Bookmarks–October 24, 2022

In this edition of Bookmarks, concerns about ultra-processed foods, plus popcorn, pie crust, sea moss, and cake on the go.  

Fast food fever: how ultra-processed meals are unhealthier than you think

As this article notes, it is really difficult to avoid ultra-processed foods (UPFs) completely, but there has to be a balance. As a parent, I cringe at the protein bars my son puts in his lunch, but feel better knowing he packs an apple and meat and cheese sandwich with it. I also use oat milk, knowing full well it is not a particularly “natural” food, despite marketing that says otherwise. Again, I feel less bad using it because I only have it with cereal, which at least includes some grains and fibre. As with any issue of nutrition, raising awareness is critical, which is what this article does. 

“None of this is going to change overnight, but there needs to be a shift in dietary education…if we are to cut back on the use of UPFs. In the long term we as a society will need to rediscover the importance of fresh food ingredients, of cooking, and ultimately the inconvenience – chronic illness and cancer is never welcome – of so much convenience food.” The Guardian

The history of popcorn: how one grain became a staple snack

Popcorn is one of my favourite things to eat so I immediately clicked on the link to this article when I stumbled upon it. It was written in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, so its references to shuttered movie theatres are a little dated–thankfully–but the brief history of popcorn is interesting. I was surprised by the reference to Charles Cretors. I assume it is his name that adorns a pre-popped cheese popcorn that is, for my money, the very best on the market today. (And I am aware that pre-popped popcorn is something of a UPF, but I do try to eat it in moderation.)

The fluffy popcorn we know and love today is, in part, the result of thousands of years of careful cultivation of a few different strains of corn by those early tribes. Modern processing techniques ensure its dramatic cooking process: Corn for popping is grown, cured on the stalk, picked, and then dried until each kernel contains around 14 percent moisture, according to the USDA. When exposed to heat, that moisture expands, causing the kernel to burst into the final product.” Serious Eats

How to make the perfect all-butter pie crust, according to science

I’ve been baking bread, scones, cookies, cakes, quick loaves, and squares for years but have always been intimidated by pie crust. I also hate shortening, so any recipe that uses it is a no-go for me. I love how this writer explains the interactions of fat, flour, water, and temperature and their impact on the final product. Maybe I can actually make pie crust, with a little help from science.  

For a crust to be tender, it must have a lot of the fat worked into the flour. But to be flaky, it must have large chunks of fat, too. Let’s be real: To be delicious, a crust needs all the butter. But butter’s melting point is lower than shortening or lard. This means that it tends to spread quickly, making it more challenging to maintain decorative shaping…Don’t bang your head on the wall just yet, though. I have tested and retested to develop an all-butter pie crust recipe that strikes the right balance in this science-y push and pull.Chatelaine

TikTokers reckon sea moss can help you lose weight and have better sex. What does the science say?

I am not a TikToker so I hadn’t heard of this sea moss trend. As with so many so-called superfoods, it sounds like this one does not have much science behind it. As the writer concludes, a little sea moss won’t likely hurt you, but it probably won’t transform your life either. And be sure to know the source so you can avoid heavy metals. 

“Czerwony views sea moss’s other benefits with similar caution: it ‘may’ be good for the gut, and it ‘may’ help with weight loss and improve heart health, thanks to the fibre. Iodine is useful in supporting thyroid function, but most people get enough of it from their regular diet and ‘because there is inconsistency in the amount of iodine in sea moss, you may end up consuming too much, which can lead to hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid,’ she warns. What is more, she says: ‘Some sea vegetables, depending on location, may contain heavy metal.’” The Guardian

Gateaux go: Katharine Sabbath’s tips for making a car-proof cake

I’ve not had to transport cakes very often, but it is always a nerve-racking experience. These tips make sense, for those occasions when you have to pack a cake for travel.

Transporting your cake is possibly the most anxiety-inducing stage of every baker’s journey. While you can’t control everything, here are the tips I swear by to help keep a cake intact during its maiden voyage out into the big bad world.” The Guardian

Books image: 150913504 © Dzhamilia Ermakova |

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