Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cavity-fighting lollipops?

Here's an experiment I'm glad somebody's trying! Lollipop Culture

Summer Chocolate Blooming

Summer is the time for chocolate bloom, even inadvertent. We found this Trader Joe's 72% cacao dark chocolate bar melted in a hot car.

After it sat on the counter for a few weeks, it had bloomed so much that traces of pure cocoa butter lined the edges. I scraped some off and rubbed it in my fingers before I tasted it--pure cocoa butter without any chocolate taste at all, and maybe even without any sugar (it's hard to tell from a 1-mm shaving).


In this photo, you can see the white cocoa butter at the corners of the chocolate bar.


The rest of the bar crumbled when broken, instead of snapping cleanly like well-tempered chocolate.
I love summer!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gummi Fruit Snacks and Summer Lunches

Parents everywhere pack their children fruit snacks for lunch. They're packaged in little one-serving sizes, they're sweet enough for children to scarf down, and they have the benefits of real fruit. Right?

Think again.

Gummi fruit snacks are hardly different from gummi bears. Though many are made with some fruit juice and include a few vitamins, they have as much sugar as other gummi candies.

Samira Kawash of www.candyprofessor.com writes in The Atlantic that "Packages plastered with fruit bouquets and boasting fruit juices and purees give this category an aura of virtue that other candies can only envy. The problem is that the wholesome fruit goodness of fruit snacks is wholly imaginary. Fruit snacks are not fruit. They're not better than candy. They are candy."

That's why the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, has filed a lawsuit against General Mills for mislabeling treats as "fruit snacks." Their press release states: '“General Mills is basically dressing up a very cheap candy as if it were fruit and charging a premium for it,” said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. “General Mills is giving consumers the false impression that these products are somehow more wholesome, and charging more. It’s an elaborate hoax on parents who are trying to do right by their kids.”

So when you're packing up children's lunches this summer, pack real fruit. Save fruit snacks for dessert.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer experiments

When we drove up to my in-laws' last week, I hadn't even crossed the lawn before my 6-year-old niece came running up. "Can we do candy experiments?"

I hadn't planned on doing experiments, and hadn't brought any special supplies, so I was forced to improvise with what I had on hand: a box of Wintergreen Altoids from my last car trip. I squashed eight kids into a dark bathroom, handed out Altoids to those who dared to eat strong mints, turned off the lights, let them chew, and watched for sparks. Since the littlest kids didn't want to try the mints, and couldn't see the mouths of the big kids, I had to repeat the experiment for them by bagging the Altoids in a Ziploc and squashing them with pliers. Note to self: next time, line the children up in pairs so they know what mouths to look for before I dowse the lights.

We also found some Starbursts and Tootsie Rolls in the kitchen, so I showed my niece how to drop them in a cup of hot water and watch for floating oil spots. (She wasn't nearly as interested in the oil as in the spreading colors, but at least she enjoyed it!)

Just goes to show, you can turn almost any candy into a great experiment.