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Substitutions that do better than the genuine article?


Shalmanese
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An entire industry has arisen devoted to mimicking conventional foods, except to conform to a certain dietary paradigm. Vegetarian "meats", diet sodas, low carb pastas, low fat yogurts & gluten free pastries would all be examples of this. Usually, these products are largely ignored by anybody who doesn't fit the marketed niche as people assume the mimic version must be inferior to the genuine article.

Recently though, Thomas Keller released a line of gluten-free flour made from "cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, potato starch and xanthan gum." and the SF Gate did a review where they found: "On the other hand, the C4C pound cake stole the show. Tasters deemed it moister than the regular version, with a better texture and more buttery flavor."

If the article is to be believed, even if you're not gluten free, it might be worthwhile to specifically seek out this flour for making pound cakes and potentially other recipes could similarly be improved by subbing wheat flour with C4C. I wonder what other examples are there of mimic foods that have largely been ignored by the mainstream audience, even though they actually deliver better results?

PS: I am a guy.

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Hi Shalmanese! Good to see another OCAU'er here ;)

I have to nominate soy milk. I much prefer it in my cereal to normal milk, which makes me feel heavy. But for cooking - full cream milk all the way!

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw
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Almond milk! Specifically Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Original, the one in the cooler, not the aseptic box. I love it cold with cookies. I love it warm with a little crushed cardamom. I love it in chai. I love it on cereal. Dairy milk leaves a kind of sour coating on my tongue; no such problem with almond milk. I'm a total convert.

I haven't had much rice pasta, but I have had the Amy's frozen Rice Mac & Cheese, which I thought was better than any other frozen mac & cheese I've ever had. I don't really know how to describe it other than "toothsome." It felt so satisfying against the teeth, in a way that regular macaroni never does.

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I can't think of a single thing I've tried where the fake version is better.

Ditto. Except maybe Postum over instant coffee.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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On further reflection, I don't think almond milk and rice pasta can be rightly considered "fake" or "mimic." Almond milk has a long history in India as its own thing, and rice pasta has a long history in Thailand, Vietnam, etc., as its own thing as well.

Edit: Wikipedia says "In the Middle Ages, almond milk was known in both the Islamic world and Christendom, where its vegetable composition — being a nut that is the seed of a fruit of a plant — made it suitable for consumption during Lent." Hmm.

Edited by Dianabanana (log)
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Not sure whether you'd consider it 'fake' but I prefer evaporated milk in my tea rather than fresh, especially when I'm having Hong Kong style tea - it just doesn't taste right without that tinny, odd taste.

And I quite like crab sticks, the fake surimi kind that are lurid pink on the outside, snowy white within. Junky, true, but I'd prefer these when in the rare mood for particuarly junky 'Aussie' sushi to real crab, I think.

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On further reflection, I don't think almond milk and rice pasta can be rightly considered "fake" or "mimic." Almond milk has a long history in India as its own thing, and rice pasta has a long history in Thailand, Vietnam, etc., as its own thing as well.

Edit: Wikipedia says "In the Middle Ages, almond milk was known in both the Islamic world and Christendom, where its vegetable composition — being a nut that is the seed of a fruit of a plant — made it suitable for consumption during Lent." Hmm.

I think the criteria for this would be if the average person thinks "Oh, that's just for people who are trying to avoid X. Since I'm not trying to avoid X, I have no need for it". Almond milk and rice pasta both definitely fit this criteria.

PS: I am a guy.

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Polydextrose, a corn syrup derivative, low carb ingredient and sugar replacer, is 10% as sweet as sugar, allowing you to control the sugary texture of a baked good without substantially increasing sweetness. I use it to make a brownie that's gooey/chewy, but not cloyingly sweet.

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On further reflection, I don't think almond milk and rice pasta can be rightly considered "fake" or "mimic." Almond milk has a long history in India as its own thing, and rice pasta has a long history in Thailand, Vietnam, etc., as its own thing as well.

I would mention here that the only almond milk I have ever had in India involves dairy milk as well. Oh, and as well as in the far east, rice pasta has a long history in India as a food product in its own right.

I'm also curious as to why low fat yoghurt is being thought of as "fake"? Here it's just the result of using the cream for something else, it's not a pretend food at all. Personally I prefer full fat but I would still consider low fat yoghurt to be completely normal.

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Maybe not exactly what the OP is asking about, but Cook's Illustrated tested pure vanilla extract vs imitation vanilla and found that the imitation was better when used in cookies.

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/tastetests/overview.asp?docid=18889

. In cookies, the pure vanilla dropped to last place, and that high-ranking imitation soared to first place. As it turns out, flavor and aroma compounds in vanilla begin to bake off at around 280 to 300 degrees. Cakes rarely exceed an internal temperature above 210 degrees; cookies become much hotter as they bake. As a result, pure vanilla kept a slight flavor advantage in the cake—but not in the cookies.
Edited by sheetz (log)
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