Preserving Bananas in the Freezer: Which is the Best Way?

I’m a huge fan of banana bread. I’ve loved it since I was a kid, but I hated having to wait for bananas to get ripe. Recently, I learned that freezing bananas makes them ripen to the perfect level of mushiness for banana bread– after they’re thawed, of course.

However, that begs the question: what is the best way to freeze bananas? I did a little experiment to find out the perfect way to store whole, fresh bananas in the freezer. I took three bananas, and put one in a bag in the peel, one in the freezer in only its peel, and one out of its peel in a bag.

After leaving them in the freezer for a few weeks, I took them out and let them thaw. Due to not being in the peel, the flesh of the peeled banana was darker than the flesh of the bananas still in peel.

Once thawed, they all seemed to have the same give when touched. I began trying to peel the first one, out of bag and in peel. And, well…

It wasn’t easy. I had to resort to cutting it open, and the same thing happened with the one in peel in bag. The bag caused no difference in the two bananas.

The peeled banana was the easiest to deal with, simply sliding out of the baggie. All three bananas squished the same, and the only difference between them was the colour after they were all peeled and placed in the bowl.

The verdict? Peeling bananas before freezing them is beneficial, if only for the ease of use afterwards. The peel really makes no difference, other than level of difficulty getting it out. So if you’re going to freeze bananas, peel them beforehand. Then simply mash them up, and use!

Now go make something delicious!

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Fear Mongering of Chemicals in Baked Goods

If you have ever thought anything to the effect of “I do not like chemicals in my cake!”, or “I just want to eat bread, not a bunch of chemicals!”, then consider giving this post a read.

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Source: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3324

To start off, yes, there are chemicals in food. All substances, from the air we breathe, to the water we drink, are chemicals. You, the readers, are also chemicals. There is an assumption that the objections earlier refer to the addition of synthetic substances to foodstuffs. However, the fear-mongering of added chemicals in food is unnecessary, and often stem from baselessness. There seems to be a marketing tactic to name things as “natural”, as customers can perceive it to being better for the body. However, things such as ricin, death cap mushrooms, rattlesnakes, and bears are also natural. These can all kill you. Not too sure about you, but I would much rather eat refined table salt than encounter these “natural” substances on my plate. Refined foods, such a various naturally occurring gums, and synthetic substances such as ADA have been used in the food industry for years, with little to no causation of harmful effects.

Let us discuss two common synthetic ingredients in cake making as an example: baking soda and baking powder. In most cake formulas, you will find either baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or baking powder (baking soda with an acid salt, usually monosodium phosphate, or aluminium sulfate). These two ingredients are chemical leaveners that release CO2 gas upon activation, which help cakes get volume and tenderness. Baking soda requires heat, moisture and an acid to activate, while baking powder only requires heat and moisture.

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Figure 1: Two pancakes made from batter with, and in the absence of baking powder. Both batters were allowed to rest prior to the addition of baking powder, so the air bubbles from mixing would not be a variable. The Pancake with the leavener (left), was observed to be me much more light and had higher volume than the pancake without leavener (right).

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Figure 2a(left): Cross section of the pancake with baking powder. A light texture can be observed, with fine air cells
Figure 2b(right): Cross section of the pancake without baking powder. A dense, wet texture can be observed.

As we can see from the figures above, the pancake containing baking powder had an airy crumb, while the one that lacked leavener was compact. In a nutshell, baked goods are masses of coagulated proteins and gelatinized starch. The role of leavening is to introduce air cells, stretching the proteins, thus, tenderizing the crumb.

Baking soda and baking powder are refined chemicals approved by the FDA, and have been in baked goods for years. Yet, there is no backlash from people regarding the use of these ingredients. Some people will cite their reluctance of using refined ingredients because of the inability to pronounce the words. This ignores the fact that baking soda and powder are just common names; the actual “active ingredient” names are the names of the chemical compounds. If these two ingredients were named by their active ingredient, would you suddenly want to reject the use of them? Or would you do a quick search on your favourite search engine to find out what the ingredient is? One option clearly seems like much less of a hassle than the other.we-love-chemicals-620

Source : http://www.chem.gla.ac.uk/staff/wynne/i/2012/we-love-chemicals-620.jpg

Everything is a chemical. Stop using the word “chemical” as a fear tactic.

If there is no hesitation with using these two ingredients, then there should not be an issue over the use of other FDA approved food additives, such as synthetic emulsifiers, gums such as carrageenan, or azodicarbonamide, for example. These refined ingredients have all been put under rigorous testing to determine safe consumption limits. These refined ingredients can improve the shelf life of baked goods, can inhibit mould, or can improve the texture. Sure, our parents or grandparents may not have used these latter ingredients; however, we must consider that everything we use in the bakery, from baking powder, to even refined wheat flour, was a new product at one point.

Baking is an ever evolving industry, with new gums, conditioners, dough improvers, and emulsifiers being constantly implemented. Once something has been determined as safe, the unnecessary fear mongering of chemicals in baked goods serves only to slow down advancement and innovation. That being said, if one chooses to consume foodstuffs that are perceived as “natural” and contain only “organic” ingredients, then that is his or her prerogative, and that is fine. However, proper research and scrutiny should be applied to any food ingredient before judgment is applied, to prevent unnecessary fear-mongering.

Thank you for reading this post, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Sources and additional information:

https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm094211.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130814125039.htm

http://theconversation.com/five-myths-about-the-chemicals-you-breathe-eat-and-drink-26849

Gouda

The dutch have a rich culture filled with windmills, clogs, herring, black licorice and cheese. Over the course of history they have invented, created and refined the best kind of cheese that is well-known throughout the world. Gouda….doesn’t that just make your mouth water?

Gouda was invented in the Netherlands and was named after the city of Gouda where it was commonly traded during its early beginning around 1184. Unlike how most people pronounce Gouda. The actual pronunciation in the Dutch language turns the ‘g’ into more of an ‘h’ sound and the ‘ou’ is pronounced as ‘ow’. So instead of ‘goo-da’ like how most people (including myself) say it. It is actually pronounced like ‘h-ouw-da’.

Gouda is the most popular cheese that is exported from the Netherlands. Unfortunately in America most Gouda that is eaten is produced commercially resulting in a less flavorful cheese. It can be made using raw milk as well as pasteurized. Many of the artisan varieties use goats or sheep’s milk as the cheese will be aged for a long time.

There are seven classes to Gouda cheese based on how long it has aged. Graskaas is produced using cows milk in the spring when the cows have eaten the tender, new grass sprouting after the winter. this produces a rich and creamy cheese.  Jonge Kaas has been aged for only 4 weeks. Jong belegen kaas has been aged for 2 months. The older age cheeses include extra belegen which has been aged for 7-8 months, oude kaas which has been aged for 10-12 months and overjarig which is aged for 1-2 years. As Gouda ages it produces crystals of calcium lactate. Some Gouda is aged for 5 years making a brittle and crumbly cheese.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to this carefully crafted cheese. You can add many different spices and seeds to the cheese to add different flavours. My favorites are just you regular gouda(the rind is my favorite) and the dutch spiced gouda which has caraway seeds in it. You can use it on bagels, breads, crackers, the possibilities are endless!

From cow to artisan to you, gouda is a deliciously crafted cheese that can contain many different flavour profiles. If you are ever interested in trying some Dutch culture I highly suggest getting yourself some mild or medium gouda with some spiced gouda and crackers. For a real treat add some pickled herring on the side. 🙂

References:

http://www.cheese.com/gouda/

http://www.eatingamsterdamtours.com/blog/dutch-gouda-cheese/

http://www.cheese.com/aged-gouda/

Nut Free Baking – The “Wow” in WOWBUTTER

I’m sure you’ve seen it in stores, right beside the nut butters on the shelf. They claim it tastes just like peanut butter, but does it really? Well, to someone who’s never had it, it does. Even to the untrained palette it does, to an extent. But true PB fanatics can tell the difference.

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(Image source: http://smartcanucks.ca/canadian-freebies-free-wowbutter-samples/)

Taste aside, WOWBUTTER is an amazing product. It’s safe for those who are allergic to peanuts to eat, which makes it a great spread to use on sandwiches when sending your kids to school; most schools being peanut free stops kids from being able to enjoy some of their snacks. However, sandwiches aren’t all WOWBUTTER is good for. Anyone can easily replace peanut butter with WOWBUTTER in baking or savory cooking. But curious minds beg the question, why is WOWBUTTER a good product for people with allergies? Why aren’t individuals who can’t eat peanuts and tree nuts able to eat WOWBUTTER?

Allergies occur when the white blood cells produced in bone marrow recognize a foreign body, whether it anything from food to metal, as pathogens, like bacteria or viruses. It attacks the foreign bodies in the blood, and that’s what causes an allergic reaction.

Peanuts and soy beans are both legumes, so naturally you would assume that soy would cause more of a reaction in allergic individuals than a tree nut, which isn’t related to peanuts at all. Surprise! The proteins in peanuts more closely align with those of tree nuts like cashews and pistachios than they do with their fellow legume. Only about 10% of people allergic to peanuts are allergic to other legumes like soy as well. Soy, being what WOWBUTTER is made of. Some scientists suggest that late exposure to peanut butter is what increases the risk of developing an allergy to it.

Thankfully, soy is so versatile that it can make a delicious peanut butter substitute. It’s easy to use WOWBUTTER instead of  peanut butter. All you have to do is use it instead. No doing special calculations to figure out the conversion rates, just use a cup of WOWBUTTER instead of peanut butter in your good old PB&J.

http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/nut-allergy.html
https://www.foodallergy.org/allergens/peanut-allergy
http://www.dallasallergy.net/peanuts-bad-boy-legume/