Month: January 2016

Pizza: how we make it

Pizza: how we make it

We’ve been making pizza every week for years now, and here we share some of the tricks that evolved. We make our dough from scratch and buy sliced, fresh mozzarella from the local deli counter. Toppings are whatever you like. We usually make one veggie and one pepperoni.

The dough

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 ½ tsp dry yeast
  • Flour for kneading
  • Cornmeal to slide onto peel
  • 2 baking stones

The sauce

  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 6 oz water
  • ½ cup homemade tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 large sprig rosemary
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic

The toppings

  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 sweet red pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 stick pepperoni, sliced
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
  1. Place the baking stones in the oven and preheat to 465 ° F. If you don’t’ have baking stones, use any good pizza pan. The stones will help make a somewhat better crust but they aren’t absolutely required.

proofingin food procrisen

  1. To make the dough, add the yeast and sugar to a pitcher large enough to hold 1-½ cups water. Add the lukewarm water and stir until uniform. Let the yeast mixture rise for about 5 minutes until it bubbles. This is called “proving” the yeast, and if it doesn’t foam up, try another packet of yeast. We have started using yeast from a jar, and keeping the rest refrigerated so it doesn’t deteriorate. Yeast packets can be a crap shoot: their health depends on how they are stored at the grocer.
  2. Add the 3 cups of flour to a food processor, fitted with a dough blade, and pour in the yeast mixture. Pulse until smooth. If the dough looks too sticky, add more flour a half-scoop at a time and mix in. Allow the dough to rise for 60-90 minutes until it is more than doubled in bulk.

spicesgarlic pressblender sauce

  1. To make the sauce, mix the tomato paste, water and some bottled tomato sauce in a blender or bowl. We use our homemade garden tomato sauce, but if you don’t have that, leave it our or add a little bottled sauce.  Add the sugar, basil and oregano. Strip the leaves off the rosemary between your thumb and forefinger and add them to the sauce. Add the sugar, or the sauce will be a bit sour. Crush the 2 garlic cloves in the garlic press and add them to the sauce. Mix thoroughly in the blender.

dough on boarddough in 2

  1. When the dough has risen, scrape it out onto a floured board, and if it is too sticky roll the dough in the flour to mix a little in. Divide the dough in half and roll out each into s pizza-sized circle on the floured board.

cornmeal

  1. Before adding the toppings, sprinkle some cornmeal under the dough so you can slide it around and lift it with a pizza peel.
  2. Pour half the sauce on each pizza, and cover with mozzarella slices.

sauce on doughtoppingspepperoni

  1. Add whatever toppings your like. We usually make veggie, pepperoni and if needed, sausage and onion.

oven stones

  1. Slip the peel under the finished pizza, open the oven, and slide the pizza onto the baking stone. Repeat for the second pizza. Bake each pizza for 16 minutes: the second one may take an extra minute.
  2. Remove them from the oven with the peel, and cut them into slices to serve.

two pizzas

This whole process takes under 2 hours, including the rising and baking time, and is more than worth it. Start the dough and heat the oven as soon as you get home, and everything else will fall into place.

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Easy crusty white bread without kneading

Easy crusty white bread without kneading

This King Arthur recipe is a lot of fun and just about no work. We didn’t create it but we did make it twice and take some pictures to show you how easy it is. Basically, you mix the ingredients and let them rise in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Shorter will develop a little less flavor. Longer and it tastes like sourdough. There’s no real work involved.

We were worried about finding a container that would hold the rising flour and still fit in our fridge. You want one of about 5 quart capacity, and we found a Rubbermaid 21-cup storage container that more than fit the bill.

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 lb (32 oz) of flour
  • 1 Tb salt
  • 1 ½ Tb (1 packet) instant yeast

weighingFor this quantity of flour, you really need to weigh it out on a kitchen scale, because the volume varies a lot with how you scoop out the flour. KA says it is 6 ½ to 7 ½ cups of flour. May be, but weighing it is so much easier. Then you just dump it into a mixer bowl with the other ingredients and stir it up. KA says the flour-liquid ratio is important for this to work. You should end up with a thick, sticky batter, not a dough.

Mix all the ingredients in a mixer bowl or by hand and scrape the batter into the refrigerator container.5 days later

Let it rise, covered, at room temperature for two hours.

2 hr rise

Then put it in the refrigerator for several days.  We tried 5 days one time and 6 days the next. The dough will rise and then fall in the fridge. Don’t worry. This is normal.

When you are ready to make the bread, put an empty metal pan on the lowest shelf and a baking stone on the upper shelf, and preheat the oven to 450° F while you form a loaf.

18nozTo make a loaf, sprinkle the dough with flour so you can pick it up and weigh out 18-19 oz of dough for a loaf. KA suggests as little as 14 oz, but that really makes a small loaf.

 

 

Plop the dough onto a floured board and form it into a ball or cylinder.

Transfer it to a piece of baking parchment, and let it rise for an hour. It will probably spread out, but this is normal.

rolled outrisen

We never knew you could put baking parchment directly on the baking stone, but this works well and avoids messy flour and cornmeal on the bread.

At the last minute, cut a couple of slashed in the loaf with a sharp knife or a razor blade. You can see these slashed in the final baked product.

Then, open the oven and slide the dough onto the baking stone with a baking peel or a flat baking sheet. Pour a cup of hot water into the metal pan to form steam, and quickly close the oven.

oven water

Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the bread and let it cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.

loaf

The result is hot delicious crusty bread for dinner.

KA credits the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day for the inspiration for this recipe.

 

Anti-GMO scandal deepens

bucci2
Diagrams from Bucci’s report showing how images from one paper were reused in another.

 

Professor Federico Infascelli’s papers were called into question as we reported Monday when figures from his 2010 paper were reused in a 2013 and 2015 paper for completely different experiments. The figures represented gel electrophoresis of DNA from animals he had fed either GMO soy or non-GMO soy, in which he attempted to assert differences that most scientists doubted existed. He has been accused of serious scientific misconduct.

His entire fraudulent edifice collapsed yesterday when Enrico Bucci of the firm BioDigital Valley issued a report of his digital analysis of eight of Infascelli’s group’s papers, including a Ph.D. thesis now in question. The conclusions, reported here, are quite damning, showing

  • Data digitally deleted
  • Figures being cropped to eliminate data
  • Data being spliced in
  • Data completely fabricated
  • Figures were created by moving data between lanes in the images
  • Lanes being duplicated
  • Bands being deleted
  • Software deletion of data

Moreover, even if the papers had been truthful (and they clearly are not), biologist Layla Katiree has noted in Biofortified that Infascelli failed to specify the source of the animal feed and failed to report a nutritional analysis of the feed to assure that except for the presence of “GMO soy,” the feeds were nutritionally equivalent. In fact, he fails to note which traits the bioengineered soy actually contained, or who manufactured it.

Infascelli’s work has been used by the anti-GMO movement to assert that consuming food made from plants with GM traits is somehow different and dangerous. This entire thesis has collapsed in the presence of this fraud, making his assertions considerably less credible.

 

Fraud alert! GMO paper retracted.

An Italian research group run by Professor Federico Infascelli of the University Federico II of Naples was recently informed that their 2013 paper that purported to show that GMO feed can cause detection of GMO DNA in the baby goats was being retracted because of plagiarism. This is featured today in Retraction Watch.

Infascelli is a professor of Nutrition in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, and has published a string of papers in the past few years purporting to find GMO plant DNA in the blood and milk of goats fed Roundup Ready Soybean meal. This has never been considered credible by other workers because they couldn’t repeat it, and we know that plant DNA is digested regardless of its source.

This essentially begins the collapse of Infascelli’s entire edifice, since it has been shown that the data seems to be faked, or at least edited.

How did this happen? Well, as described in the Italian press (and translated here), Infascelli’s work contradicted all other work in the field and when he was asked to speak about his work to the Italian Senate, Senator Elena Cataneo, who is also an experienced researcher, was skeptical and asked for more information. She began studying papers from Infascelli’s group and also published an open letter (here translated) to Professor Infascelli about these problems, but received no reply.

She also found that work by Infascelli and his colleague Raffaela Tudisco was being criticized on an on-line journal discussion site PubPeer. Here, scientists pointed out that Figure 4 in the 2010 (Tudisco-2010) was duplicated as Figure 1 in the 2013 paper (Mastellone-2013). While both figures were photos of a gel electrophoresis experiment, in the 2010 paper, the samples were from a liver and in 2013 from milk. Not only are the photos the same, even the noise spots are in the same places as illustrated in PubPeer and perhaps more clearly in the article in Biofortified. And in fact, it appears that the data in the 2013 paper were digitally edited as well.

Thus after petitions to the journal from a number of scientists, the 2013 paper was retracted by the journal. Ironically, Food and Nutrition Sciences is a low level pay-to-play journal that is on Beall’s list of predatory journals. It is published by the Chinese publisher Scientific Research, along with a host of other noncredible journals. And Infascelli himself is on its editorial board.

To make matters worse, researchers have also found that Figure 1 of a paper published late last year (Tudisco 2015) is identical to Figure 1 in Tudisco-2010. While no further retraction actions have yet been taken, both the journals and the University of Naples have undertaken further investigations according to Biofortified, and more actions are expected.

infascelli images
The top picture is a gel photo from the 2015 paper and the lower image from the 2010 paper. The arrows show points of similarity even in the noise.

References

  1. Tudisco, R., Mastellone, V., Cutrignelli, M. I., Lombardi, P., Bovera, F., Mirabella, N., Piccolo, G., Calabro, S., Avallone, L., & Infascelli, F. (2010). Fate of transgenic DNA and evaluation of metabolic effects in goats fed genetically modified soybean and in their offsprings.Animal, 4(10), pp. 1662-1671 DOI: 10.1017/S1751731110000728
  2. Mastellone, R. Tudisco, G. Monastra, M. E. Pero, S. Calabrò, P. Lombardi, M. Grossi, M. I. Cutrignelli, L. Avallone, F. Infascelli.  (2013). Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Activity in Kids Born from Goats Fed Genetically Modified Soybean. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 4:50-54 – RETRACTED DOI: 10.4236/fns.2013.46A006
  3. Tudisco, R., Calabrò, S., Cutrignelli, M. I., Moniello, G., Grossi, M., Mastellone, V., Lombardi, P., Pero, M. E., & Infascelli, F. (2015). Genetically modified soybean in a goat diet: Influence on kid performance. Small Ruminant Research(0), pp.http://www.ask-force.org/web/HerbizideTol/Tudisco-GM-Soy-Goat-Kids-performance-2015.pdf

 

 

 

No, scientists should not be giving up their Email for activists to twist

corn silk
Corn silk

Paul Thacker, writing in Sunday’s New York Times, suggested that scientists cannot be trusted to be honest and that “the public” should be able to snoop through private Emails of research scientists, cherry picking and misinterpreting fragments of conversations for their political objectives.

If you think the tone of the sentence is extreme, you should take a look at the history of this “journalist’s” own work. He specifically cites an opinion piece that he and Charles Seife wrote for PLoS Biology Blogs. You will note that that link now shows that the article has been removed as not being consistent with their community guidelines. You can read the actual cached article here.

Thacker (and Seife) wrote about a series of Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests for public university scientists Emails fomented by US Right to Know, which he describes as a “small nonprofit,” completely neglecting to mention that USTRK is an activist group dedicated to GMO labeling and wholly funded by the organic foods industry, and hardly a unbiased organization. In fact, USRTK engaged in serious public misbehavior bordering on slander in criticizing various scientists working in biotechnology, including, most notably University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta. Eventually, the attacks became so intense that Folta withdrew from his public science education role.

Now, Thacker and Seife’s removed article made several false claims, notably that Prof Folta has a financial relationship with Monsanto (he does not, he only accepted one small subsidy for his science outreach program) and that  he has been consulting with Monsanto on political strategy to combat the GMO labeling movement, which is completely false.  Because of these egregious misstatements, the PLoS opinion piece was removed.

You can read Folta’s view of that opinion piece in his blog entry on Science 2.0. It has also been discussed at length by Skeptical Raptor here and again here.

If this is what Thacker believes is the role of journalism and of snooping through Emails, he has become an activist rather than the respected journalist he would like us to believe he is. And the New York Times should not have published his opinion piece unedited.

However, the entire idea that agenda-driven organizations should have access to scientist’s private Emails is preposterous. If a scientist publishes an article where the conclusions are to be questioned, they can demand the original data (which is often available with the paper as supplemental files anyway). Of course, analyzing that data require that they know some science, rather than drawing slanderous conclusions by taking private conversations out of context.

The T-fal deep fryer (EZ Clean)

The T-fal deep fryer (EZ Clean)

We tried out our new T-fal deep fryer yesterday and are generally very impressed. The fryer is of Canadian origin, but made in China, and seems to be quite well constructed. The main feature of the fryer is an oil reservoir that it drains all the filtered frying oil into when the oil is cool. This means that you can easily reuse the oil several times and keep it in this convenient reservoir between fryings. The manual suggests you might use the oil up to 12 times, but here we are a bit skeptical of that many times.

oil box leverYou control the oil reservoir with a 3-position lever with the settings Remove, Fry and Drain. To cook, you set it to the Fry position, and to drain the oil out you set it to drain when you are done cooking. When the oil is sufficiently cool, it drains through a filter into the oil reservoir.

fry basketThe fryer holds a little over 14 cups of oil and has a convenient fryer basket to lower and raise your foods, and has a thermostat that can be set between about 300° and 375° F. We found that it took only about 10 minutes to get to 320° and maybe another 5 minutes to get to 375°.

regulatorTo use the fryer, you pour oil into the fryer so it comes up between the Min (12 cups) and Max (14 cups) markings and then plug in the heating element and start the oil heating. When it comes to temperature the light goes out and you can lower your foods into the oil.

fryingFor our first try we made fish and chips using cod and russet potatoes. We probably cooking them longer than needed, but this is part of the learning curve with a new appliance. We also tried double frying the French fries, cooking them at 320, and then after the fish was done, recooking them at 375. This worked well, but again we probably overdid the 320 frying time and will back off from 12 minutes to less than 10 minutes.

The frying basket is not huge: this is not a restaurant sized fryer, but you can do potatoes for about 3 or maybe 4 people at a time (about 2.5 lbs). You can always make more while you are serving the first batch, as the oil remains at temperature throughout.

friesWhen you are done frying, you just turn the power off and set the oil reservoir switch to Cool and Drain. This takes an hour or two to cool down and drain.

Then, you can wash every part of the machine except the heater and the oil reservoir in the dishwasher and store them for your next project. Our only cautionary note is that you should remove the basket and frying tub without tipping them unless you switch the reservoir switch to Remove, or you may spill some oil on the counter.

oil boxThey recommend that you carry the fryer to its storage space without the oil reservoir and then bring the reservoir to it separately to avoid spillage. It is not, however, difficult to carry.

Overall, this is a really nice fryer and for someone who may only do deep frying a few times a year, it is ideal since it stores the oil for you, so you don’t have to mess with pouring It back into the jugs and so forth.

 

We try the Dollar Shave Club’s razors

We try the Dollar Shave Club’s razors

closed boxYou may well have seen internet ads for the Dollar Shave Club, which promises subscription monthly delivery of razor blades for a dollar a month. Well, not really. With shipping, it’s $3, but you get a box of 5 razor blades and the first month you get a razor handle as well. So this works out to 60 cents a blade, including shipping. You can join and cancel at any time.

openbox

Now if you compare their basic twin blade razor blade to the Sensor Excel, which run $17.54 to $22  (plus $5.99 shipping) for 10 and at Amazon, you can buy 20 for $27.99 (free shipping), this still seems like a pretty good deal. The cheapest deal is the Amazon one which makes the blades $1.40 each.

So we decided to give them a try. We ordered the inexpensive twin blade razor blades for $1 plus $2 shipping and had them in our mailbox in 3-4 days. They’ll send them monthly until I cancel. They also offer a 4-blade and a 6-blade model at higher prices.

So we opened the box and found the razor handle, the 5 blades and a free sample of Dr Carver’s Shaving Butter.  It looks like their real business might be selling all these shaving products, and hair gels.

 

Now shaving and razors are sort of a personal thing, depending on your beard weight and direction and face shape. Our beard is not too heavy but grows in in all sorts of directions, so shaving it means shaving in several different directions to cut all the whiskers.

We tried the twin blade (“Humble Twin”) blade and razor this morning, using it just as we’d use our normal Sensor Excel blades.

razor and manualAnd how did it do? It was at best adequate. There was a significant amount of drag, leaving you feeling like you might cut yourself at any minute, and this was just the first use of the blade. We would expect this drag would get worse as it dulls during the week. It is about the quality of the throw away Bic razors (12 for $3.14) you get in hotels, and nothing special. We probably will go back to our Excel.

On a second day, we used their free sample shaving butter and compared their Twin with our Excel. With this smooth lubricant, the difference was less marked, but the Excel was still superior.

Two days after the blade arrived, but before we tried them, we received an upsell message suggesting we were using the Humble Twin model but their most popular model was the 4-blade “4X” model, and would we like to upgrade (4 for $6 with free shipping). We ordered those for next month, but do not expect to be impressed or to continue after that. We’ll report on them when they arrive but for now our quest to find the best beard kits continues.

Now, there are others in the blades by mail business. Gillette has a similar club where the blades run $3.50 and $4.50 each for 3 and 4 blades. You will find cheaper plans from 800razors, Harry’s and many others, at varying price points. But the point is, you can’t judge the razor blades short of buying them, and we found these disappointing. Their price seems to be a good quality indicator, though.

Tom Brady’s chef talks foodie nonsense

Tom Brady’s chef talks foodie nonsense

In an Boston Globe interview today, chef Allen Campbell talks about his job as a private chef for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his wife, the model Gisele Bundchen  (and their children). In the interview, the Chelmsford, MA native reveals his deep knowledge of cooking and how completely he has bought into the pseudo-science of popular foodie-ism.

He starts by explaining that he cooks a lot of vegetables and grains as well as some meat for the Bradys, but within the first sentence or two gives away his lack of food science knowledge by explaining that he buys organic foods (because the Bradys have a lot of money to waste on overpriced food, which is not more nutritious) and avoids GMOs (because he has no idea what they are). Claiming that he is concerned with the future of the planet he somehow manages to ignore the fact that GMO crops have been found to reduce pesticide use by 37% and increase crop yields by 22%.

He note that he took an on-line nutrition course taught by T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, a book that has been severely criticized for confirmation bias and cherry-picking of data. The study makes great claims for a plant based diet, but his correlation of diet and diseases has been found wanting.

He claims that eating sugar and carbs makes your body more acidic, which is simply nonsense. The pH of your body is tightly regulated within a couple of tenths of a pH unit.

He claims that he uses no MSG, as if that were bad, neglecting the fact that MSG is naturally occurring in cheese, broccoli, tomatoes, and peas. And he uses Tamari instead of soy sauce, ignoring the fact that fermented soy contains a great deal of glutamate.

He claims not to use white sugar for some reason, perhaps under the misapprehension that there are a lot of minerals in brown sugar that would be important to the Bradys, because everyone needs to get the nutrition from sugar! He also uses only Himalayan sea salt for no particular reason, and avoids iodized salt because he isn’t worried about goiters.

He claims that he avoids tomatoes and potatoes (from the nightshade family) because he imagines they are inflammatory, but again this is just a myth. He also avoids dairy and mushrooms (why?).

You would not be surprised that he also cooks gluten free, despite the fact that gluten is a source of healthy protein unless someone in the household is a celiac disease sufferer. The idea of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is no longer given much credence.

He also claims to do a lot of his shopping at Whole Foods, because again, money is no object and he can rub shoulders with other trendy idiots who know as little about nutrition as he does.

If you read about Campbell’s cooking, he is obvious a gifted and imaginative chef, but he shouldn’t be getting his nutrition advice from Google University.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.06.50 AM
Vegetable sushi, courtesy of Alan Campbell

 

 

Organic Consumers Assn fibs about Chipotle big time

DSC_0034
Farmers Market in Westport

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is the propaganda arm of the organic food industry , despite being framed as a non-profit educational organization. They have a revenue stream of $3.3 million provided from individual and corporate donations (both unidentified). Their expenditures include supporting the US Right To Know campaign, which slanders biotech scientists. They also spread misinformation about the dangers of GMO crops and neonicotinoids danger to bees (both completely untrue).

Until now its biggest tall tales have been that organic crops are not sprayed with pesticides (they definitely are) and that organic foods are somehow more nutritious (they are not). In fact organic superiority is until now the OCA’s main Big Lie, debunked in detail in this paper. If you squint and try to ignore their claims, you can dismiss all this as marketing hype.

However, when the National Organic Program was announced in December , 2000, Agricultural Secretary Dan Glickman explained:

“Let me be clear about one thing. The organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.”

But now, however, the OCA has gone much too far, publishing a claim that the troubled Chipotle restaurant chain has been sabotaged by pro-GMO activists. As Henry Miller wrote in Forbes, Chipotle was defeated by doing nothing well. They embarked on an anti-GMO campaign purely for marketing purposes, claiming their foods were safer, instead of concentrating on actual food safety. This was just fear marketing as described in the Daily Beast.

But the OCA went farther in claiming not only that Chipotle had been sabotaged, but that a unique strain of E. coli was involved. That much is true, but they implied that some evil doer had access to such strains, limiting the culprit to a few laboratories, presumably. But that just isn’t true, as you can see from the CDC report. The OCA’s move from mendacious marketing hype to serious conspiracy theories puts them in the same category of crazy as Mike Adams, the Health Ranger.

And in fact, this conspiracy theory actually originated with Mike Adams, proprietor of Natural News, and #1 on the list of the Encyclopedia of American Loons. Natural News is a collection of crazy and paranoid theories that Adams hatches daily to sell his “natural” products. He is also anti-vax, anti-GMO, and anti-gun background checking. And it was Adams that appears to have made up this bizarre theory that GMO activists had sabotaged Chipotle.  This appeared on Natural News on December 23 and on the equally unreliable Real Farmacy site the next day. The fact that the somewhat more sober OCA picked up on this lie that same day shows how desperate they are getting, now the GMO acceptance much more common and widespread. But there is simply no evidence for this wacko claim! And the article appears to be word for word the same on all three sites.

And here’s the kicker: even Chipotle has denied this sabotage theory to Snopes. It just isn’t true and the OCA knows it. They are lying big time to smear biotechnogy for their commercial ends! Neither the OCA nor Adams has provided a shred of evidence for this accusation.

Chipotle’s food poisoning problem is caused by dealing with too many small suppliers and insufficient record keeping to track them down when something like this occurs.  The entire fault lies with them, not with wild conspiracies. Shame on the OCA for spreading this dangerous misinformation.