Friday, May 26, 2006

Battle over saturated fat begins

It was just a matter of time before the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) waged a public battle against rising saturated fat levels in bakery foods that promote their absences of trans fats. From newspaper headlines to nightly newscast stories, saturated fats and their unhealthful properties once again dominate headlines.

CSPI submitted a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to halt trans-fat claims on products that contain high levels of saturated fat.

"Some manufacturers misleadingly publicize the absence of trans fat to convince consumers that the manufacturers' products are healthful," CSPI's letter to FDA states. "However, '0 grams trans fat' claims on products that contain excessive amounts of saturated fat mislead consumers by implying that the food does not raise serum cholesterol levels or the risk of heart disease."
Casting the baking industry in the spotlight, CSPI's letter singled out two specific bakery foods as misleading consumers:

* Mrs. Smith's Apple Pie: This product features a red banner that claims "0 grams trans fat per serving," but contains 7 grams of saturated fat per serving.

* Sara Lee Pumpkin Pie: This product also claims 0 grams of trans fats, but contains 4 grams of saturated fat.

"Just because a food doesn't have trans fat, doesn't by itself make it a health food," says Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director. "Companies shouldn't foster confusion by making trans-fat claims on foods high in saturated fat, and FDA shouldn't let them get away with it."

CSPI urged FDA to establish a rule that mimics an existing rule prohibiting food companies from making "saturated fat free" claims on foods that have trans fats. CSPI says the agency should have a corresponding rule prohibiting "0 grams trans" claims on foods high in saturated fat. The daily value for saturated fat is 20 grams, making products with 4 grams or more saturated fat per serving "high" sources of saturated fats.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Newly popular flour white AND healthy

Food processors are selling more of a newly popular flour that merges whole-wheat health benefits with the color, taste and texture of white bread.

The secret: white wheat, a grain that can be milled to resemble pancake-friendly all-purpose flour but is as healthy as traditional whole wheat.

Though white wheat has been available for years, it's recently garnered serious attention thanks to new government dietary guidelines urging Americans to eat at least three servings a day of whole grains.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Focaccia with an Inlay of Pressed Herbs

This is a great recipe and can be expanded to be used in restaurants and bakeries

It's easy to double this recipe if you want to make more than one loaf. The bake is quick, so you can let the second loaf sit and wait its turn while the first is in the oven. This flatbread can be split and used for sandwiches or enjoyed on its own.

Yields one 10 x 6-inch flatbread.

5-1/3 oz. (1 cup plus 3 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
5-1/3 oz. (1 cup plus 3 Tbs.) durum flour, also called extra-fancy pasta flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast (such as Red Star's QuickRise, Fleischmann's Bread Machine Yeast or Rapid Rise, or Saf Instant)
1 cup lukewarm water1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for topping the loaf
1 tsp. saltA mix of herb leaves, such as rosemary, thyme, sage, flat-leaf parsley, summer savory, oregano, and chives
(about 1 cup, loosely packed)Coarse salt

Combine the flours and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and oil; mix with your fingers just until combined smoothly. The dough will be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. After this rest (called an autolyse), mix in the salt.

Knead on an unfloured work surface. To knead, squeeze the dough vigorously between the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. Move along the length of the dough, squeezing hard enough to make holes where your thumbs and fingers meet. The dough will be sticky, but don't add flour -- use a dough scraper instead. Flip and repeat, squeezing along its length. Continue squeezing and flipping for 5 to 10 more minutes. Ideally the dough will come together and feel smooth, but if it's still sticky, don't worry -- the texture will improve during fermentation. Transfer to an unoiled bowl and cover with plastic.

After 30 minutes, lightly flour the dough's top and the work surface and then turn the dough out of the bowl. Gently spread the dough to flatten it but not to completely deflate it. Fold the dough into a tight square package, folding top down, side over, bottom up, and side over as you'd fold a handkerchief. Return it to the rising bowl, covered with plastic, for 30 minutes. Repeat this flattening, flouring, and folding. Let the dough ferment for 2 to 3 more hours, until doubled in volume and full of large bubbles. It should spring back when you press it.

Pull the dough out of the bowl, flour it well, and tuck the edges in to make a smooth package. Don't pop the bubbles, but do tighten. Flour, cover with plastic, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Flour your hands before shaping the dough. Press it into a 10x6-inch rectangle that's about 1 inch thick. Flour the dough again.

With floured hands, gently press and stretch the dough into a 10x6-inch rectangle that's a scant inch thick. Transfer to a sheet of floured parchment. Flour the dough again.

With a slender, floured rolling pin, roll out one-quarter of the long side of the dough, making a thin flap to cover the thicker, unrolled portion of the dough when folded over. Press with the rolling pin where the thin sheet joins the dough to make a sharp demarcation. If needed, use more flour to keep the dough from sticking. Moisten the thick half of the dough with water. Dip the herb leaves in water (shake off excess droplets) and arrange them on the thick portion of the dough. It's okay to crowd the leaves a little (they'll spread a bit after rolling), but don't overlap them. Fold over the thin sheet of dough to cover the herb leaves completely. Tuck the edges under and pat gently to push out any air bubbles. Starting from the short end, roll lightly with a floured rolling pin until the herbs come into sharp relief but have not popped through and the trapped air is expelled. Be gentle during rolling, even though you'll end up deflating the dough, and aim for an even shape.

Sprinkle flour on the dough and cover with plastic. Let proof until thicker and puffy, about 2 hours. To test, press the dough: the indentation should fill in slowly. An hour before the end of the proof, put a baking stone in the top third of the oven; heat the oven to 450°F.
When the dough is ready for the oven, brush off the flour and smear a thin layer of olive oil over the surface.

When the dough is fully proofed, brush off the flour with a dry pastry brush and then smear with a thin layer of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). Dimple the loaf all over with your fingers, poking in between the herb leaves, pushing down to the bottom of the dough without breaking through. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Transfer the parchment and dough to the hot baking stone. Bake the dough on the parchment until deep golden all over, about 15 minutes, rotating after 10 minutes. The parchment will darken in the oven, but it won't catch fire. Transfer the bread to a rack and enjoy soon: it's best still warm.