Creamy Sandalwood

Coconut Love

Driven in part by my disappointment from Santal Massoïa (too cold, linear and paper-like) I've decided to smell for myself what sandalwood and massoia bark smell like together. Intuition tells me it should be smelling creamy, rich, warm and seductive, and not like a glass of cold milk spiked with iso-E super.

Sandalwood is a tricky note for me: one that does not develop very nicely on my skin. That is to say, the sandalwoods that are available nowadays don't agree with my skin. Unless you're attracted to sawdust and soured sweat. So intuition told me that adding a creamy aspect to it, which is what most contemporary sandalwoods are lacking, is going to allow me to enjoy sandalwood even on my finicky skin.

Massoia bark oil and CO2 extract have a unique aroma in the world of natural essences: intense, fruity, fatty-buttery with pronounced oily, lactonic notes of toasted-coconuts that comes from massoia lactone (the IUPAC name is (R)-5,6-Dihydro-6-pentyl-2H-pyran-2-one). It also naturally occurs in osmanthus absolute, which is why in some combinations, and when used sparingly osmanthus gives off a coconutty aroma to a composition without even being noticed on its own. Case in point is my Charisma perfume, which took on this character only once I've added the osmanthus absolute. 

Other milky notes were also taken into consideration, including a milky oolong tincture which I haven't used in any of my ready-to-wear line yet, although it is absolutely stunning. The idea was to create a very rich, opulent sandalwood perfume that is both sophisticated and a little beachy and fun-loving.

I used a smidgeon from a sample of Royal Hawaiian sandalwood oil I recently received, as well as my personal stash of Mysore sandalwood oil and Vanuatu oil (the latter is my favourite). Add to that a healthy dose of massoia bark, milky oolong tincture and a handful of secret spices - and you get the broad picture.

The next step was to balance it with something floral, so it's not just an accord of woods. I was on the fence between champaca's incense, fruity undertones; and ylang ylang's creamy, banana-ish character. Then there is the question of warmth and spices: shall I add cloves, cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg? I wanted their warmth, but not the culinary associations. So I opted for coffee instead - to give it a roasted, spice-like edge, but not mess up with the woody-coconutty context. This perfume is still in the works, so I will stop right here and will continue testing and tweaking until I'm perfectly happy with it. For now, I'm just enjoying dousing myself with it on those early days of summer. And it's especially appropriate to wear today, as it is Shavuot!

P.s. It's interesting to note regarding Massoia: Massoia lactone is produced synthetically, mostly, for both perfumery and flavouring purposes. Peeling the bark eventually kills the tree, so it's not exactly a "sustainable" ingredient, even though a little goes a very long way...

Seven Fragrant White Flowers for Shavuot

Shavuot is beginning this evening, and to celebrate, I've put together a bouquet of 7 white flowers that are currently in bloom. Wearing white is a Shavuot tradition, and so is wearing wreaths of flowers on the head. When I was a little girl, this was the time of the year when fragrant roses will be in full bloom, and the children lucky enough to grow them in their garden will have a flower or two of deep, wine-coloured burgundy rose in their baskets of first fruit - alongside apricots and green almonds. I am grown up enough now to own up to it and say I was deeply jealous of their baskets, and couldn't keep my nose away from it. This collection of seven flowers will not include white rose (or jasmine, for that matter) because I would like to make room for less known white flowers and hope that you find this post inspiring and alluring.

1. White Peony:

I find the white variety to be more well-rounded. White peonies smell a little more heady  than the pink and a tad jasmine-y but still also peppery and fresh. There is a strong resemblance to lily of the valley, and also there's a hint of hyacinth's heady floral and sharp green-onion-y notes. The flowers fills the room with their beautiful scent for a full week after being brought home from the florist. The pink ones are a bit of a hit-and-miss. Some smell rosy and with a hint of spicy carnation note; others are more green and dewy; and some smell funky, like rotten vegetables...

There is no shortage of peony-themed fragrances, but non has captured my nose as of yet. If you have any recommendations, I'll be happy to try them!

2. Choisya "Aztec Pearl" (aka Mexican Mock Orange)

Smells more like heliotropin than orange blossom to me, but is related to the same family (Rutaceae). The flowers have a powdery-sweet aroma with hints of methyl anthranilate. Very soft and alluring. I only know of one fragrance that is centred around it - Choisya candle by Dyptique.

3. Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia): 

The black locust tree is native to the Southeastern United States, but have found its way to many a gardens across the world, where it has become naturalized (and in some cases invasive) in temperate North America, Europe, South Africa, Asia. The origin of the name: Because of their similar fruit shape, Jesuit missionaries confused it with the carob tree Carob Tree (Ceratonia siliqua). 

The flowers have a havenly sweet-pea aroma mingled with the scent of intensified orange blossom. The methyl anthranilate aspect really coming through like a candy from the gods in this tree flower from Fabaceae family. The flowers are edible, having a sweet and aromatic flavour, but the fruit is not (though some say the seeds are edible too). Try using the flowers in a sugar syrup for desserts, or crystallize them in a similar way that rose and violet petals are treated. The entire flower clustered are dipped in batter and deepfried into fritters

I'm currently experimenting with some black locust syrup and tinctures recipes, and will report to you once they've rendered successful (which they are bound to be! The syrup is already tasting amazing halfway through the maceration process).

4. White Carnation (Dianthus): 

Dianthus seems to be the flower of the season, popping up in many gardens in the West End this year more than I've ever seen it before. I finally planted my own two Dianthus "Coconut Surprise" plants in my balcony's forelorn planter. They will only go till the end of fall, and I plan to thoroughly enjoy them!

I've gone into much detail about the scent of carnation. The white variety is what's mostly used for carnation absolute production for perfumery. The flowers have a beautiful, sweet-warm and soft-powdery scent and I can't help myself but get on my knees to smell everyone I meet on my walks in the neighbourhood.

Favourite carnation perfumes: InCarnation, Bellodgia, 

5. Philadelphium:

To my nose, Philadelphium smells like fedjoia - fruity, exotic, edible and unusual.
Is is also known as Mock Orange, but is a different plant than Choisya, and smells completely different. 

6. White Magnolia (Magnolia × wieseneri):

This particular magnolia has a magical scent. According to Wikipedia: 
"Its most notable feature is the remarkable fragrance of the ivory-coloured flowers, which has been likened to pineapples and seen adjectives such as "ethereal", "spicy" and "aromatic" used". It significantly changes its scent throughout the day, smelling like a dewy jasmine-tea in the evening, and developing a more fruity-aldehydic and lactonic character during the day, reminiscent of peach (aldehyde C-14) and a fatty, oily-skin-like scent (aldehyde C-13) during the day and once the flower is "overripe".

Favourite magnolia perfumes: New Orleans, Opium Fleur de Shanghai

7. White Lilac:

White lilac has more indole than the purple or pink ones, giving them a more perfumey character. Additionally, lilacs have the scent of powder, hints of green fig and cucumber, and in many cases also a rather dominant styrene presence.

Favourite lilac perfumes: Ineke's After My Own Heart and Olivia Giacobetti's En Passant (for Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum). 

If you want to celebrate Shavuot with the traditional desserts, here are my recipes for the perfect blintzes and best ever cheesecake!

Best Shavuot Cheescake Cake Ever

Cheesecake with vanilla cream for Shavuot

Shavuot, the holiday of receiving the Torah, and celebrating the wheat harvest, the first summer fruits and the newly born lambs and kids is here (the 2nd day of it, to be precise).
I've written before about milky notes in perfumery, and I have just updated it with some newly found and thought about notes.

For the culinary aspect of the holiday, eveyrone agrees that cheesecake is a must. Herding is the traditional, ancient lifestyle, and therefore celebrating the birth of newly born kids and lambs and the milk that flows with them is a tradition every late spring.

I'd like to share with you my favourite ever cheesecake. It is simple to make, but tastes and feels so extravagant, that I only bake it once a year - if I can. And if I can find quark cheese. Which should be more readily available for baking enthusiasts like me; but is not only hard to find but also ridiculously expensive. Even more than cream cheese. In Israel, the cheese used for that is a soft cheese simply titled "white cheese", and it's considered a staple food and priced accordingly. It also has far less butterfat - typically 9%, but also in lower fat (5% and 1%). Anyway, quark cheese is as close as it can get to the original recipe.

The making of a cheesecake
1kg Quark Cheese
5 eggs, separated
1 package instant vanilla pudding (see notes below for alternatives)*
4 Tbs tapioca starch (or corn starch)
1.5 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract 
1 cup fine raw sugar (evaporated cane juice)
Zest of 1 organic lemon
Pinch of salt
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk

For the cheesecake:
- Line a springform pan with parchment paper.
- Pre-heat the oven to 160c (320F)
- Beat the egg whites with a drop of lemon and a pinch of salt, just until light and fluffy.
- Add 1/2 cup of sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form. Set aside
- Beat the yolks with the remaining sugar.
- Add 1tsp vanilla extract and the lemon zest
- Add the quark cheese and beat until smooth
- Beat in the tapioca starch and 4Tbs of instant vanilla pudding powder and ensure the mixture is smooth and uniform
- Fold the egg white mixture into the yolk until well blended.
- Pour into the pan and spread it evenly.
- Bake in the oven for 60-80min, until the cake is golden in the centre and lightly brown on the edges.
- Let the cake cool slowly inside the oven, while you leave the oven's door slightly open.

For the vanilla cream:
- Combine the whipping cream, milk, remaining package of instant vanilla pudding and 1/2tsp of pure vanilla extract in a bowl.
- Whip on high speed until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
- Once the cake is completely cooled down, spread the cream on the cake and decorate as desired (you can make a pattern with a fork, or use a fancy piping if desired).
- Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
- Serve alone or with fresh fruit. This cake is so incredibly balanced in flavour that I never feel I need to serve it with anything really; but chocolate milk is an option, as is cafe au lait, fruit flavoured kombucha or a milky oolong.

* This cake calls for instant vanilla pudding, which is essential for getting the beautifully smooth and thick cream on the top. This processed product has its merits, but also tastes like fake vanilla. To improve that, I suggest adding some pure vanilla extract to the cream. But you can also seek out alternatives to instant vanilla pudding cream if you're a purist.
If you'd like to substitute the instant vanilla pudding in the cheesecake portion (not the whipped cream topping) - I suggest you substitute the 4 Tbs of instant vanilla pudding mixture with 4 Tbs of tapioca starch, and add 1/8tsp xanthan gum. It works fantastically well consistency-wise (maybe even better than with the instant powder), and you won't feel at all as if the cake is any less sweet.
For the topping I'm still experimenting with more wholesome alternatives; but for now I just want the good old fashion flavour and texture of my grandma's cheesecake.

Very Belated Happy Shavuot

Delicious Cheese, originally uploaded by cwbuecheler.

Shavuot went by this year without me doing anything about it at all. I was too busy getting over the jet lag from my trip to France (waking up at 3-4am every morning is no picnic!), Portobello West market today and all the preparations beforehand. I did not bake a cheesecake, or make blinztes, or eat any cheese. And I might as well. I probably had enough cheese in France to last for the rest of the year (it was my nearly only source of protein there - aside from eggs and some almonds when I found them).

All the same, I want to wish Happy Shavuot even though the holiday is far gone (yesterday). And also think that next year I will have to have blog post about dairy perfumes if such thing even exists. But perhaps I paid my dues early with my Got Milk? post...

Happy Shavuot!

Happy Sahvuot/Bikurim/Hag Matan Torah!

The day was mostly spent baking while the evening was spent celebrating with friends and eating the fruit of my labour - blinztes, cheescake and cheese and wine of course. It's a cheesy holiday ;)

For those not in the know, Shavuot occurs 7 weeks after Passover, which is when Moses got down from Mount Sinai with the Torah and gave it to the people of Israel. It also coincides with the beginning of the wheat harvest season and celebrates the first crops of summer - hence the first fruit, vegetables, wheat and the infant stock animals would be brought as offering to the temple when it was still standing. Nowadays, what we just stay up late for Tikkun Leil Shavuot and/or eat cheese...

As far as fragrance goes - since the weather was so un-summery and inappropriate for the holiday (at this time of the year in Israel it's unbearably hot and the air is full of little black flies that were disturbed from their home inside the wheat straw stems) I wore my interpretation of In A Station of the Metro which reminded me of the beginning of spring when the weather is mostly gloomy and is only cheered up by the presence of myriads of pink cherry blossoms.
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