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”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Why We All Scream When We Get Ice Cream Brain Freeze

By: Ashlie Stevens, July 31, 2017—the salt, NPR

Brain freeze — its technical name is sphenopalatine gangli on neuralgia. This is the signature pain of summer experienced by anyone who has eaten ice cream with too much enthusiasm or slurped down a slushie a little too quickly. It's enough to get most people to stop eating the ice cream all together.

Dr. Kris Rau of the University of Louisville in Kentucky, says it's a good way to understand the basics of how we process damaging stimuli. "Now on the roof of your mouth there are a lot of little blood vessels, capillaries," Rau says. "And there's a lot of nerve fibers called nociceptors that detect painful or noxious stimuli."

The rush of cold causes those vessels to constrict. "And when that happens, it happens so quickly that all of those little pain fibers in the roof of your mouth — they interpret that as being a painful stimulus," Rau says. A message is then shot up to your brain via the trigeminal nerve, one of the major nerves of the facial area.

The brain itself doesn't have any pain sensing fibers, but its covering — called the meninges — does. "And of course all of those little pain-sensing fibers are hooked up to your trigeminal nerve," Rau says. "So the brain is trying to figure out what is going on. It knows there is something wrong, something that is painful and they don't know exactly where it is."

And the pain message finally registers at the top of your head, which seems kind of random. "But it's a very similar phenomenon to the referred pain that is experienced by people who have heart attacks," Rau says. "You don't feel like your heart is hurting itself; it's your shoulder that is starting to hurt on your left side." And after a minute or two, the brain and body go back to normal.

Interestingly, Rau says there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that ice cream headaches might be an effective treatment for migraines. It does not work for everyone, but at least it might be worth a tasty shot!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Healthy Eating Department - Why The Arctic Apple Means You May Be Seeing More GMOs At The Store

By: Grant Gerlock, NPR the salt, February 1, 2017

Genetically engineered crops are nothing new. But emerging technology that allows scientists to alter plants more precisely and cheaply is taking genetically engineered plants from the field to the kitchen.

Arctic Apples are genetically engineered to produce less of the enzyme that turns sliced apples brown. Courtesy Okanagan Specialty Fruits
The first version of the Arctic Apple, a genetically modified Golden Delicious, is headed for test markets in the Midwest in February, according to the company that produced it. It is the first genetically engineered apple, altered so that when it is cut, it doesn't turn brown from oxidation.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits, based in British Columbia, Canada, wouldn't say exactly where the apples will first be sold, but says the target consumers are those interested in convenience. "The rapid expansion of the fresh-cut industry – bagged carrots, ready-made salads – has led to explosive growth of fresh cut produce," says Neal Carter, president of the company. "I can cut this up for my kid's lunch box ... and it doesn't go brown and they'll actually eat it."

The Arctic Apple is one of the first foods often termed a "genetically modified organism" (GMO) to be marketed to consumers, not at farmers. And it's a sign of how the science of genetic engineering is evolving. The first genetically engineered crops were global commodities like corn, soybeans and cotton. They were "transgenic," meaning they were resistant to pesticides or insects after scientists transferred new DNA into the plants.

"We were taking DNA sequences from another, often non-plant species, and moving it into plants," says Sally Mackenzie, a plant geneticist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In contrast, new crops are "cisgenic." They work within a plant species' own genome. "The next generation of technologies, those being implemented now — including the new apple – we're not introducing foreign DNA any longer," Mackenzie says.

The Arctic Apple uses a technology called RNA interference, sometimes called gene silencing. The target is the gene in the apple that controls production of the enzyme that makes it turn brown. When scientists add an extra strand of RNA, that gene is effectively switched off, or silenced. "We're basically down-regulating a gene that's already within that apple," Mackenzie says. "So I see that as entirely different. And I think it's important for the average consumer to recognize technologies have moved on."

Advances like gene silencing and other gene editing methods, like CRISPR technology, make biotech plant-breeding cheaper and more precise than the first generation of genetically engineered crops. New technologies are also less expensive for companies when it comes to federal regulations, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration require fewer costly tests.

Huge companies like Monsanto have dominated the industry, Mackenzie says, in part because of the high cost of regulations. Old biotech crops were aimed at big commodities in large part because it was a sure way to recoup that investment.

Engineered plants that don't introduce new genes don't face the same regulatory hurdles. Groups critical of GMO technology want to see stronger regulations in order to evaluate potential long-term impacts of biotech crops on health and the environment. Federal agencies are reviewing their rules around GMOs to catch up with the technology.

Under the current regulatory structure, however, it is more economically viable, Mackenzie says, for smaller biotech companies to market their own innovations. "You're going to see more and more traits coming out that are really consumer friendly, designed to respond to consumer demand," Mackenzie says. Corn will still get plenty of attention from plant breeders, but more companies may shift their focus from field to fridge.
Most genetically engineered crops are processed into ingredients in foods, so when we eat them they are a few steps removed from the field – think soybean oil in salad dressing or corn syrup in soda. When the Arctic Apple hits the produce aisle, however, it will be one of the first GMOs to reach consumers directly, but it is not the only one. A virus-resistant Rainbow papaya is already on the shelf. So is Simplot's bruise-resistant russet, called the Innate potato. The fruit company Del Monte has approval for a pink pineapple engineered to carry more lycopene, an antioxidant that supports the body's defense system.

The labels on packages of Arctic Apples won't say much about GMOs. They will have a tell-tale snowflake logo, and a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone to reach a website with information about the science. That fits within the framework of a GMO labeling law passed by Congress last year, but it makes genetic engineering in food less obvious than many consumer groups have called for. The vast majority of consumers support clear labels on foods that contain GMO ingredients, just as the vast majority of scientists agree that they are safe to eat. For stores that may sell biotech fruits and vegetables, it pays to be up front with shoppers that these foods are genetically engineered.

"Transparency is what everything is about," says Joan Driggs, editorial director of Progressive Grocer which covers the grocery business. "Any retailer or manufacturer has to be transparent with their customer." The big question for the biotech industry: Once consumers know how these apples are created, will they care?

The Arctic Apple's test run will last through March. Okanagan Specialty Fruits expects a wider commercial release this fall.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Grapefruit & Salt: The Science Behind This Unlikely Power Couple

By: Cecily Costa

Taken in part from NPR, the Salt (November 14, 2016—Nadia Berenstein)

Ad campaigns from the first and second world wars tried to convince us that "Grapefruit Tastes Sweeter With Salt" as one 1946 ad for Morton's in Life magazine put it. The pairing, these ads swore, enhanced the flavor and there's science to prove it.

The origins of our grapefruit habit—
Grapefruits originated in Barbados in the middle of the 18th century. They are a hybrid formed from the Javanese pumelo and the East Asian sweet orange. First grown commercially in Florida at the end of the 19th century, grapefruit quickly went from being a novelty to being a daily necessity and made fortunes for farmers.

Early 20th century cookbooks and recipes in magazines offered an abundance of ways to use grapefruits in sweet confections, as well as in savory-sweet salads. But the most common option was the one that's still familiar to us today — at breakfast, chilled, sliced in half, sprinkled with sugar and (optionally) crowned with a bright-red candied cherry.

In 1911, an Iowa woman calling herself "Gude Wife" wrote in to the "The Housemother's Exchange," a national advice column, to recommend salting grapefruits. "Salt neutralizes the bitter taste as well as the acidity," she advised. Others wrote in to back up this endorsement. "I think you will find that many Southerners always salt their grapefruit," wrote "M.B.L." from Philadelphia. "I am sure that if you once try it you will agree with me that it is good." In fact, salting fruit remains a regional practice alive and well in the South.

Go salty for Uncle Sam—
But when World War I disrupted the global sugar supply chain, causing sugar shortages and skyrocketing prices, grapefruit sales plummeted. Americans were apparently reluctant to eat the fruit if they couldn't drown out its pungency with sugar.

Panicked, the Florida Citrus Exchange, in an effort to boost sales, launched a national advertising campaign in 1919 to convince Americans that grapefruit "need no sugar, and never should have much." After the sugar crisis ended, so did the campaign. But when World War II came along, and sugar once again became scarce, salt and grapefruit's high profile romance was rekindled — this time by salt manufacturers. "Vitamin-rich Grapefruit — a 'Victory Food Special' — is one of the fruits Uncle Sam advises you to eat," explained one 1943 ad from Morton's Salt.

Ads like this made an overt appeal to patriotic sentiments. Eating grapefruit with salt was a way civilians could support the war effort, both by consuming nutritious, domestically grown food, and by limiting their use of rationed sugar. The campaign proved so successful that it continued into the 1950s, long after rationing had ended.

The science behind adding salt for sweetness—
Even as salt-makers boasted about the taste-enhancing effects of salt on grapefruit, they were at a loss to explain just why the combination worked. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that Gary Beauchamp and Paul Breslin at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia began to unravel the complex, dynamic process through which salt transforms and enhances flavor. By testing the interaction between three taste sensations — salty, bitter and sweet — they found that salt increased the perception of sweetness by diminishing our ability to taste bitterness. Beauchamp, now emeritus director of Monell, explains that this is because of the ions in the salt, which block many of the receptors on our tongues that detect bitterness.

But would reducing bitterness make something taste sweeter? Our sense of taste doesn't just play out on the surface of our tongues. Our brains receive signals about what we eat from our mouths, noses, eyes, ears and skin, integrating and interpreting these different messages to produce the complex, multi-sensory experience that we know as flavor. There is strong evidence that, at this cognitive level, bitterness and sweetness inhibit each other. In other words, the more bitter something tastes, the less sweet we perceive it to be, and vice versa. Grapefruit is rich in bitter-tasting plant compounds, especially one called naringin. By diminishing our tongue's ability to sense naringin and other bitter compounds, salt also produces a secondary cognitive effect, which we perceive as "a relative bump in sweetness," according to Breslin, a professor of nutrition at Rutgers University.

Something else might be going on, too, he says. Salt changes the chemistry of water. In a watery food like grapefruit, the addition of salt makes it easier for volatile molecules — the chemicals responsible for odor — to launch themselves into the air, where we can breathe them in and smell them, intensifying our experience of the fragrance of the fruit. So that enhanced scent might heighten our enjoyment as well.

Yet other cultures have long embraced the beauty of pairing salt and fruit. In Mexican and border cuisines, it is common to douse fruits (especially mango) with a combination of salt, chili powder and lime. Similarly, salting fruit like guava or, say, an unripe mango is common practice in India. Thai prik-kab-klua combines salt with the heat of fresh red chilies and sugar, and is served on tart fruits. Chinese li hing powder, a puckery mauve mixture based on salted, pickled dried plums, is often sprinkled on apples and pineapples.

This ain't your grandma's grapefruit—
Why does the practice remain relatively uncommon in the U.S. now? In the case of grapefruit, the explanation may lie not with the salt, but with the fruit. We are eating different kinds of grapefruit than Americans were eating in the 1940s and 1950s. Generally speaking, as the 20th century progressed, grapefruits became redder, sweeter and more completely seedless. Currently, about three-quarters of the grapefruits that we eat are red. Redder grapefruits contain less naringin, and therefore taste less bitter. This means that there is less of an incentive to curb bitterness with a dash of salt.

So, if you have never salted your grapefruit, give it a try—you might find you like it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Healthy Eating Department - Why is High Fructose Corn Syrup so scary?

Recently, a UCSF researcher stumbled upon the fact that, back in the 1960’s, the Sugar Research Foundation (now the Sugar Association) paid three Harvard scientists to minimize the link between sugar and health suggesting that saturated fat is more the problem. Now we are learning the reverse is true. And, not all sugars are created equal. Here’s the breakdown...

Regular cane sugar (sucrose) is made of two sugar molecules bound tightly together—glucose and fructose in equal amounts. (50/50). Glucose is our main fuel source for energy. Glucose is a simple sugar in foods that are easily broken down by every cell in our body. The enzymes in our digestive tract break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the body. Natural fructose, from fruits and vegetables, has good nutrients and fiber to slow down digestion and make us feel full. Fructose the ingredient, is digested so quickly you don’t feel full and you eat more. More importantly, it contains no essential nutrients and is completely “empty” in calories.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is bad because it consists of glucose and the ingredient fructose, not in a 50-50 ratio, but a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Since there is no chemical bond between them (glucose and fructose) no digestion is required. The glucose is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and the ingredient fructose is metabolized in the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol). This is believed to be the major cause of liver damage in our country and causes a condition called “fatty liver” which affects over 70 million Americans. Dr. Joseph Mercola, a NY Times best selling author and personality states that HFCS is as dangerous to the liver as alcohol. The ingredient fructose can cause visceral fat accumulation—the worst type of body fat. It’s also linked to health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, body-wide inflammation and obesity.

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD—best selling author on nutrition and wellness, and a regular on PBS—states that HFCS and cane sugar are NOT biochemically identical or processed the same way by the body. HFCS is an industrial food product. The sugars are extracted through a chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound called HFCS. HFCS contains contaminants including mercury because of chloralkali products used in its manufacturing and are not regulated or measured by the FDA.

The USDA reported the ANNUAL average for sugar consumption in the US in 2013 was 128.4 lbs per person and that corn sweeteners made up over 55% of that (58.6 lbs per person). That is a staggering number. The USDA recommends a 2,000 calorie diet include no more than 40 grams (1.5 oz) of added sugar per day (that’s about 10 teaspoons a day, or 32 lbs a year!). That’s a long way from caveman days when our hunter gatherer ancestors consumed the equivalent of 20 teaspoons per year.

Products with HFCS are sweeter and cheaper than products made with cane sugar. To be fair, HFCS is not the same as pure corn syrup; but corn syrup is GMO, which is another issue altogether. Interestingly, Karo Corn Syrup in retail is pure corn syrup while the foodservice product is HFCS. What can you do? You could use cane, agave, maple syrup and raw honey if you want a better liquid sugar. These products might cost you more, but they are healthier. Our health matters!