emulsions are water based and not alcohol based. Emulsions are superior to extracts because when they are subjected to high heat the flavor will not bake out.

So you will end up with a better flavor in anything you bake by using Emulsions. If a recipe calls for 1 tsp of extract you can substitute 1 tsp of emulsions. Just like extracts, you can use the emulsions to flavor cakes, cookies, icings, fondant and all you’re baking.

We also carry Natural Flavorings. Natural flavorings contain no added sugars or fats. All the natural flavorings are water soluble. You can use the natural flavorings to add flavor it icing, cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy centers and even hard candy.

Natural flavoring will work for all your baking needs. Now one thing to remember if you are using the natural flavorings to flavor your hard candy you will need to add double the amount of natural flavoring as you would of the candy oils.

Most people think that candy oils are only used to flavor hard candy. This is not true. First of all candy oils are not oil based. They contain no vegetable oil. Candy oil actually means the flavor is concentrated and undiluted.

Candy oils are 3-4 times stronger than extracts. If a recipe calls for 1 tsp of extract you will substitute 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of candy oils. Most all candy oils can be used to flavor chocolate unless otherwise specified. This is the only flavoring that is safe to flavor your chocolate with.

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Any water based flavorings will seize up your chocolate and make it unusable. To flavor chocolate you will use approximately 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of candy oil per pound of chocolate.You can also use the candy oils for all your baking needs. 

Is vanilla extract and flavoring the same?

I hear people ask this all the time, especially when out in public. There are a lot of people who have never heard of beverage extracts but think that vanilla extract is the same as imitation vanilla flavoring.

Vanilla extract is not just about extract, it’s about alcohol, vanilla and sugar. And it’s made with 25-50% alcohol by volume. Emulation vanillas don’t usually have much more than 20% alcohol which makes them more similar to regular extracts and hard liquors, though they do actually have flavor compounds from actual vanilla beans in them.

Another difference between vanilla extract and imitation flavorings is that vanilla extract is an alcohol based liquid, whereas all the imitation flavorings are oil based liquids. When you hear that vanilla extract is a water-soluble flavor, it means that the alcohol in the formula will help to dissolve the other ingredients: vanilla beans, water and sugar. It doesn’t mean that it is water based. All vanilla extracts are mixed with water and then bottled. This makes them largely cheaper than pure oils and waxes and carrier oils from plant sources.

Is extract better than flavoring?

If you want your flavoring to remain stable in a baking or cooking environment, then extracts are the way to go. Flavors can get greasy if they are oil based and they will not last as long. They will lose their fragrance and flavor intensity.

Can I bake with flavorings?

You can definitely bake with flavorings if you want to change the taste of a recipe or add more flavor to your food. Extracts are also used for flavoring candies, frosting sauces, syrups and fillings. They’re also used for making homemade liqueurs at home.

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Can I use vanilla Flavouring instead of the extract?

I have often heard people say that you can use vanilla flavoring instead of vanilla extract in a recipe. You cannot use vanilla flavoring in place of extract because the two are made differently and are not interchangeable.

When you bake with extract, you will see that there is always some droplets of liquid on top of your baked goods. When your batter is whisked, this is what you get – a mixture of oil and water. Vanilla flavoring contains the same compounds as extract, but they’re suspended in an alcohol base so they won’t separate if you cook or bake with them much like how extracts stay separated when used in a recipe.

Is extract a flavor?

Extracts are not even close to being like a flavor. Extract’s main purpose is to give a strong flavor to your recipe. They are made of different ingredients that have their own taste and smell. They have different percentages of alcohol, flavoring and other ingrediants.

Vanilla extract is very popular here in Australia, as we call it “Vanilla essence” or “Vanilla extract”, but generally speaking extracts are made for the purpose of giving a strong vanilla flavor to your products like cake batter and fondant frostings, or just about any other product that can benefit from a strong vanilla flavor. These products usually contain an amount of flavoring agents around 30%, but there can be up to 50% in some cases.

If you are trying to get a strong vanilla taste, then using extracts is recommended. However, if you want milder taste for your product, then you should definitely consider using flavoring. But be aware of some flavoring agents don’t work that well in cooking and baking. The process of creating extracts is basically the same with the addition of top flavor and pure distilled water to our natural flavorings. Alcohol (60-70% v/v) or glycol is added to the base material which can be a single ingredient or a blend—such as an absolutes and essential oils combination—to produce extracts.

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