Wednesday, December 12, 2018

How do they make that? Cocoa Powder & Cocoa Butter

By: Cecily Costa

Without going too deep, cocoa beans have been consumed for over 4,000 years.  The Aztecs made fermented beverages with cocoa beans dating back to 350 BC. Basically, the beans were crushed into nibs and ground fine into a thick paste (i.e. cocoa liquor, not to be confused with liqueur/alcohol). 

Cocoa powder, as we know it, was created to be a better ingredient for beverages in 1828 (see below).  Cocoa powder is made by pressing the thick liquor paste dry with hydraulics.  What is left is a dry “cake” (because it looks like a round baked cake) and oil/.  The dry cake is milled into cocoa powder. 

The oil (cocoa butter) comes out as light brown and is filtered again until it is almost white; the same process goes for nut and seed oils.  Initially the butter was discarded. Then, someone figured out that putting the fat back into ground chocolate liquor made it taste even better! Hence the chocolate bar was born in 1847 in Britain by Joseph Fry and Son’s, and made famous by John Cadbury in 1849.

DUTCH PROCESS COCOA was invented by Coenraad Johannes Van Houten, a chemist in The Netherlands (hence the name, Dutching).  In 1828, he patented an inexpensive process for pressing the cocoa butter from roasted beans, creating the press cake that is pulverized into cocoa powder.  Van Houten treated the nibs with alkaline before they were roasted, to neutralize the natural acidity and bitterness of the typical cacao bean.  This creates a darker   colored cocoa which leads most people to think that Dutched cocoa is more chocolaty (is it not, “natural” cocoa powder is actually more chocolaty and  contains more anti-oxidants).  Dutched cocoa, however, is more soluble, which was Van Houten’s original intent, as natural cocoa does not mix well with water.  The alkali changes the pH of the cocoa, neutralizing cacao’s natural acidity and making it milder in flavor than natural cocoa.  Because the pH is changed, you should not substitute the two types of cocoas without making some corrections.  Especially in baking, leavening reactions may vary because of the change in the acidity.  

Sources: and

See our Pastry Essentials Catalog for a complete listing of chocolate, cocoa powders and cocoa butter.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Your Pumpkin Pie is a Lie

by Kai Ryssdale and Bridget Bodnar, Marketplace, American Public Media, August 15, 2017

Always leave room for dessert, especially when it's served with a little business history on the side. In her new cookbook, "BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts," Serious Eats senior editor Stella Parks tells how some of the most all-American desserts became so popular in this country. A lot of times, it's because a corporation made it happen. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talked to Parks about some of the recipes in her book and how they came to define American baking. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation

Ryssdal: So we'll do a couple of examples here, the first one up, talk to me about pumpkin pie for a minute, would you? 
Parks: I wondered if you'd bring that up. I know you're not a fan of pumpkin pie. 
Ryssdal: I think pumpkin pie is overrated. 
Parks: I think that's fair for people to, I mean, know what they like. I think you've probably experienced the fact that you say, "I don't like pumpkin pie," and people say, "Well, you haven't had my grandmother's pumpkin pie." Pumpkin pie can have a lot of bad things going for it, so it's not unreasonable that you haven't enjoyed it. 
Ryssdal: Totally fair enough. Give me the corporate story, though, of how we got to where pumpkin pie is this staple in this economy now? 
Parks: Well it's this kind of secret pumpkin cabal in a way. 
Ryssdal: And other phrases that have never been said on Marketplace. 
Parks: Right. So pumpkins are not actually very good for pie. And everyone knows this. Back in the day everyone enjoyed squash a lot more, like a butternut squash or winter squash. And so there is this guy who was like this kind of squash king and he was into kind of consolidating different squashes and squash research and growing different varietals of squash. And he just snapped up this packing plant and was able to kind of get a monopoly on all the farmers in a specific area of America, which is now Libby's Pumpkin, which is secretly squash. 
Ryssdal: But if I go to the store and I buy a can of pumpkin, it says on the outside 100 percent pumpkin. 
Parks: Yeah, there's no rule about what pumpkins are. 
Ryssdal: Really? 
Parks: The Food and Drug Administration has no legal distinctions between pumpkins and squash. They're all in the same botanical family, and it's just a game of semantics. And the FDA was like, it doesn't matter, and it doesn't. I'm prosquash. 
Ryssdal: I wonder how many people listening to this interview, of which I am one, I will tell you, thought it actually was pumpkin that came glopping out of the can. 
Parks: Yeah, it's totally not pumpkin.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Histamine in food?


We take anti-histamines to help our running nose and inflammation due to allergies or “intolerances”. You might want to consider looking at your diet and eliminating or reducing foods naturally high in histamines! Here’s the tricky part, though: for the most part, the biggest source of histamine in food isn’t the food itself. It’s bacteria on the food, which naturally produce histamine as part of their metabolic process. So anything aged or fermented will be big trouble for the histamine intolerant! Even leftovers can sometimes be “aged” enough to cause problems. Foods high in histamine include:

  • (very high) Aged or fermented foods: kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt or kefir, kombucha, aged cheese, alcohol of any kind, vinegar, and cured meat. 
  • (very high) Fish and seafood, especially canned or smoked fish. 
  • (medium) spinach, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, canned vegetables, dried fruit, avocados, strawberries, papaya, pineapple, and leftovers.

Monday, June 18, 2018

UK to Ban Candy in Checkout Lanes

Source - Specialty Food News, June 5, 2018

The U.K. government will ban candy in checkout lanes at grocery stores as part of a strategy to fight childhood obesity, reports the Great Lakes Ledger. In addition, the plan may include blocking TV shows from showing ads with sweets before 9 p.m. and banning promotions like "buy one, get one free" for sugary products. Many major supermarket chains in the region also plan to stop selling energy drinks, or any drink with more than 150 milligrams of caffeine per liter, to kids under 16. The government might make the ban industry-wide, as it notes there is a “large numbers of retailers who have not imposed such a restriction,” according to the report.

This measure is to limit children be exposed to unhealthy foods. Quebec has had a ban on fast-food advertising targeted at children under 13 in both printed and electronic media since 1980. A study conducted in 2011 showed that Quebec families purchased 13% less fast food with the help of the ban.

An OECD report from 2017, shows that other countries have banned junk-food advertising aimed at children. Chile, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, and other countries have already taken his step.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What The Fluff? Celebrates A Century Of Peanut Butter's Marshmallow Friend

Taken in part from Carolyn Beans,’ September 30, 2017 - NPR - The Salt

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Marshmallow Fluff — peanut butter's second most famous sandwich co-star. An estimated 20,000 Fluff fans celebrated the centennial in sticky style this past September, in the New England neighborhood where the confection was first concocted — Union Square in Somerville, Mass., just outside of Boston.

If you happen to have led a Fluff-free childhood, here's an intro: Fluff is a marshmallow cream made from corn syrup, sugar syrup, dried egg whites and vanillin. So yeah, it's basically sugar — ooey, gooey, creamy sugar. It's most famous for its key role in the "Fluffernutter," a lunchbox favorite consisting of peanut butter and Fluff slathered between bread.

In 1917, Archibald Query began whipping up marshmallow cream in his Union Square home, selling it door to door. Three years later, recently returned war vets H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower purchased his recipe for $500 (about $6,000 in today's currency). The team gave the sweet goo its iconic name and made it the signature product of their new business partnership, the Durkee Mower Company, based in Lynn, Mass., where the family-owned business still operates.

But New Englanders lay a special claim to Fluff. Paul Walker, vice president of manufacturing at Durkee Mower, says that his team produces 8 million pounds of Fluff each year and at least half is sold in New England.

Alecia Villa, a 19-year-old from Burlington, Mass., attended with her parents and brother. Her favorite way to eat Fluff? "With a spoon, out of a jar." Her father, Chris Villa, grew up a couple of miles from the square. He remembers teaming up with other kids to help neighbors shovel snowy drives. His grandmother would reward them all with cocoa topped with Fluff.

Fluff was not the first or last marshmallow cream on the market. In her book—Fluff: The Sticky Sweet Story of an American Icon—Mimi Graney describes how the Massachusetts-based Emma E. Curtis Company was already producing its own version when Query got started. And it was Curtis who in 1918 first published a recipe for pairing marshmallow cream and peanut butter on a sandwich. In 1957, Kraft Foods got in on the marshmallow cream market, too.

But the very next year, Durkee Mower came up with the name "Fluffernutter" and launched a national ad campaign that landed the sandwich — and their Fluff — a lasting place in American childhoods.

For the non-traditionalists, there were novel recipes to try. Local restaurants setup shop under tents selling Fluff spread over doughnuts, folded into empanadas, and tucked into pierogis. At the Fluff cooking competition table, judges sampled everything from a "Flufferita pizza" made with Fluff and jam (instead of mozzarella and sauce), to an Indian pakora fried snack filled with sweet potato and Fluff.

Patrick Chhoy, 26, from Lowell, Mass., won "Most Inventive Recipe" for his Fluff Maki — deep-fried sweet potato slices dressed with hot sauce, rolled in rice and seaweed, and topped with Fluff, avocado, bacon, and chili powder. He clinched the win with no prior Fluff experience. "I grew up on bologna sandwiches," he said.

Over at the festival's Fear Factor table, the adventurous were creating wild (and often nauseating) Fluff-inspired finger foods. Festival guests picked from crackers smeared with Fluff blended with a range of condiments, from chocolate syrup to salsa. They then added toppings like green beans, Lucky Charms, capers, or Spam. I met Mike Bertolami of Waltham, Mass., as he and his 13-year-old son sampled Fluff mixed with Tabasco sauce and topped with tuna and corn.

For Graney, this inventiveness is really what Fluff Fest is all about. She created the festival as then-director of Union Square Main Streets, a local neighborhood group, as a way to jump-start the local economy by harnessing what she calls its "creative assets." Many told her she should make the neighborhood more like nearby Kendall Square, home to biotech startups and innovation powerhouse MIT.

"But I wanted to show how Union Square does invention — off-beat, homegrown and a little quirky," she said. The festival's official title is "What the Fluff? A Tribute to Union Square Invention." "We were hoping to give her a Fluff doughnut but the line is crazy long," Brenckle said. "We definitely have to get her some Fluff. She's a New Englander."

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bean Basics

Taken from Elegant Beans & Beyond

Dry beans expand to about 2 ½ times their original size when soaked.

1. Pre-soak! It is a fact that before beans can really start cooking, they must re-hydrate. Overnight soaking is best—cover 4 times the amount of beans with cold water, let stand for at least 8 hours, covered.Quick soaking—in a large pot, cover with 2” water and bring to a boil for 2 minutes; remove
from heat, covered and rest for 1 hour.

2. Pour off the soak water and rinse. It will cause less problems in your digestive tract. Many of the indigestible, soluble sugars in beans—a partial cause of gas problems— are dissolved in the soak water. There are no significant amounts of valuable nutrients lost when you pour off the soak water.

3. Place in large pot and cover with 2” fresh cold water; bring to a boil, then simmer until tender; about 1-2 hours (add more water if needed so that the beans are covered). Cooking the beans
too fast can break skins. 

Optional: A tablespoon of oil prevents foaming. While the beans are cooking you can add whole peeled garlic cloves and bay leaf at this point but DO NOT ADD…salt, baking soda, vinegar, lemon, wine, tomatoes, ketchup, chili sauce, pineapple or any acid based seasonings or ingredients until beans are cooked! These ingredients will toughen the beans and increase their cooking time about 35-40 minutes. Cooking with hard water will toughen the beans and increase their cooking time. Old beans will take much longer to cook than fresh dried beans.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It's BLOOMING hot out here! What to do with bloomed chocolate.

By: Cecily Costa

Well #$@& happens and especially with all the hot weather we have received in the past few weeks, chocolate will bloom. But most importantly, don’t throw it out!

Chocolate bloom is a white powdery surface due to fat bloom or sugar bloom. This problem is due to incorrect storage of chocolate; either too warm or too cold. Fat bloom occurs when cocoa butter either does not crystallize properly or undergoes a phase transition when stored in warm or humid conditions. Fat bloomed chocolate feels 'oily' or 'greasy' due to surface layer of fat. Fortunately, fat bloom can be reversed by either tempering the chocolate or using it in a baked good where the chocolate will be warmed or cooled in similar way of the tempering process.

Sugar bloom occurs when sugar dissolves in surface moisture and recrystallizes, so do not store unwrapped chocolate in the fridge. Sugar-bloomed chocolate feels 'grainy' due to sugar deposits on the surface. Most importantly, sugar bloom is irreversible, so sugar-bloomed chocolate cannot be fixed (though you may be able to salvage it in a brownie recipe).

Chocolate with low cocoa butter content (like 32%) will have less than high cocoa butter content couvertures. If the chocolate is being used in baking (either as a chip or melted into the recipe) the quality won't be affected. If you are making molded truffles, the chocolate will need to tempered again.

Source: “No Added Chemicals, The Chemistry of Chocolate”