U.N. On Jerusalem, Wildlife On Madeline Island, Science Of Baking

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The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that the U.S. reverse its decision from earlier this month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We learn how the U.S. responded, and what it means for the country’s role on the international stage. Also, while baking can be rewarding without knowing exactly how it works, knowing the difference between baking powder and baking soda could be useful. We ask all the important questions about the science of baking with our guest. We also talk with the leader of a project monitoring wildlife on Madeline Island, the largest of the 22 Apostle Islands.

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  • United Nations Condemns U.S. Recognition Of Jerusalem As Israeli Capital

    The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution demanding that the U.S. rescind its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which 128 countries signed on to. A political scientist tells us what the international rebuke of the Trump administration’s decision means for the U.S.’s role in the global community.

  • Researchers Monitoring Wildlife On Madeline Island

    Researchers in northern Wisconsin have placed 25 trail cameras on Madeline Island to gather a better picture of the diversity of wildlife on Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands.

    “We kept looking to Madeline Island with this big question mark,” said Erik Olson, leader of the Wild Madeline research project and natural resources professor at Northland College in Ashland.

    Olson, along with 10 undergraduate students, scouted out open areas with low human traffic in the Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve and the Big Bay State Park to place the cameras, some of which included a scent to lure the more elusive species, like carnivores.

    Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands, offers a special perspective on wildlife tracking, not only because of its size and proximity to the mainland, but because it boasts the most human interference with its abundance of roads and tourism.

    “Those differences allow us to look at how wildlife would be impacted by some of the island’s characteristics … and also how human development and road networks might also influence the wildlife ecology of these systems,” Olson said.

    The project began in the fall of 2016, and although it’s only in the first year of a 3- to 4-year monitoring effort, the project — which is an expansion of an existing project between the National Park Service and University of Wisconsin-Madison to monitor the wildlife of the broader Apostle Islands — has already discovered some interesting differences between the islands, he said.

    Cameras have detected deer, coyotes, black bears, raccoons, otters, red squirrels, snowshoe hare and short tail weasels, all familiar species to northern Wisconsin. However wildlife like red foxes, bobcats, gray foxes and fishers, all found on the second largest island, Stockton Island, are so far missing from the Madeline Island data.

    Also missing is the American marten. It has recently been found on a number of the Apostle Islands, and its discovery on Madeline Island is one of the key drivers of the project.

    “Now, that doesn’t mean we won’t observe them in the future,” Olson said. “But it is interesting from our perspective to notice which species aren’t being detected on these islands relative to the ones that are present on the mainland.”

    Over time, Olson said the hope is to use the data to provide a more detailed look of the wildlife on the Islands, leading to a better understanding of the wildlife ecology of these systems.

    The project is funded in part by the CD Besadny Conservation Grant Program of the Natural Resource Foundation of Wisconsin, Northland College and volunteer support by students.

  • Monitoring Wildlife On Madeline Island

    A network of 25 trail cameras has been established to monitor wildlife on Madeline Island, both the largest of the 22 Apostle Islands and one of the least monitored. We talk with the professor leading the project about their findings so far.

  • Not A Confident Baker? There's A Science To It

    Have you ever wondered if you’re using the right kind of flour to bake a cake? Or what the difference is between baking soda and baking powder?

    As anyone who has tried — and failed — to bake knows, it can be the most finicky kind of cooking. Food scientist and author of “The Science of Cooking: Every Question Answered to Perfect Your Cooking,” Dr. Stuart Farrimond, said it’s all about balance.

    “There’s a lot of science at play,” he said. “(Baking) is the least forgiving kind of cooking. You have to follow the recipe, you can’t just wing it.”

    To improve your baking, the first step is to understand how the base ingredients — flour, fat and gases — come together, and how to manipulate them to achieve the consistency you want, whether that’s a light, spongy cake or a crusty bread, Farrimond said.

    Farrimond answers some of the most common baking questions below.

    Which kind of flour should you use when baking a cake vs. bread?

    The fundamental difference between bread and cake is the amount of gluten in the flour. Gluten is the protein that helps it rise and gives it the “chew or bite,” Farrimond said.

    Bread needs flour with a higher percentage of protein, about 12 to 13 percent, whereas cakes only need about 7 to 11 percent.

    With that knowledge in mind, bleached flour, the most common type found in grocery stores, is excellent for making cakes because the chemicals used to treat the flour weaken the protein.

    Is it necessary to sift flour?

    This depends on what you are making, Farrimond said.

    If you are making a cake, yes. Bread, no.

    Sifting flour increases the volume by 50 percent because you’re adding air between the individual starch grains. If you want to make something that has a fine, tender crumb, you want to sift it so the flour will spread more evenly throughout the dough. However, if you are baking bread or something dense, the idea is to knead the flour particles together, making sifting is unnecessary.

    What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda?

    Simply put, baking soda is one ingredient, an alkali, and baking powder is two, an alkali and an acid.

    When an acid and alkali come together, they react, producing the gas carbon dioxide, which causes the dough to rise. Because baking soda doesn’t contain an acid, one needs to be added for it to work. Cream of tartar, buttermilk, lemon juice or molasses are all commonly used in recipes that call for baking soda.

    Can low-fat spreads be substituted for full-fat?

    No. Low-fat products contain a lot of water, sometimes up to 90 percent, Farrimond said. The high water content and emulsifiers added to solidify them make them unable to be creamed and capture air.

    “You don’t want water in your cake … because it will end up damp, it won’t rise and it will be a mess,” he said. “Don’t ever use a low-fat spread.”

  • Food Friday: The Science Of Baking

    We often hear about the “art of cooking” but there’s a healthy amount of science that goes into it as well. On Food Friday today we break out the safety goggles and dig into the science of baking.

    Have you ever thought about what scientific processes are happening when you toss a batch of cookies in to the oven? Or have you wondered what the difference is between baking soda and baking powder? Will opening the over door really cause a cake to fall flat?

    Let us know by emailing ideas@wpr.org

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Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Natalie Guyette Producer
  • Karl Christenson Producer
  • Dalia Fahmy Guest
  • Erik Olson Guest
  • Stuart Farrimond Guest