Flavor Investigator: Cotton Candy

This week’s flavour investigator will be a little different as we will not be investigating an ingredient but instead a taste which has become iconic enough to be considered its own flavour. Summer is the season of carnivals and what makes them so memorable is the food. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, onion rings are just a few of the tasty treats which roam the carnival grounds. However, nothing beats the fluffy, colourful wonder known as cotton candy.

Cotton candy is a confectionary in which sugar is spun to create threads known as “sugar glass.”  It is believed that spun sugar originated in Europe during the 19th century. However, it can be confirmed that cotton candy formed by a machine was invented in 1897 by a dentist known as William Morrison and a confectioner John C. Wharton. It was first sold at the 1904 World’s Fair with great success. Not surprising considering how popular it still is today. Cotton candy characteristically is described as being sweet, caramellic, jammy, fruity and berry like.  A unique flavour combination which has become known as the flavour cotton candy.

Though how exactly is this whimsical confection made? Well this occurs by heating sugar until it turns into a liquid then spinning it at approximately 3000 revolutions per minute. The container the sugar is melted in contains holes and by spinning the sugar long strands are able to be formed.  These strands can be than be collected into sugar wool and served traditionally on a stick.

The Flavour Compound Used in Cotton Candy

One of the core compounds which is  used to develop the characteristic cotton candy flavour is the ethyl maltol. Ethyl maltol is a synthetic flavour because it not found in nature. This organic compound is used in different confectionaries as a flavour enhancer in order to improve the perception of low-fat foods. It makes low-fat yogurt and ice cream taste richer, fuller and creamier. Furthermore, it is described as having caramelized sugar and cooked fruit flavour.

The next compound typically found in cotton candy flavourings is strawberry furanone. This chemical is a derivate of a compound known as furan.  Strawberry furanone is described as having sweet, caramellic, cooked and fruity nuances. Furthermore, vanillin and ethyl vanillin are also commonly used as added flavour compound in cotton candies components.

The Iconic Colours Used in Cotton Candy

There are two widely available flavours of cotton candy and these are blue raspberry and pink vanilla. However, despite our association with  pink and blue , cotton candy’s colours do not contribute to the flavour. This confectionary has colour added to the sugar in order to produce ionic colours. It is up to the confectioner to decide what colour their treats will become. Two popular food dyes added to cotton candy is erlosky blue and allura red.  Allura red is a dark red powder used as a food dye and is not just limited to cotton candy. As well, it is used as an added colourant in drinks, condiments, medications and even cosmetics.

Cotton Candy Can Also Come In Other Flavours

Due to contrary belief cotton candy is not just limited to the flavours of blue raspberry and pink vanilla. Because cotton candy is just flavoured sugar your choices are unlimited. If purchasing from the correct vender you can have flavours such as green apple, mint chocolate and even grape. I encourage you to explore because there is a world of flavour out there!

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