March 14, 2007
'Experts Share Tricks To Making Movie-Style Popcorn At Home'
An Associated Press article of February 7, 2007 purported to reveal the secret to great popcorn; it follows.
- Experts share tricks to making movie-style popcorn at home
When Sandra Saravia goes to the movies, she finds it virtually impossible to pass the concession stand without giving in to the pricey, buttery allure of a bag of freshly popped corn.
"I love the butter. The flavory, greasy, messy taste of it," said Saravia, a 12-year-old movie buff who realizes little if any butter likely is involved in the "buttery topping" taste she finds so tempting. "They put something in there — I don't know what it is — but I can't make it at home."
Saravia is right. Without the help of commercial products, a home popper can't replicate the "butter" (which really is partially hydrogenated soybean oil with butter flavoring), or the neon yellow salt seasoning (of which salt is just one component).
"There is so much chemistry involved," said Wendy Boersema Rappel, spokeswoman for the American Popcorn Board (www.popcorn.org). "With all the flavorings and oils they use, if you went into a lab you could make it. But it's not a taste that you can duplicate or come close to replicating at home."
Or can you? Americans consume 17 billion quarts of popcorn a year. Much of that is eaten at home, and much of that is microwaved. But no matter what the packaging tells you, the microwave never will get you that taste and crunch that movie goers crave.
For that, some serious rethinking of ingredients and technique is needed.
Start with the kernels. Theaters generally use the American yellow or white kernel, though true popcorn connoisseurs will insist on white, believing it to be more flavorful, said Tracy Boever, spokeswoman for The American Pop Corn Co., which markets Jolly Time popcorn.
Storage is equally important. The key to successful popcorn is the roughly 13 percent moisture inside each kernel, which makes it explode under heat. Lose the moisture and you've got duds, or what the popcorn industry calls Old Maids.
This is why kernels should be stored in airtight containers. And never put kernels in the refrigerator, which can dry them out.
The Cooking Oil
Good popcorn involves two types of fat — one for cooking, a second for topping. Popcorn experts say most theaters rely on coconut oil for the distinct flavor and aroma that draws people in.
Some theaters, under pressure to use an oil with less saturated fat, have switched to healthier canola oil. But coconut oil is widely available to consumers, so there's no need to compromise at home. Jars of coconut oil (which is different than coconut milk or cream) can be found in most natural foods stores. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but melts quickly in a warm pan.
On the stove in a heavy pot with a lid, or a hand-cranked stovetop popcorn popper, such as the Whirley Pop, is the only way. Other devices either don't allow the ability to cook in oil (such as air poppers), or don't allow enough control over the heat and movement of the kernels.
If using a pot, you must gently shake it back and forth constantly to keep the kernels in motion, which prevents burning. A hand-cranked popper, which has wands that turn the kernels, takes care of this.
The coconut oil is melted over low heat, but the heat is increased to medium once the corn kernels are added.
Also important is cocking the lid to allow some steam to escape; this keeps the kernels crunchy. "You don't want it to be soft and you don't want it to be chewy, so shake the pan and let the steam out," said Boeserma Rappel.
Once popped, the corn also must cool for a minute before any seasonings are added, otherwise it can get soggy.
Movie theaters use a powdered yellow flavoring, such as Flavacol, which includes salt, yellow food coloring and artificial flavoring. You can safely skip the colorings and flavorings at home, but the type of salt used is key.
Ever notice that when you salt popcorn, you always end up with a pool of it at the bottom of the bowl? That's because table salt is too big.
Movie theaters use powdered salt, which resembles all-purpose flour. This salt can be purchased, or easily made by running table salt through a blender, clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. "It will stick and get stuck in the crevices, whereas regular table salt would bounce off," said Robert Wolke, a former chemistry professor and author of "What Einstein Told His Cook."
And never add the salt to the cooking pot with the kernels and cooking oil. Some people mistakenly think this will help spread the salt evenly over the popped kernels. But experts say this only succeeds in toughening the kernels.
Though jugs of the "buttery topping" can be purchased online, there's a much easier way to get good butter flavor on your popcorn. It's called clarified butter (or what in Indian cooking is known as ghee). Like the butter-flavored partially hydrogenated soybean oil favored by theaters, clarified butter lacks the 20 percent water content of regular butter. And that's why movie theater "butter" doesn't make the popcorn soggy, Wolke said.
Clarified butter can be made at home by gently melting regular butter until it separates, then skimming the pure butter off the top (the water content sinks to the bottom), but it's easier to purchase it. Jars, often labeled ghee, can be found in most natural and ethnic food stores.
It's a simple recipe, but it produces phenomenal results. Of course, for those unwilling to make the popcorn from scratch, any number of companies online are happy to sell the not-so-secret ingredients in pre-measured packets.
Try UPop.com or you can find products like Flavacol on Amazon.com and other Web sites.
The "secret recipe" for the popcorn discussed above leads this post.
I can't speak for you but as for me, the best popcorn I've ever had comes out of my microwave oven, using the following recipe:
1) Get a brown paper lunch bag and open it so it sits flat
2) Get some popcorn
3) Put enough popcorn in to just cover the flattened bottom of the bag
4) Close the top of the bag and fold it over very tightly three times
5) Place in the microwave for 3 minutes or so, until the sound of popping stops
Here's a link to an April 18, 2005 popcorn-related bookofjoe post.
Magnetic Drying Rack
I knew you were a clothes magnet but this is ridiculous.
From the website:
- Magnetic Drying Rack
The Magnetic Drying Rack is where you need it!
Strong magnets securely hold drying rack to the side of any washer or dryer.
Won't scratch or damage surface.
Bonus feature includes openings in the end brackets for hangers.
22-3/4" x 9" x 10".
Love that "bonus feature."
Some lucky person — I'm not saying who but the 3rd and 4th letters of her 8-letter nom de bookofjoe are "au" — will receive, in addition to the handy-dandy nifty-swifty magnetic drying rack, at absolutely no extra charge, all the clothes shown drying in the two photos above.
They'll be packaged separately from the rack, though, so you can practice drying your own stuff first.
13 Most Beautiful Avatars – by Eva and Franco Mattes
The duo, also known as 0100101110101101.org, specialize in culture jamming.
Roberta Smith, in the March 9, 2007 New York Times, reviewed their current New York show; the article follows.
- 13 Most Beautiful Avatars
Eva and Franco Mattes have gone relatively legitimate and, it should be added, salable. The duo, also known as 0100101110101101.org, is expert at various forms of duplicity and intervention. They have mounted an extensive ad campaign for a nonexistent movie, “United We Stand”; briefly kidnapped the Nike logo for a public installation in Vienna; created a fictional artist with a real career; and executed various forms of media hacking and culture jamming.
Now they are making portraits, or, more accurately, digital prints on canvas of the avatars — digital surrogates — that people create to become part of the online virtual world called Second Life.
What’s remarkable is the eerie effectiveness of these works as paintings in the nonvirtual world. With their flat colors, slightly blocky features and assertive hair, these images of men and women exude a sexy artifice that is both seductive and a parody of seductiveness. They also evoke Ann Lee, the manga character featured in videos by Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno, and the portraits of Alex Katz and Richard Phillips.
It may be that the technical imperfections of the Second Life software make up for the lack of facture. Such kinks will eventually be ironed out, and the avatars will be completely realistic — at which point, these works could verge on unique.
Postmasters Gallery; 459 West 19th Street (at 10th Avenue), Chelsea; 212-727-3323; www.postmastersart.com; through this coming Saturday, March 17.
FunFact: My Second Life avatar — what, you thought I wasn't with the program? — is the generic clueless guy in a white T-shirt and jeans.
I stopped visiting because it's way too hard for my TechnoDolt™ brain.
Initially I had visions of a Second Life version of bookofjoe but those ended real fast.
Created by British designer Ed Carpenter.
"Wall-mounted light made of 3mm vacuum-formed Perspex with 25W light bulb."
In Pink, Yellow, White, Black, Orange and Grey.
21cm x 10.5cm x 23cm (8.2" x 4.1" x 9").
There Is Good News — by Josephine Jacobsen
removing from use the monosyllable love
for a period of three years; pro-
mulgated by a poet, and un-
enforceable. But a law.
(which I may no longer name)
will be unavailable to:
carbonated drinks; pimps; all ad-
vertising agencies; candidates;
haute couture; hill-billy
bands; and, under the worst penalties, all
This will deprive
children; those dying; lovers; and those
other needy. But it is hoped
that in the fourth year
someone as yet unknown
will enunciate a syllable
so tall as to unite
Revlon Sugar Sugar — Official Lip Topping of the Archies
It took 38 years but it's finally here.
Holly E. Thomas reviewed it in the March 4, 2007 Washington Post, as follows.
- Revlon Lip Glitter
There are instances when a dose of shimmery, sparkly fairy dust is the perfect finishing touch on a made-up face — say you're the prom queen or Peter Pan's best friend. The rest of the time, a simple, glittering smile will suffice, and for that, there's Revlon's Sugar Sugar Lip Topping. The product, designed to be applied over lipstick or gloss, packs a punch of eye-catching iridescence. The Lemon Drop color provides a pale yellow gleam, while Sprinkled Pink keeps things basic with a rosy glow. But as it turns out, all that glitters isn't gold: The dipstick-style applicator leaves lips with streaky dots or stripes of glitter that are tough to blend, and the whole shebang can clump up fast. These pricey little gems are supposed to add a sweet kick to your kisser, but you might be better off with a handful of Pixy Stix.
In five "candy-like colors" — Snowflake, Lemon Drop, Pixie Plum, Sprinkled Pink and Peri-Twinkle.
$14.95 wherever fine cosmetics are sold.
As in drugstores, supermarkets and mass retailers everywhere.
Orson Welles reads 'Moby Dick'
Little known is the fact that Welles wrote and starred in a play entitled "Moby Dick — Rehearsed," which he filmed for British television in 1955.
It's currently being performed in New York City at the Richmond Shepard Theater (309 East 26th Street (at Second Avenue); 212-868-4444; details here.
Jason Zinoman reviewed the show in a March 10, 2007 New York Times story.
Toward the end of his life (he died at age 70 in 1985) Welles filmed scenes of himself reading from the novel, an excerpt of which appears up top.
YouTube has others as well.
The Times article follows.
- That Great White Whale Through a Wellesian Lens
It takes a fool or perhaps a genius to adapt one of the greatest American novels for the stage — and Orson Welles was a bit of both. He chased “Moby-Dick” through much of the 1950s. After writing and starring in “Moby Dick — Rehearsed” in 1955, he made his own film version of that Melville classic for British television before starring in John Huston’s. But Welles still wasn’t finished, returning to the novel at the end of his life, filming scenes of himself reading it in one of his many unfinished works. (There are remarkable excerpts on YouTube.)
Welles may never have caught the big fish in the same way that he captured, say, William Randolph Hearst in “Citizen Kane,” but this gripping revival of “Moby Dick — Rehearsed,” presented by Twenty Feet Productions with a Shakespearean sweep, proves that this was a perfect marriage of man and material.
It’s easy to forget that Welles was first a man of the theater, and this ferocious drama, a poetic examination of one man’s obsession, is, among other things, a celebration of the stage. It begins almost offhandedly with a group of actors filing into the theater where they are to perform “King Lear.”
In a light, almost documentary style, Welles satirizes backstage small talk: the complaints about critics, pay and academics. When one performer talks about the need for theater, another corrects him: “Nobody ever needed the theater — except us. Have you ever heard of an unemployed audience?”
When the vain star (Seth Duerr) enters, he informs the ensemble that they will be performing “Moby-Dick” instead of “Lear,” and that he will play Ahab. This framing device provides a justification for the bare-bones adaptation (everyone wears casual clothes and mimes the props), but the director, Marc Silberschatz, is smart to avoid hammering home the theatrical themes, since the play-within-a-play conceit has become a cliché.
Instead, he concentrates on suspending our disbelief, relying on a direct, simple staging that tells the story with gusto and clarity. The cramped theater, a black box with bad sightlines, actually helps give a sense of being trapped on a rickety ship.
Welles, who ruthlessly edited Melville’s novel down to two hours, would no doubt have approved of Dana Sterling’s moody lighting design. But this play rises and falls on the strength of Ahab, and Mr. Duerr is happily up to the challenge. With sunken eyes that betray a touch of madness, he looks like a man losing a battle but refusing to give up.
He doesn’t perform off his fellow actors so much as recite his lines to the heavens, which makes perfect sense, since he’s playing a dictatorial actor playing a dictatorial captain. At his best, Mr. Duerr’s booming baritone even brings to mind Welles himself. Call me impressed.
Self-Powered 5-in-1 Weather Station
I have a soft spot for things that don't require batteries or electricity.
Take humans, for instance: no plug but we're always ready to play.
That's my kind of device.
But I digress.
From the website:
- John Deere® 5-in-1 Weather Station
John Deere 5-in-1 Weather Station keeps an eye on Mother Nature!
Big, bold, easy-to-read instruments measure outdoor temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius, plus wind speed and direction, wind chill and rainfall totals.
Easily attaches to house, garage, deck or railing with included hardware.
Rain or shine, you'll always be in the know!
7"H x 7"W.