Why ask WHY?!

Discussion in 'Baker Banter' started by ChesterV, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. ChesterV

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    Ever wonder WHY something is so popular?

    Or
    WHY so many people like a specific food or dessert?

    I ask
    WHY because I like to know things.
    Being in food, you have to know why people like certain things and what it is about those things they like about it, in order to produce an item in a way that will be in demand.

    Is it the taste? The smell? The after effects? The sight of it? The ingredients?
    Because someone else likes it? WHY do you like what you do?

    So, here it is.......some of my WHY's.......



    WHY is Victoria Sponge so popular in England?
    Aside from the American version, Strawberry Shortcake, I really don't see what the "big deal" is about it.
    Is vanilla and cream more wanted in Britain than say, chocolate?
    I don't get the popularity of this.


    WHY is chocolate so popular?
    If you really, REALLY taste some real chocolate, it doesn't have much taste to it. So many things have to be added to it to get it to taste, so why is it such a wanted dessert/snack? Is it really just because some of the chemicals in chocolate have an effect on humans?


    WHY are chocolate chip cookies the best selling cookie?
    Plain, tasteless cookie dough with chocolate chips in it. Why even bother when you can get cookies entirely made from chocolate? Seems like a waste to me. But yet, there it is.......chocolate chip cookies are ok, but for me, they aren't in my top 10 of favorite cookies!



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    ChesterV, Feb 10, 2018
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  2. ChesterV

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    First off, you make such colorful, and interesting, posts!

    VICKI T. SPONGE: I always thought of Victoria Sponge as something fancy and special before Bake-Off, and before I made Mary Berry's. First off, her all-in-one method is really nothing more than a pound cake, not a true egg-sponge. It does taste good, though, and I especially like the jam/fruit filling rather than just frosting-frosting-frosting all the time. But I wonder if it's popular because of its relative simplicity? It was a popular cake to serve at tea-time, therefore it was more of an everyday type of cake rather than the more elaborate European style desserts at formal occasions? I liked it, it's a nice simple, rich but not too dense yellow cake, not overly sweet, and being a butter cake, it seemed to keep well for leftover slices.

    CHOCO-LOCO: Okay, I'll draw a parallel to coffee. Coffee, especially if it's not super fresh, roasted to perfection, etc. as the coffee-perfectionists like it, can be a harsh, bitter drink. I made it for years for my father before I took to drinking it, in college when I worked at a diner (and it was free, and I was always short on sleep). But to me, coffee usually includes a decent amount of milk or cream, and used to include sugar. We made espresso last night before dinner, but that did have sugar in it (my attempt at creating a rich sugar-foam espuma fell a little short).

    I think chocolate is somewhat the same way. The flavor we think of as chocolate is usually a mixture of cocoa, sugar, and often milk. I love dark chocolate, and I like the sweetness to be dialed back, but having eaten unsweetened chocolate, it's not quite the same thing. We put chocolate flavor into such wonderful things - hot milk, cakes, puddings, etc.

    TOLL HOUSE SPEED BUMP: So, to me, the ideal chocolate chip cookie is warm and soft... not so much underbaked as more of a brown-sugary base than the crisp, snappy cookie. I didn't even realize until I was well into adulthood that there's any debate as to which is a preferable cookie. But, they are often over-sweet and blah, which I attribute to too much white sugar, not enough brown. Also, they tend to have the chips rather unevenly distributed. I saw a Diedre Wilson video where she advocated mixing in about 2/3 of the chips, then pressing the remaining chips into the tops of each formed cookie on the tray, so they were visible. I haven't made cc cookies from scratch in forever, but plan to do this. I also like a little hit of nutmeg in the dough, as well.

    Toll House cookies are very easy to make, compared to most rolled cookies. But my guess is that they have remained so popular, against other types of cookies, because of marketing. I don't really get the allure of cookie-dough ice cream, by the way. So many other things to put in ice cream, it doesn't do it for me.
     
    Apocalypso, Feb 10, 2018
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  3. ChesterV

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I have no thoughts on why chocolate is so popular but I do have a couple of thoughts about the Victoria sandwich and chocolate chip cookies.

    Victoria sandwich is popular for a combination of reasons.


    Tea: the tradition of tea is more than just a social custom. Historians believe the afternoon tea break was a means to to increase factory output. Tea is a stimulant. Tea and a sugar sweeten snack is an energy bomb. So factory owners definitely wanted the workforce to have an afternoon tea break accompanied with a sweet snack. The traditional Victoria sandwich is not made with fresh strawberries. Rather it is made with jam. Jam is also filled with added sugar. So the Victoria sandwich reflects the type of sweetened pastry workers were encouraged to eat.


    The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (WI): The WI is a national woman’s organization committed to the preservation of traditional crafts, including cooking and baking. The WI is considered the preeminent authority on the Victoria sandwich. The WI way of baking a Victoria sandwich is quite specific.


    Unlike other baked goods in which all ingredients are measured against the weight of the flour, the Victoria sandwich is unique in that all ingredients are weighed against the weight of the eggs in the shell. Only jam is used as a filling. And only raspberry jam with the seeds. no other additional baking powder other than what is in the self rising flour is added. The WI is very serious about their Victoria sandwich.


    Royals: The royal family strongly influences culture not just in England but throughout the world. The Victoria, sandwich is named in honor of Queen Victoria. Supposedly, it was her favorite cake to eat with her afternoon tea.


    There is a connection between the WI and the royal family. Queen Mary was president of the WI at Sandringham. Other Royals followed suit by becoming members of the WI. Queen Elizabeth carries on that tradition to this day. The Victoria sandwich is not just a cake, but very much a part of the culture and identity of the British people.

    Pantry Staples: the Victoria is made from commonly stocked ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, salt, jam. The baker doesn’t have to hunt down specialty ingredients. Most of these ingredients are priced within the household budget. So the use of common and affordable ingredients and ease of preparation make it a desirable choice for the home baker.



    ======


    The chocolate chip cookie like the Victoria sandwich is rooted socioeconomic circumstances. The Great Depression started in 1929. in the United States the unemployment rate soared to 25%. While the worst of the economic disaster began to ease by 1933, the unemployment rate remained high through the early 1940’s. The depression meant deprivation. A chocolate was an extraordinary indulge few could afford.


    By the late 1930s, people has a bit more income. in 1938, Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie. It was a tiny cookie served with a dish of ice cream at her Toll House Inn.


    The popularity of this cookies spread very quickly as it was different from all other cookies baked at that time. but it also stood out for the luxurious addition of chocolate. It was an indulgence that Americans had not be able to partake in for nearly ten years. that simple little cookie symbolized hope and a return to prosperity.


    To this day the chocolate chip cookie remains a luxury food item. While the Nestlé toll House cookie still reigns supreme in many kitchens, Jacques Torres took the chocolate chip cookie toward fine pastry by using fine chocolate and aging the dough before baking.


    Chocolate is also a unique ingredient. While you find chocolate to be tasteless it is in fact has very complex in flavors.

    Cookies like shortbread or oatmeal cookie contain single dimensional ingredients. As such, there’s not much flavor difference between one shortbread or oatmeal cookie from another.

    The type of chocolate really changes the flavor of the cookie, enchanting the eating experience. Bake a batch of cookies made with Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips and another batch made with chopped Valrhona and you’ll have two totally different cookies in both taste and texture.

    Serve the Valrhona to Americans and the vast majority will not like the cookie at all. But serve it to Europeans, who have a much more sophisticated and sensitive palate when it comes to chocolate, and they will love it.

    The Americans will devour the Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookie.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Feb 10, 2018
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  4. ChesterV

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for this fun history lesson, NCB!

    It's very interesting to me what snacks from our childhood, and to those of us in the baby boom generation and onward, what mass produced snacks, mark us for life. For example, I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, so the "snack cake" that we sometimes had from the store was the Tastykake brand. They're all sugary treats, but to me Tastykake is vastly preferable to Little Debbie's or Hostess brands. But in the American South, Little Debbie seems to reign supreme. Now that central Florida has some Wawa (PA-based chain of convenience stores-with-sandwich-and-shake-counters inside), it's hard for me to pass by the Tastykakes sometimes. :)
     
    Apocalypso, Feb 10, 2018
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  5. ChesterV

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    Ummmm, LOL. Thanks guys!

    Apocalypso -
    I think that you have what I was looking for when I had this thread in mind, personal experiences and person tastes of why you think something is popular.
    ;)

    Norcalbaker -
    I was trying to make a thread on what personal thoughts and feelings are as to why something is popular, since different people like the same thing for different reasons. Hmmm, does that make sense? I picked items that are pretty much known around the planet as examples, because everybody will have different answers.

    Ugh, it's so hard to explain stuff online sometimes without having the benefit of seeing someones facial expressions and voice tone/inflection.
    :oops:
     
    ChesterV, Feb 10, 2018
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  6. ChesterV

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Lol, the brands we’re raised on definitely establish our taste preferences.


    I was just reading an article in the Washington Post about mayonnaise brands. The author was raised on Hellmann’s, so to him that’s what mayonnaise is supposed to taste like. On the West Coast it’s called Best foods. I will not buy any other brand of mayonnaise other than Best Foods.


    The first time I ever bit into a little Debbie’s Swiss Roll I was jarred by the amount of sugar.


    Being from California I was raised on Hostess. I never took to the overly sweet Little Debbie’s either.


    Tastykake is sold throughout California so it’s a brand I’m very familiar with and like. Their crumb cake was a favorite of mine.


    I once dated a guy who would buy a Tastykake crumb cake every time he walked into a convenient store. He’s nearly 50 yrs old and still obsessed with them!


    Regarding the Victoria sponge… So so true what you say that it is really more like a pound cake than a sponge. The first time I saw a recipe I mistook it for a poundcake :rolleyes:
     
    Norcalbaker59, Feb 10, 2018
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  7. ChesterV

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Oh dear, I apologize if you thought I was being critical… Not in the least. I thought your questions were interesting. they are the types of questions food historians ask and explore all the time. The “why” is a very important question to ask to understanding what we eat and when we eat it.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Feb 10, 2018
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  8. ChesterV

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    Yes, Little Debbie is an all out "Southern" item for sure, although it can be found around the world as well, just maybe not like it is down here.

    We have Tastycakes in Texas, but they are hard to find. And now with the invent of getting ANYTHING online via online shopping, most places don't stock popular items from other states on the shelves anymore. Used to, I could find Tastycakes in the grocery store, and their popularity started to rival Little Debbies........but then all of a sudden they disappeared from the shelves. Now, I'm lucky to even find a box of Tastycakes anywhere around here.

    It's not that we don't like them in the South, it's just that we can't FIND them in the South. And it's difficult to gauge what is popular or "hot" from online retailers, because they don't register online sales like they do in store sales. Online sales seem to be by "bulk" in total merchandise sales from any retailer, as physical store sales specify by per item sold. And even if a physical store decides to buy a load of Tastycakes for their customers, the customers won't know it unless the store advertises them, which rarely happens. More often than not, when I HAVE found Tastycakes on the shelf at a store around here, it's completely by accident.

    But this would also be a great question for this thread...............
    Why does Tastycake seem to taste better than Little Debbies? Or, Why is Little Debbies so popular in the Southern states? Or even, Why anyone prefers Little Debbie or Tastycake over Hostess or Mrs Bairds?
    (which gives me another idea for a thread!!!!!!)
    :D:D:D
     
    ChesterV, Feb 10, 2018
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  9. ChesterV

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    NO, NO, NO!!!!!!
    Not critical at all, just that I think everybody knows the history of such popular items, but I was looking for as to why anyone thinks they are so popular and long lasting. I think it's also an issue on my part of over-generalizing something in hopes I get the point across. LOL.

    I've been known to be TOO specific, as well as OVER generalizing something. I can't seem to get the right balance.
    LOL

    It's all good though!!!
    :D:D:D
     
    ChesterV, Feb 10, 2018
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  10. ChesterV

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    I've never heard of Best Foods, but we do have Hellmans down here, along with other brands. But the South is so big, and used to be so disconnected, that different areas of the states had their own "local fav's" they preferred. I remember my granny and my Aunts talking about condiments when grocery shopping. Some of them preferred a mayo that came in a jar with a red label that had a swan on it. Some others preferred local brands that were just for a select city or area.

    I prefer Safeway brands myself. Just as good, if not better, than most of the "big names" out there.

    As for the snack cakes..........Tastycakes tastes like it has the least amount of sugar in them. Yes Little Debbies is sweet, but I found Hostess to be just as sweet and more bland. Of course, thats all after they were ruined by changing their recipes for cheaper ingredients many years ago. But before that, they were really good.

    I have to say though, my fav is still Ding Dong's.
     
    ChesterV, Feb 11, 2018
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  11. ChesterV

    Becky Administrator

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    This topic has been a very interesting read! As the saying goes, one man's meat is another man's poison - it's fascinating how association plays such an important role in what we like. The things we grow up with are often the things we hold dear in later life, even if these things are objectively plain/boring. It's the association that matters - for example, the taste of scones with jam and cream takes me right back to sunny days in the garden :)

    One thing that I cannot understand the popularity of is American chocolate (eg Hersheys). It just doesn't taste of much to me - it's kinda gritty, doesn't melt right, bleurgh. But then maybe it's because (apparently) we Brits are chocolate snobs!! :D;) I think in order to be called 'chocolate' in the UK, it must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa solids, whereas in the US I think it only needs to contain 10%.
     
    Becky, Feb 13, 2018
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  12. ChesterV

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

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    I can't really speak to sponge cake - having never had one or made one. :)

    Chocolate Chip Cookies - Now those I know and love! Although, I will admit, they are primarily a "delivery system" for the chocolate chips! I continue to play with variations on the classic recipe - I add cinnamon and almond extract to mine typically. Using a better quality flour, always using butter and sometimes adding a box of instant vanilla pudding mix are other things I can recommend. They are just a classic comfort food type thing for me I guess!

    Chocolate itself - I totally think the love affair is chemical! I prefer dark chocolate, but I will always have a place in my heart for Hershey's - I prefer it above most things when wanting just a plain chocolate bar. I don't use it in baking though - agree it doesn't seem to melt right - but it melts in my mouth JUST fine!

    I really enjoy the selection of imported chocolates at Aldi. I'm also getting ready to order some Valrhona cocoa powder for baking - have heard it's a really good one?

    As far as mayo goes, here most common brand is Hellman's but I'm also a fan of Duke's (Southern brand?). And don't get me started on the packets of mayo from Chick Filet - so good! Wish I could buy jars of THAT!
     
    AuntJamelle, Feb 13, 2018
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  13. ChesterV

    -Daniel- Well-Known Member

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    Victoria sponge is my favourite cake, and I think Norcalbaker hits it on the head- it's the tea. It just goes perfectly with a lovely, strong cup of black tea with a bit of milk. It's sweet, the sponge is so scrumptiously soft, and it's so simple to make. It's also not too rich or overpowering- I love chocolate cake, but it can be too rich. Buttercream and cakes with fondant can be sickening. Many other cakes are too complicated, when a sponge and jam is all that's needed.
     
    -Daniel-, Feb 23, 2018
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