Search Results for: granules

Is sugar really “dry”?

Reader Chelsea writes: I’ve got what I hope is an interesting one for you. Yesterday I was baking a quick chocolate cake to serve as dessert. As I whisked up the batter, I could tell something was wrong: it was very, very thick, more like cookie dough than cake batter, and not the deep dark cocoa color I knew it should be. I gave it a taste and it was terrible: salty and bitter! I realized I’d forgotten to add the sugar. This is the part I found strange: when I added the sugar, the batter deepened to the cocoa…

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Filed under:  Pastry | 2 Comments

Instant Flour

Instant flour is the go-to of meat gravy makers everywhere, at least here in the States. Instant flour is pre-gelatinized, which means it’s been steamed to initiate the breakup of the starch granules into individual starch molecules. The process isn’t completed because at least some of the bigger granules are needed for starch thickening to work. The great thing about instant flour is that you can just pour it into a hot liquid without making a slurry first. Clumps don’t form, the thickening happens virtually, well…instantly, and delivers a result much like a traditional roux but without the added fat. Handy stuff if you have a hot sauce that needs to be thickened just before serving. Of course like other starch thickeners you don’t want to boil it too long, knowadimean?…

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Filed under:  Instant Flour, Pastry | 12 Comments

Tapioca

Like cornstarch tapioca is a “pure starch” which means that compared to wheat flour it has no protein, bran or germ in it and as such packs more of a thickening punch. Tapioca comes in “pearls”, in granules (pieces of pearls) and in flour form. All can be used as thickeners, though the smaller the pieces the more readily they dissolve and the faster they act. Tapioca flour, my preference, dissolves almost instantaneously and because it gels at a lower temperature than cornstarch you can see the results immediately if the mixture is above 140 or so degrees Fahrenheit. Like other starch gels, however it also “un-thickens” when overcooked.


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Filed under:  Pastry, Tapioca | 4 Comments

Wheat Flour

Plain wheat flour is a go-to thickener in the kitchen, especially where sauces care concerned. In combination with butter or oil it becomes a roux, which is the basis of classic béchamel. White flour, most bakers know, is the ground endosperm of a wheat berry, the endosperm being the energy storehouse of the seed. Moisten the seed and enzymes in the endosperm go about breaking down the long chain starches that are stored there into simple sugars. These sugars fuel the sprout (contained in the germ) as it grows.


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Are starch-thickened mixtures gels?

Good question, reader Nils, the answer to that is yes, though it’s a different sort of gelling process relative to a protein gel. In a protein gel the molecules that make up the network are bonded to each other chemically. The individual molecules bond end-to-end and side-to-side with one another inside a watery medium. The result is restricted flow and thickening. Starch gelling is a bit different. As starch molecules separate from the flour granules from which they came they get tangled up with each other. That tangle also restricts the flow of the water molecules around them and creates thickening. The key difference is that the starch molecules aren’t bonded to one another, or if they are only very weakly, and will wash away if the heating process goes on too long. In that case the flour granules in the mixture dissolve completely and the whole network collapses. Great question!…

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Filed under:  Pastry | 2 Comments

Action and More Action

Reader Dan, who is working on financiers this week, has a very interesting question about baking powder:

If you’re using [baking powder], why rest the mix in the fridge? Surely the [baking powder] is activated, and loses its potency before you actually come to baking?

It’s very reasonable to assume that, Dan. Conventional wisdom holds that whenever you get baking powder wet you need to hurry it into the oven so you don’t lose any volume. That actually isn’t the case. It’s certainly true that you get a gas-producing “pop” when the baking powder gets wet. That’s the first “action” of double-acting baking powder. The second action happens when the baking powder gets hot. …

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Filed under:  Pastry | 9 Comments

Making White Cake Layers

White layers are gorgeous — and very “spring-like” — especially when accompanied by a light-colored frosting and filling (I’m thinking especially of a citrus curd of some kind). Making them is no more difficult that making any other one-bowl-type cake layer. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and assembling your ingredients. Sift the cake flour into your mixer bowl:


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Filed under:  Pastry, White Cake | 34 Comments

What’s so great about the one-bowl method?

First, reader Glenn, let me just say that I’m still baffled as to why it’s called the “one bowl” method since I’ve never succeeded in using less than two bowls for a one-bowl cake. So right there I’m a little down on it. But there’s no denying that one-bowl layer cakes are very moist and tender devices, I dare say more so than cakes made via any other method. But why is that?

It all has to do with the manner in which the fat is introduced to the batter. A cake mixed via the creaming method — which is the standard for most layer cakes — starts out as a well-beaten mixture of fat and sugar. Doses of dry and wet ingredients are added alternately until all is combined and ready to bake. With the one-bowl method all the dry ingredients including the sugar and mixed together first, then the fat is added before any liquid touches the mixture.


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Filed under:  Pastry | 13 Comments

Cornstarch-Thickened Liquids: Why They Thin When They Cool

Reader Zavia wants to know why corstarch-thickened soup sometimes thins out as it cools. The answer is that it depends on what’s in the soup. If there’s much fat, it could have prevented the cornstarch granules from absorbing enough water to begin with. Which is to say, the starch granules didn’t get a chance to fully swell, and then released the little bit of water they had when the mixture cooled. The result: thinning. Try stirring in a little more water into the cold soup, and see if that helps it thicken. If it works add a little more water until the soup is back to the texture you want.


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Why do star chefs love flake salt so much?

So asks reader Brandi. Part of the reason, Brandi, is merely caché. Yet there are some good reasons why many cooking show chefs prefer to work with flake salt. For one, it’s easy to pick up. And I mean that literally. Granules of table salt run from between your fingers like tiny ball bearings when you try to pick up a pinch. Flake salt by comparison clumps and allows for easy grasping. It also dissolves quickly, which is nice when you’re trying to correct the seasoning of a food just prior to serving….

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Filed under:  Pastry | 4 Comments