Pop chips

Corina allowed me to sample a new variety of snack food today, the ‘pop chip’ or more specifically, Trader Joe’s barbeque Popped Potato Chips.  They were quite delicious and light, and I did enjoy stealing quite a few of them.  But the label, with its claims of ‘never fried. never baked.’ left me a little confused.  Just how exactly were these things cooked?  Can potatoes really ‘pop’?  That just doesn’t even make sense.

Pop Chips’ website describes their chips as natural ingredients like potatoes and whole grain rice with heat and pressure applied.  Evidently it is this heat and pressure that pops the chips.  Still, I was confused.  How does the application of heat, even under pressure, cause something to ‘pop’?

A few more careful observations shed some light on the subject.  First under the ingredient list of the pop chips is some type of flour.  In the case of potato chips, it’s potato flour: in the case of rice chips, rice flour. So the actual substance to be ‘popped’ is not a sliver or slice of potato – it’s a dough made with flour and some type of oil (usually sunflower oil).  Now, while this oil is not nearly as heavy as that used for frying, it is the consistency of the dough that allows it to fluff or puff up or ‘pop’ when heat is applied.  In addition, the rice variety also contains yeast, to further add air and fluff to the chip.

Now, my final contention and question.  The definition of baking is ‘to cook (food) with dry heat, especially in an oven.’  While I am not sure if the heat applied to the popped chips is ‘dry’, I am unclear as to why these chips are not considered baked.  The distinction may not qualify as false advertising, but it is certainly misleading.  And while I may nto understand the dynamics of ‘popping’ that require the use of pressure, a bit better explanation of the process on the website might be in order.  After all, despite the simplicity of the ingredients, I doubt it’s something I’ll be able to accurately replicate in my own kitchen.

Another girl thing?

Today is the day of baking.  Or more specifically, yesterday was the day of baking and today is the day of eating.  That’s right, it’s time for the Oven Glove Money Makers* bake off event (*Note: this name is a pseudonym for my workplace used to protect the innocent, namely me).  Today we will taste desserts and various sweet baked goods in a variety of forms and flavors.  I’m excited.  I was excited and hungry, but then I had lunch.  Hopefully the hungry will come back at about 3:30, Bake-off time.

There’s been quite a bit of  male/female baking rivalry as to who is the best.  And it is true that baking and cooking are often considered the natural domain of women in modern society.  And it’s also true that in my childhood, my mother made dinner almost every night of the week.  Of course, my dad did occasionally grill or otherwise char meat, and it’s true that  my mother did have her kitchen ‘helpers’ (aka child slave labor), but now looking back it seems to be a bit of an unfair distribution.  Dinner almost every night?

My current living situation is almost the exact reverse.  Mike makes the dinner when we eat at home, unless he’s sick or we’re eating at different times.  I do his laundry in exchange, but in some ways this may be unfair.  Some weeks we eat out or eat separately almost every day, while others we spend mostly at home.  The laundry is pretty much always the same.

He is a natural chef, great with flavor, and probably a better cook than me – except with vinegar,  I’m better at vinegar.  But he does feel a certain intimidation in the area of baking.  I think more of this has to do with personal experience and family tales of leaving key ingredients out of baked goods.  He views baking recipes as inflexible and more demanding than whipping up a dinner or other meal.  And at some level, I understand this – with baked goods, you don’t know if it’s right until it’s over.  There’s no fiddling with the ingredients or tasting along the way.  There’s no changing your mind halfway through the baking.  But in other ways, it’s more like an experiment – an experiment of deliciousness.  You have a hypothesis that such-and-such recipe will turn out grand.  Or, even better, you modify a recipe to make it better.  So what if the actual experiment takes 20 minutes to prepare and an hour to run?  If it fails, you’ve learned something.

Perhaps  it is this basic experimentation that attracted the male mind to the profession of ‘baker’ in former days.  Although I’m not sure that a candlestick maker would be a particularly manly profession, the profession of baker at least has the masculine appeal of its association with ‘butcher’ in the nursery rhyme.  In addition, actors such as  Nicholas Cage as Ronny Cammareri in Moonstruck or shows such as Iron Chef illustrate our fascination with those oh-so-many bakers. Sadly though, the contemporary man is not quite so enthralled with baking.  Why?  He hasn’t given up his love of sugar or things that are bad for him.  Why give up the skill?