Be careful what you're putting on that pumpkin pie, Missy

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The other day, I was having a discussion about pumpkin pie with my lovely niece Melissa (as I’ve told you…I live for the pumpkin – and Melissa is very like-minded) and, naturally, the conversation progressed to whipped toppings.

I mentioned that I prefer Reddi-Wip myself but Mr. Jelly Belly only likes Cool Whip so, of course that’s what we use. Melissa reminded me that I shouldn’t eat that “nasty stuff” because it’s loaded with trans fats and other fake, unhealthy ingredients.

I only buy fat-free Cool Whip. I buy that because I assume anything labelled "fat-free" is, indeed, free of fat. And I'm all about shaving those calories wherever I can. (Yeah, don't even suggest I give up the whipped cream entirely.)

I felt so gullible. After the big post I wrote on trans fats and the "per serving" scam and learning about what to look for in the ingredients list, I never even looked at the ingredients in Cool Whip. At first I didn’t believe her. This is FAT-FREE Cool Whip, not regular. But I had a sinking feeling.

Quickly, I googled up the ingredients, praying it wasn’t so. And what I found will keep me off of the Cool Whip forever.

Cool Whip contains hydrogenated oil, but according to the FDA (and I was confused about this) only oils that are “partially” hydrogenated contain trans fats. So, Cool Whip doesn’t contain trans fats, but what it does contain may make your hair curl.

I found a very enlightening article on Wired.Com that breaks down Cool Whip’s ingredients and calls it “a delicious blend of sugar, wax and condom lube.” Mmmmm…condom lube.

If you have been avoiding Cool Whip because of the trans fats, I guess this means you are free to enjoy it again. If you can enjoy it after you read this description of its ingredients. Yuck.

Here’s the Wired article in its entirety, or you can find the original post here. Any added emphasis is mine.

A delicious blend of sugar, wax, and condom lube.

It's the main ingredient. But like any whipped product, Cool Whip contains a high percentage of air. At 41 cents per ounce, you're buying mostly water and air for just over twice what it would cost to whip real cream yourself.

Natural and Artificial Flavorings
Cool Whip doesn't really taste like much, but Kraft's recipe for blandness is a trade secret. That means the company doesn't have to disclose the specific flavorings.

Corn Syrup and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Sugar by other names. Corn syrup is mostly glucose. High-fructose corn syrup is corn syrup treated with amylase and other enzymes, which together help convert glucose into fructose. A diet high in fructose is known to make lab mice fatter than other diets, so keep your research animals away from Cool Whip.

Hydrogenated Coconut and Palm Kernel Oil
Cool Whip needs to feel like whipped cream in the mouth without actually being, you know, made with cream. One cheap, reliable way to replicate the texture is by using semi- solidified plant oils. The best method of solidifying plant oils: Bubble high- pressure hydrogen through them. Of course, if not done completely, the result is trans fat. These days, Kraft avoids that.

Polysorbate 60
Polysorbates are made by polymerizing ethylene oxide (a precursor to antifreeze) with a sugar alcohol derivative. The result can be a detergent, an emulsifier, or, in the case of polysorbate 60, a major ingredient in some sexual lubricants.

Sodium Caseinate
Also common in powdered non-dairy creamer, this protein derived from cow milk helps oil and water mix.

Sorbitan Monostearate
Chemists call this stuff synthetic wax, and it's sometimes used as a hemorrhoid cream. It's one of the magical substances that keep Cool Whip from turning to liquid over time in the fridge.

Xanthan and Guar Gums
These are natural thickeners, and together they provide more viscosity than either does alone. Guar also helps retard the formation of ice crystals, another key to preserving fluffiness.

Doesn't that all sound yummy? Melissa tells me Whole Foods carries a perfectly delicious version of Cool Whip. And I'll bet it doesn't have one ingredient in it that would ever be used in the manufacture of hemorrhoid creams.

You know, I own a wire whisk or three - and an electric hand mixer. Perhaps I'll start whipping my own cream. It has just GOT to be easier than this.

1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS confectioner's sugar

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to overbeat, or cream will become lumpy and butter-like.


midlife mommy said...

Forget the whisk, and the hand mixer (if it's the one with the two beaters -- PITA). I think the one that is long and slender, with the blade on the bottom inside a bell-shaped thingy would be best. I just can't remember what they're called. The problem is that the cream won't retain that lovely consistency for very long. Which is why you need the condom lube.

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

I think that's called an immersion blender. And I have one of those, too. :)

I read somewhere that you can add a little unflavored gelatin into the mix and firm it up a little.