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.