Activated Charcoal Buns

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These Activated Charcoal Buns are a healthier version of your favorite burger. And with charcoal being used as a cosmetic, you know this is a recipe you don’t want to skip. These babies are incredibly easy to make and you’ll find yourself having them for breakfast, lunch AND dinner! I’ve been wanting to try out baked buns for a really long time. So I made the ultimate baked bun using activated charcoal. It’s not just visually cool; it also turned out to be really delicious!

The Dark Side

Alys Bannister investigates the growing trend of adding activated charcoal, and whether it really increases the health benefits of baked goods.

Charcoal burger bun. Public domain

Earlier this year, London café, Coco di Mama, sparked debate on Twitter when a picture was posted of its new creation: a ‘charcoal activated vegan croissant’. The café claimed that the addition of activated charcoal offered health benefits, helping to “detoxify any poisons or toxins in the body, for example, alcohol.” The backlash spread beyond social media, with a Guardian columnist decrying the pastry “a global hate object.”

Despite the virtual lynching of the charcoal croissant, the apparent rise in popularity of adding activated charcoal seems to continue. Its addition is no longer confined to the boundaries of patisserie: ‘black’ or ‘charcoal’ buns, pizza bases, and sourdough loaves are found in a variety of trendy British bakeries and eateries across the UK. Coco di Mama isn’t the only company to include health claims in its marketing; Simon Chan, chef at Shoreditch’s Bull in a China shop claims that it was the “detoxifying quality” of activated charcoal that led him to serve his burgers in charcoal baps. But does adding activated charcoal actually provide genuine health benefits, or is it just another fashionable healthy-living fallacy?

Marvellous medicine?

As someone who is sceptical of fleeting health trends, I was surprised to learn that there is a history of using activated charcoal for medical purposes, including for the purification of water and for the treatment of some cases of drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning. Today, it is also commonly used as a supplement to relieve a variety of gastrointestinal issues, such as excessive wind.
The science behind activated charcoal’s purifying abilities lies within its structure. When sources of carbon such as coconut shells and wood are burned in a particular way, it forms activated charcoal. Unlike the stuff you throw on the barbecue, activated charcoal has a very high count of tiny pores, which are able to bind to a relatively high quantity of other substances, including some toxins. Therefore, when activated charcoal is ingested, it binds with some toxins in the gut, ‘trapping’ them and preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Although this might appear promising, studies indicate that adding activated charcoal to foodstuffs does not provide health benefits. In fact, the ‘detoxifying’ characteristics of activated charcoal may affect the way our bodies absorb nutrients in the food we digest. Michelle McGuinness of The British Dietetic Association (BDA) claims “activated charcoal is non-discriminative and therefore can remove beneficial nutrients or even more critically, some medications”, such as some painkillers, antidepressants, and heart medication. A recent study in the Journal of Food Quality also found that adding activated charcoal to apple juice considerably reduced the levels of vitamins C, B6, B1 and niacin, compared to an untreated glass of apple juice. This further suggests that activated charcoal does not discriminate between the types of molecules it binds to, meaning it can prevent the absorption of both toxins and nutrients into the bloodstream.

Italy bans black bread

It appears this charcoal calamity is not exclusive to the UK; in January 2016, Bakery and Snacks Magazine reported that twelve bakeries in Italy were accused of misleading customers for marketing bread coloured with activated charcoal for relief of gastrointestinal discomfort. In the wake of the case, the Italian Ministry of Health issued new guidelines on the production and marketing of charcoal bread (known in Italian as pane con carbone vegetale), stating that bakers cannot make any claims about the health benefit of charcoal; consequently “any product containing activated charcoal cannot be marketed [in Italy] as ‘bread’. However, the law still allows charcoal to be used in ‘fine bakery’ products’, including biscuits and crackers.

Real Black Bread

Whilst the health benefits of charcoal bread remain debatable, is still possible for people to sink their teeth into ‘black’ bread, made without added charcoal. In Slavic countries such as Russia, ‘black’ bread, such as borodinksy, is a common food staple, and gains its colour from the addition of dark rye flour, black treacle, molasses, or even cocoa powder. Compared to bread which is darkened purely through the addition of colourings, dark breads which gain their colour from their grain, such as wholemeal rye, may be more beneficial at maintaining bowel health due to its high fibre content; the NHS Eatwell Guide claims that evidence demonstrates that a diet high in fibre in the diet is associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, bowel cancer and type two diabetes as well as helping with weight loss and maintaining good digestion. Black rye bread also contains a higher proportion of calcium, potassium, iron, and vitamin E, further adding to its potential health benefits.

Beneficial Uses for Activated Charcoal and Why Bread Isn’t One of Them

Activated charcoal has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. Lately, everything from water, bread, lattes and toothpaste contains it! So, what is activated charcoal? What are the benefits, its side effects and best uses for it?

What is activated charcoal?

Most activated charcoal (or activated carbon) products today come from charred coconut shells.

Activated charcoal works by the process of adsorption. Yes, adsorption, not absorption. Put simply, during this process, elements stick to it and are removed from the body. Think of dust sticking to a cloth, or pet hair sticking to a lint roller. This is of benefit, obviously, if you are trying to remove something undesirable. But not, when you are not… I explain that in the next paragraphs.

Here are 5 best uses for activated charcoal

  • Teeth Whitening – there are many toothpastes and toothpowder products on the market with activated charcoal as the active (or only) ingredient. Having used My Magic Mud activated charcoal toothpaste I can say that it actually works – be careful when handling and brushing as activated charcoal can easily stain your clothes and grout.
  • Relief of Intestinal Gas and Diarrhea– this has been the main purpose for activated charcoal before it became trendy. Activated charcoal can also be used in the treatment of diarrhea and food poisoning.
  • Digestive Cleansing – in addition to its use in some instances of ingested poisoning.
  • Water Filtration – used in most fridge water filters and many under-sink ones, activated charcoal helps to remove heavy metals and other impurities from tap water.
  • Skincare – activated charcoal masks and skin scrubs are all the craze, and for good reason. They can help remove impurities from the surface of the skin as well as get rid of those pesky blackheads leaving it supple and reducing blemishes.

BLACK CHARCOAL HOT DOG BUNS

These Black Charcoal Hot Dog Buns are a fun way to add colour to your baking. All-natural charcoal is used to colour these buns.

When my eldest was dressing up for Halloween last year, he mentioned that I should try making some black-coloured food. Something eerie. A little sinister.

Funny enough, this came to mind.

Black Charcoal Hot Dog Buns.

I had seen charcoal burger buns, and even charcoal waffles, but I wanted to try something different.

HOW DOES ACTIVATED CHARCOAL WORK?

It’s not my first time baking with activated charcoal, and while the colour may put some people off, activated charcoal is widely used as a way to remove toxins from your system.

How it works is activated charcoal absorbs chemicals and prevents them from being absorbed into the body.

WHAT’S IN THESE HOT DOGS?

I’ve taken these hotdog buns and added:

  • non-GMO grass-fed Polish dog

and gave them Japanese-inspired toppings:

  • kewpie mayo,
  • bonito flakes,
  • roasted nori and
  • green onions

Serve with some potato chips, and you’ve got the most delicious and unique lunch.

MULTI-PURPOSE BUNS

Soft yet dense, multi-purpose bread buns that you can use for hot dogs, smokies, or even sandwich meat — the possibilities are absolutely endless.

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