Assorted things 17/12/13

Cinnamon apple cronut from Cocomaya; matcha s’mores at Flesh & Buns; soy sauce lemonade from Japan Centre.

Porridge Panoply! #6

Porridge Panoply! – Reshaping the porridge zeitgeist. Advocating dynamism apropos a porridge paradigm shift. Pushing the conceptual and physico-chemical boundaries of the porridge arts.

Porridge base: rolled oats, rolled barley, rolled rye, chia seeds, kinako (toasted soybean flour), oat milk
In the porridge: baked blueberries
On top: kinako-coated baked banana, chopped pecans and peanuts, maple syrup


(Porridge Panoply! explanation; previously in the Porridge Panoply! series.)

A KitKat tour

Wasabi, azuki sandwich, matcha green tea, ichimi chilli, purple sweet potato and hojicha tea KitKats. The idea behind some of these flavours is Nestlé’s capitalisation on the market for regional souvenirs and gifting in Japan – they produce KitKat flavours that are unique to particular areas and cities in the country, so that visitors can take those regional KitKats back home as gifts. That hojicha tea KitKat, for example, is supposed to be reminiscent of the tea that’s produced by Itohkyuemon in Uji City, Kyoto, for use in temples and shrines. The wasabi one is for Shizuoka prefecture, and the ichimi chilli one is from Nagano. And they were all very enjoyable, I must say.

I wonder how well this concept would work in other countries – what regional ingredient specialties would lend themselves well to chocolate flavours? It would be pretty entertaining if you could do that for Protected/Controlled Designation of Origin food items. Roquefort cheese KitKat. Bordeaux wine KitKat. Prosciutto di San Daniele KitKat. Tennessee whiskey KitKat. Melton Mowbray pork pie KitKat. Ouzo KitKat. Manchego cheese KitKat. Is it just me, or is this sounding kind of like an awesome idea?

Yuzu & kinako shortbread

I’ve started putting kinako (toasted soybean flour) in basically everything and I don’t even care if this behaviour is probably reaching pathological levels. I discovered kinako only recently, courtesy of the Hard Shake I had at Bone Daddies that was made from the softserve of the day – kinako softserve on this occasion – along with, I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect Japanese whiskey. Rather enamoured with the flavour, I rapidly acquired some sachets of kinako (pre-mixed with sugar) and then I found a large pack of toasted soybean flour at the local Middle Eastern store (they really have a lot of everything), so with an ample store of kinako safely stowed in the cupboard, I freely added it to whatever I thought could benefit from it.

Kinako is proving to be a great way of adding nuttiness and toastiness to things. I made sweet potato falafel with it. I added it to porridge. I made a rather viscous cocktail with it. And mixing it into milk and steaming the milk with your espresso machine makes a very excellent kinako latte. And, inevitably, I baked sweet things with it: kinako and yuzu shortbread for now, although probably basically everything from now on, at least until I get through the kilogram or so I’ve got of the stuff. There is surely nothing that cannot be kinakoed.

Yuzu & kinako shortbread

150g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla paste
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g caster sugar
35g kinako (toasted soybean flour)
10g yuzu powder (optional)
70g candied yuzu peel, finely chopped

Beat the butter and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer (or by hand) until light and fluffy and pale. Meanwhile, sift all the other ingredients except the yuzu peel together. Add the sifted ingredients and the yuzu peel to the butter mixture and mix on low for about 5 minutes. The ingredients will come together as a crumbly, loose mixture. Weigh out 30g of the mixture and squeeze in your hands to compact it, shape it into a sphere then flatten it slightly to make a disk about 1-1.5cm thick. Repeat this until all the mixture is used up. Wrap and refrigerate the biscuits for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 170°C. Place the biscuits on a paper-lined baking tray, about 2cm apart from each other (you might have to bake them in 2 batches). Bake for about 30 minutes, at which point the biscuits should be a soft golden colour. Remove them from the oven and leave them to cool on the tray until they’ve almost reached room temperature, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate eating styles, as defined by SCIENCE

 
I recently read Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss (a New York Times journalist who previously worked in Pakistan, but when his colleague David Rohde was kidnapped, the NYT transferred Moss to the safer beat of reporting on the food industry). The book provides fascinating (and sometimes horrifying) insight into the research and testing that goes into manipulating the various sensory aspects of food, and into developing food products with just the right amounts of salt, sugar and/or fat to make them incredibly alluring. Every variable in the eating experience can be fine-tuned to make food that people feel compelled not only to eat, but to eat lots of. For example, food scientists have worked out the exact amount of pressure a corn chip should break at in order to produce chips of an ideal crispness and crunchiness to maximise the enjoyment the average consumer experiences while eating (and I assume that if you buy some Doritos and eat them, you’re experiencing the outcome of that research).

Honing foods to optimise their appeal to consumers obviously requires the characterisation of many aspects of both the food and the consumers. Which is presumably how this paper, ‘Characterisation of chocolate eating behaviour’, came about, and which asks the question:

So, like, how do people eat chocolate?

You know, apart from, like, putting it in their mouth and somehow getting it down their gullet.

Turns out people fall into three distinct groups when it comes to how they eat chocolate:

1. the fast chewers
2. the thorough chewers
3. the suckers

The researchers found this out by giving the 40 study participants each two samples of milk chocolate. The samples were the same in ingredient composition and were similar in how viscous they would be when melted, but differed slightly in some textural aspects. I love this bit of the paper where the researchers say “For confidentiality reasons no further detail concerning sample composition can be provided.” So manipulation of the texture of the chocolate was a key variable being investigated in the study, but you’re being coy about how the texture differed between the two chocolate samples being tested? Well, one researcher does work for Mars and the study was funded by Mars, so omg u guyz this is a Mars chocolate formulation secret!

Anyway, the researchers have deigned to go into detail about how people ate the chocolate samples. Eating behaviours were characterised using surface electromyography (electrodes placed on the skin surface that record muscle activity) and electroglottography, which uses electrodes to record the activity of the glottis, i.e. the vocal cords. Electroglottography was originally developed for use in speech therapy, but has been re-purposed here to learn more about how and when people swallow.

The results were, firstly, that Chocolate A (whatever that was) was significantly preferred to Chocolate B (whatever that was). Participants considered Chocolate A to coat the mouth more and be softer at first bite (so hey, maybe you’re eating Chocolate A these days whenever you eat a Mars chocolate product). In terms of how the chocolate was eaten, each participant apparently had a unique way of eating the chocolate – no two participants were identical in terms of chew rate, total chewing time, number of swallows, how long it took them to get to the point of their last swallow, etc.

Cluster analysis was then performed on this information (this grouped people so that their eating behaviour was more similar to other people in the same group than people in other groups) which gives us the three styles of chocolate eating: fast chewing, thorough chewing, sucking.

If you do the cluster analysis for the data obtained for the two chocolate types separately, the same people still fall into the same eating behaviour groups, suggesting that people’s chocolate eating style is consistent across different types of chocolate. We can’t know this for sure from this study, since we don’t know how similar or different the two chocolate samples were (just that they were both milk chocolate), but maybe chocolates that are more obviously different would be eaten differently (I think my eating behaviour for a piece of milk chocolate versus a piece of, say, 80% dark chocolate is different, but maybe I’m just some weird anomaly).

And to finish, an excerpt from the paper:

“From a wider perspective, it has been shown that variation in bite size and oral processing time impacts on food intake. ‘Slow’ eating has also been shown to decrease food intake and result in increased satiety. If variation in chocolate eating behaviour exists then this could also impact on chocolate intake levels which in turn may have health implications.”

If we make those assumptions, this presents rather a quandary to Mars: Chocolate A was much preferred by participants compared to Chocolate B, but participants also took longer to eat Chocolate A, which might mean that people would eat less of it. What do you do, Mars? What do you do? (Presumably some more testing and then whatever option seems most likely to give them the best profits.)