Archive for the ‘Food News’ Category
Chocolate is practically synonymous with indulgence, and people love it. But it is no surprise that there are many people and companies that want to take the indulgence out of it so that we can all eat it with less guilt. Smaller packaging has probably been the most successful method, since chocolate – by law – must contain nothing more than cocoa butter, cocoa solids, sugar, milk, vanilla and an emulsifier (or a combination of those ingredients) and nothing more to be called chocolate.
Some researchers at the University of Warwick in England have developed a process where up to half of the cocoa butter in chocolate is replaced with fruit juice to cut fat and calories. They say that the chocolate still retains its creamy texture, while taking on a slightly fruity flavor from the juice. The juice – which included apple, orange and cranberry – is injected in very tiny droplets to create a stable emulsion with the real chocolate, for a creamy product with the feel of chocolate. It does have a slightly fruity taste, which might be a plus for those interested in flavored chocolate products, though researchers also said that the fruit juice could be replaced by water for a flavorless version.
A few months ago, Hostess, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, announced that it was going out of business for good. The fate of the iconic brands that it produced – beloved treats that many people grew up eating and had a strong sense of nostalgia about – seemed uncertain. The news that no more would be produced or sold prompted a rush on classics like Twinkies and Ding Dongs, and they started selling for outrageous prices online to people looking for one last taste of childhood. Hostess called for bids for some of its brands, but it wasn’t until this week that the call was answered and a buyer was found to save Twinkies.
Hostess and Dolly Madison products, which include Hostess Twinkies and Dolly Madison Zingers, were sold to the private equity firms Apollo Global Management (APO) and Metropoulos & Co. for a total of $410 million. That sale price also included five of Hostess’s bakeries, which produced the snack cakes. A statement from Dean Metropoulos said that they look forward to reopening the bakeries, hiring back some of the Hostess work force and having Twinkies back on store shelves as soon as this summer.
Other Hostess Brands have been or will be sold to other companies. Flowers Foods purchased most of Hostess’ bread brands in February for $360 million, including the Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Merita, Home Pride and Butternut bread brands, in addition to 20 Hostess bakeries. Bids are still currently being considered for Hostess’ Drake’s brand, which includes Drake’s Coffee Cake, Ring Dings, Yodels, Devil Dogs and Yankee Doodles.
When consumers heard that Hostess was closing its doors for good and that products like Twinkies and Wonderbread would be discontinued, there was a rush to stock up before they were pulled from store shelves. Twinkies in particular were a favorite childhood snack for many of us and, even though some might say that they don’t have the same appeal to an adult palate, it was a bit sad to see them go. There are some Twinkie alternatives out there, however, and Consumer Reports decided to conduct a taste test to see how the Safeway brand Snack Artist Crème Cake compared to the classic Twinkie.
A Twinkie is a small sponge cake filled with a fluffy vanilla cream. The two snack cakes looked alike, with the same coloring, size and shape. They had similar ingredients, though the Hostess cakes contained partially hydrogenated fats and the Snack Artist cakes used soybean and palm oils, and similar nutritional stats (as snack cakes, they’re not exactly good for you!). But when it came down to it, the generic cake didn’t quite match the original cake in terms of texture or flavor. The cake was denser and sweeter than the cake in the Twinkie. It also didn’t have as much cream filling as the original Twinkie, and the filling that it did have was slightly gritty. That said, the members of the Consumer Reports Foods & Sensory department who did the taste testing seemed to think that the store-brand cakes will still satisfy anyone looking for a nostalgic Twinkie fix when the originals are nowhere to be found.
Girl Scout cookies are one food that I’ve never had leftovers of – whether they were homemade or purchased from a local Girl Scout. The cookies are simply too tasty to become leftovers in my house, and they freeze very well so it is easy to tuck them away for long term storage. But local Girl Scout Councils themselves often have leftover Girl Scout cookies that are unsold at the end of cookie season. The Councils order huge quantities of cookies for the local Scout troops to sell and try to project how many cookies they’ll need for the season based on sales the previous year. Sometimes, these estimates are off and they will run out of popular cookies. Other times, Councils may end up with thousands of boxes of unsold product.
CBS in Los Angeles recently discovered that more than a few of these leftover cookies were being disposed of at a local landfill, and had video of workers destroying some 13,200 excess boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. The cookies were tracked back to the Council that ordered them, who said that the bakery that supplies them with their cookies – ABC Bakery – allows them to return up to 1% of all the cookies they buy without paying for them when they have ordered too many in a given year. These cookies were the ones that the Council had returned to the bakery, which did not directly return CBS’s response for comment on the issue.
There are two bakeries that produce GS cookies – Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakery – and this incident has raised questions about what is being done and what should be done with unsold cookies. Over-ordering does happen because it’s impossible to project what demand will be perfectly, so this question is likely to come up again and again. The Southern California Girl Scout Council in question assured reporters that they donate tens of thousands of boxes to local charities and food banks, that the cookies being destroyed were just those that they had returned. There appears to be no official policy with what is to be done with excess Girl Scout Cookies at the moment, but it sounds like the Girl Scouts will soon be coming out with one, as there is clearly a need for Councils and the bakeries that produce the cookies to be able to dispose of extra cookies in a way that represents the Girl Scouts well. Hopefully, it is one where the extra cookies will end up going to good use and not ending up in a landfill.
The food truck trend hasn’t been showing any signs of slowing down and people still love to be able to hunt down a delicious, inexpensive meal from a mobile restaurant during the day. In honor of National Girl Scout Cookie Day, Girl Scouts are joining in by launching their own Girl Scout Cookie Truck in New York City. The truck will only be out and about today, and it will be making four stops (although it will probably pull over if you flag it down): 42nd Street and Madison Avenue from 8:30 and 10:30 am; 57th between Fifth and Sixth Avenues from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm; Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets from 2:30 – 4:30 pm; and on Amsterdam Avenue between 71st and 72nd streets from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. The truck will be staffed with scouts selling cookies, of course. Unlike most cookie sales, however, the truck will also be giving out samples of some of these much-loved cookies, so you can grab one of your favorites without buying a whole box or try something new that you wouldn’t otherwise buy.
Unfortunately, New York is the only city that will be seeing a real Girl Scout Cookie truck this season, and unless some dedicated scout moms want to go out and get decals for their own cars to build their own version for local deliveries, the rest of us will just have to wait and see if it is a success and if they decide to venture a little further in their truck next season.