Thursday, January 24, 2013

What The Heck is "Water Extract of Dried Raisins"?

That's the question I had when I noticed author, editor, columnist, blogger and radio host Ann Douglas (is there anything you don't do Ann?), tweeting about the ingredients of a loaf of Dempster's Whole Grain Whole Wheat bread.

My first thought was that it was perhaps the slimiest sugar synonym I'd ever heard, but then looking at the bread, sugar and molasses are both listed and there's only 2gm of sugar per slice.

Next I called Dempster's and I was told that it's part of their move to include more "natural" ingredients, and that it replaced sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, but when I looked that up I found it was an emulsifier and that didn't sound right.

Digging around on the net I came up with the possibility that the raisin juice (as oxymoronic as that sounds) was there to provide tartaric acid and serve as a preservative of sorts.

All that to say, just because you can pronounce something doesn't mean you know what it is, what it does, or whether or not it's good for you. While I don't think there's any risk to "water extract of dried raisins", there are plenty of fantastically easy to pronounce ingredients that I'd prefer my food not to have so don't fall into the natural fallacy laden trap of thinking that by definition if you can pronounce it, it must be good.

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  1. Awesome point! That is such a great example! I've never heard of that, but its crazy what companies do to sound more "natural." I definitely thought it would have been a sugar substitute. Guess not.

    And people believe this stuff. Nuts!

  2. Rebecca11:18 am

    !00% agree, it's just like clery extract in luncheon meat -really it's nitrates. Just becasue it sounds healthy doesn't mean it is.

  3. There is no such thing as real bread in the grocery store any more. A couple years ago I was determined to find a loaf of bread in ANY grocery store in town that contained nothing but water, sugar, salt, flour, butter, milk, or eggs. (Simplest of course being water, flour, and salt, but enriched breads are too yummy to pass up). Couldn't find it. Not one. Scanned the ENTIRE bread section. Not the fancy Dempster's We-Made-Our-Bag-Look-Like-The-Bread-Came-Straight-Off-The-Field bread, not the "organic" bread or the "natural" bread or the "just like homemade" bread. Not even the stuff in the bakery sections in the bag that clearly originated in the store. What? The dough didn't though? Damn it. My world was turned upside down. No one actually made anything remotely resembling home made bread any more. So I took matters into my own hands, literally, and learned how to make phenomenal home made bread. Regular bread, whole wheat, enriched, commercial yeast, wild yeast, unleavened, different shapes and sizes. The whole shebang. And if you ever taste one of these breads (I encourage you to learn for yourself; it is a most peaceful hobby), you'll NEVER eat store bought bread again. I promise.

    1. Excellent post. As a professional bread baker I am amazed with the stuff the big industrial terminals put in the product that they refer to as bread. It is bread, no question, it just isn't GOOD bread. I am able to make a high quality product with just the basics: Flour, Water, Salt & Yeast. I may add things like soaked or sprouted whole grains, sometimes dried fruit, occasionally cheese. I don't need to add a single preservative, emulsifier or dough conditioner, and the breads I produce have excellent flavour and good keeping qualities.
      If you're in Toronto, look me up!

  4. Anonymous2:48 pm

    In playing around with historical recipes, where they don't use refined sugar, I've learned that they would often soak dried fruits and then use that liquid as part of the liquid for the recipe. Soaked raisins yield a slightly sweet, deep flavored liquid that I can definitely imagine using in a bread recipe.