Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ice Cream Crystals

When Thanksgiving rolls around, you might be enjoying pie and ice cream. I love ice cream, even when it's been left in the freezer too long. Though freezer burned ice cream is grainier and less tasty, it's sure beautiful.



If you leave ice cream in the freezer for too long, the water can evaporate and cause freezer burn. It's even worse if you leave the ice cream out so that some of the water crystals melt, then refreeze it so that the water freezes in larger chunks or crystals. The good news: you can prevent freezer burn by covering the exposed surface of your ice cream, or even remake ice cream that's too grainy to enjoy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure by Samira Kawash
Reviewed by Loralee Leavitt


Halloween math doesn’t add up. Children trick-or-treat at office parties, church events, and neighborhoods, celebrating Halloween by maximizing candy collection. But many parents don’t want their children actually eating that much candy. They buy it back, trade it for toys, throw it away, or turn it into dazzling science experiments. Some protect their children by baking the candy into holiday sweets, sending it to the office, donating it to the homeless, or mailing it to troops overseas, so that instead of removing calories from circulation, they’re merely transferring them. What a twisted love/hate relationship we have with our sweets!

According to Samira Kawash, author of Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, this ambivalence is nothing new. Her new book covers the recent history of candy, starting in the 1800’s before mass production kicked off the candy industry. From a very occasional holiday treat, candy became a national phenomenon with households and small factories producing thousands of varieties for their local markets (many went under because, as confectioners instead of accountants, they couldn’t reconcile cost with income), only to go under as aggressive businessmen consolidated holdings and marketed brands in national campaigns.

As I read, I was constantly reminded that brand success depends far more on marketing than it does on the pure merits of the product. Kawash walks us through the early growth of the candy industry, as it developed from thousands of small-business home-cooks to bigger companies that figured out successful naming and marketing strategies. (Babe Ruth was not allowed to profit from the success of the candy bar supposedly NOT named after him, nor to put his own name on a similar bar.) Candy marketers attempted to incorporate the latest scientific findings, so that early on in candy’s history, when all carbohydrates were thought to be equal, ads proclaimed “Candy is delicious food, enjoy some every day,” or tried to paint dextrose as a healthier form of sugar. Candy even became a target of the burgeoning cigarette industry with Lucky’s campaign: “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.”

As candy became part of the national culture, so did candy detractors. Periodic panics about candy reflected our country’s uneasiness about mass production, sanitation, artificial ingredients, and pure pleasure. One early dieter wrote in religious terms, equating indulgence with sin, and the follow-up with repentance, a mindset which seems to have worked its way into the national psyche. Candy was also thought by some intellectuals with (not enough) knowledge of chemistry to behave like alcohol when ingested, since it was broken down into similar component carbohydrates. In fact, the current debates about candy--how to avoid it, how much it contributes to obesity, and whether or not children should eat it or not--have actually been cycling through public discourse for over 100 years.

Some candy mythology gets debunked along the way. Kawash tackles our fear of adulterated Halloween candy with the news that there has never been an authenticated case of a villain passing out deadly candy to trick-or-treaters. (To be complete, she does cite an occasion in 1959 when a grumpy doctor coated candies in laxatives, or a time when a small child shoved a pin in his own candy and showed his parents so he could blame his neighbors, or times when children’s deaths were wrongly blamed on tainted candy because parents were manufacturing evidence to clear themselves of crime.) Kawash also takes on the recent research about chocolate’s fabulous health benefits by pointing out that the research is mostly industry-funded, and often tests chocolate in forms we don’t actually eat. (Personally, though, I’d rather believe ALL of the positive findings and use chocolate as my daily vitamin!)

Speaking of vitamins, Kawash points out something that I have also noticed in my years of writing about candy: we worry about genuine candy, but don’t recognized how many other new types of “food” really also qualify as candy, such as gummi vitamins. The Kellog’s snack bars at Costco reminded me of the chapter in which we learn that most candy companies missed the boat when it came to candification: it was companies like cereal manufacturers who “candified” breakfast cereal, created the “granola” bars that are really candy bars in disguise, or turned fruit into “fruit snacks” indistinguishable from their gummy candy counterparts. Snickers, with their “Packed with peanuts” slogan, was one rare exception.

Kawash closes with an appeal for common-sense candy eating. Avoid the “candy” that masquerades as cereal, snack bars, or drinks. Avoid the other highly-processed foods that also contribute to our national obesity epidemic. Eat real food, good food. And when you want a treat, eat candy.

(Note: this copy was sent to me, free of charge, for review, after I requested it. Since I’d followed Kawash’s blog at candyprofessor.com for awhile, I was really excited about the book.)

(Another note: I love Kawash’s transitions. Ever chapter leads nicely into the next chapter, almost like a Nancy Drew cliffhanger!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gum Solid

Why didn't the center of this lollipop melt?



Because it's a bubble gum center.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sugary drinks increase risk of diabetes

According to a recent article in the Tufts Health Newsletter, "Beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup can boost your risk of type 2 diabetes—even if the calories don’t make you fat." I wonder why I never heard about Mayor Bloomberg defending his soda tax by calculating the costs of sugary intake on the public health system?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

This Year's Trick-or-Treat Favorite

The kids' favorite trick-or-treat prize turned out not to be candy at all! Instead, it was neon-colored slime.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Melting Peanut M&M's

M&M's crack in the oven and expand a little--peanut M&M's crack and expand a lot!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

M&M Peanut Butter



Peanuts get ground into peanut butter. What happens when you grind peanut M&M's?



It wasn't peanut butter, exactly, more like a dry paste.



But it did stick together well enough to form a ball!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dum Dums

How do you handle the 150 extra Dum Dums the trick-or-treaters didn't collect?



Unwrap, arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet, and pop in a 350 degree oven for about 6 minutes.



Presto--instant wreath!
(Of course, it gets sticky pretty fast, so don't plan on displaying it on the wall. Unless you want it stuck there...)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Warheads and Surface Tension

My son also decided that when you dissolve Warheads, there's more surface tension in the bowl. He proved this by blowing on the bowl, and showing me how he could blow deeper furrows in a bowl of plain water than a bowl of dissolved Warheads. I think the glaze on the Warheads must form some sort of film on the surface.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Candy Experiment week #1: Warheads

We've spent the afternoon dissolving, melting, blowing, and smashing. I've got a whole week's worth of experiments to show you.

We always love playing with Warheads, which make the very most bubbles when we dissolve them with baking soda. Today my son experimented with whether to drop the baking soda in the water before adding the Warheads, or after. His verdict: if you mix the baking soda in after the Warheads have started dissolving, you can trap bigger bubbles at the surface. The Warhead glaze must form some sort of film on the surface of the water.