Thursday, August 20, 2009

"White Tea: Solution to Obesity Epidemic?"

Lately I've been enjoying a tall glass of iced tea in the afternoons -- a blend of an inexpensive white chai tea and Tazo's delish Passion tea, with a little fresh mint from my herb garden as a garnish. So when I saw the title of this article on Science Daily's Web page, it caught my eye:

White Tea: Solution To Obesity Epidemic?

ScienceDaily (2009-05-07) -- Possible anti-obesity effects of white tea have been demonstrated in a series of experiments on human fat cells (adipocytes). Researchers have shown that an extract of the herbal brew effectively inhibits the generation of new adipocytes and stimulates fat mobilization from mature fat cells. ... > read full article

Now isn't that a compelling title? White tea as a possible solution to obesity? Wow, those people who have had gastric bypasses are gonna be furious! I mean, how tough is it to enjoy a cuppa every day, especially for the sake of weight loss? And given my recent enthusiasm for white tea lately, the pounds should just start melting off, right?

Well, maybe not. As it turns out, the researchers looked at human fat cells (adipocytes) all right, but not while the those fat cells were still in someone's body. In addition, the researchers were looking at the effect of an extract of white tea, not a cup of tea with a little cream and sugar. Injecting white tea extract into fat cells did have an effect. If you've got some white tea extract and a hypodermic handy, you might see a similar effect if you inject the extract into your fat cells. However, drinking white tea might -- or might not -- have the same effect. The jury's still out on that one.

So, if you enjoy relaxing with a cup of white tea, it just might help you with weight management. After all, taking time out to relax and unwind will help you manage stress more effectively, which does indeed affect weight management...assuming, of course, you're balancing stress management with a healthy diet, appropriate exercise, and adequate rest and hydration.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Boston Cream Pie

August seems like a perfect month to start a blog, if for no other reason that it seems I don't need to put too much thought into a particular theme for this first blog post. After all, not much happens in August. Sure, some people are headed back to school. But plenty of people aren't headed back until September -- and those who aren't are still thinking summer. (I could argue that even those who are headed back to school in August are still thinking summer, but that would be digressing.)

One thing that does happen in August is my birthday, which is not only as good a reason as any to bake a cake, but an excuse to bake whatever kind of cake I want! And on a whim, I decided to go with one of my favorite desserts, Boston Cream Pie.

I've been thinking about preparing a Boston Cream Pie (to be referred to as BCP from this point henceforth) for years. My kids have never had BCP. For that matter, I don't think my husband has, either. It's not exactly wildly available, which puzzles me.

But the dearth of BCP is another blog post, another time. In this post, I'll recap where I'm at with making a quick-and-easy, somewhat-healthier version of BCP.

Those of you who share my passion for BCP know that it's not a pie at all, but a dense, two-layer yellow cake. Instead of frosting, there's a thick layer of vanilla-flavored custardy goodness between the layers. All of that deliciousness is then drizzled with a chocolate glaze.

I started by doing some research. When I took those two years of food prep classes in college, bake shop was a separate class. If we did any baking, it didn't leave an impression (unlike the day I started a kitchen fire making wontons, or the day I burned rice in the microwave, but those are blogs for another day, too).

So I hauled out my worn copy of Gisslen's "Professional Cooking" and got to reading about cake. It turns out there are two methods of making cakes. One method makes cakes light and fluffy. The other method -- the foaming method -- produces a light-but-denser cake. Since that's what I was looking for, I kept reading. Although cake mix doesn't allow you to exactly reproduce the foaming method, it seemed as though I could come pretty close. I decided to adapt the foaming method to preparing cake mix (more on that later).

I then turned my attention to pastry cream. Those of you know who me personally, or know me from my online cooking class, are probably well aware of issues? Well, let's call it my "preference" for smooth-and-creamy food. Mmmm! I spent quite a while considering how to make a healthier, easier pastry cream, and thought about the various BCPs I've had over the years.

While I was rummaging around to see if I had a cake mix on hand, I found a package of instant pudding. It might sound like selling out, but I got to know, they make pies with this pudding stuff. It's thick, smooth, creamy -- kind of like custard.

So I experimented with a spice cake made using the foaming method, and I followed the directions on the pudding to make pie filling as a replacement for pastry cream. The cake turned out perfectly -- dense and light at the same time. And the pudding turned out about the same consistency as pastry custard. I didn't feel like bothering with glaze or ganache, so I used the leftover pudding as "frosting," which didn't work out as well as I hoped. I experimented a bit with adding chocolate sauce, which helped with the flavor. I may break down and make ganache or glaze from scratch, but we'll see.

And now you're caught up with where I'm at with the BCP. I'll provide the recipes, directions, pics, etc., next week, and let you all know how it went. Until then, eat great :)!