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thickening agents

Discussion in 'Food and Drink' started by MotoMike, Sep 14, 2015.

  1. MotoMike

    MotoMike Founding Member

    I recall reading (Cook's Illustrated ?) flour tends to hide flavors when used a thickening agent. If I recall right the article was about mushroom bisque and they used egg.

    Is it true that flour can obscure flavor? How do you use egg? What other thickeners do you use? what are the pitfalls of alternate thickening agents?

  2. Lucretia

    Lucretia Founding Member

    Cornstarch, arrowroot, and potato starch. Also use corn flour mixed into a paste and added to chili. I've heard arrowroot is better with acid foods, and cornstarch is better with dairy and foods that cook longer/with high heat.

    Found this at http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-flour-cor-84371

    "The majority of the starches we use in cooking come from either grains or from roots and tubers:

    Grain Starches

    Wheat flour and cornstarch are the two most common forms of grain starches we use in our cooking. Because it is almost pure starch, cornstarch is a more efficient thickener than wheat flour. Both are medium-sized starch granules that gelatinize at a higher temperature than root starches. However, once that temperature is reached, thickening happens very quickly!

    Grain starches also contain a relatively high percentage of fats and proteins, which can make sauces thickened with these starches look opaque and matte-like. These starches also tend to have a distinctive cereal taste once cooked.

    Root and Tuber Starches

    Potato starch, tapioca (made from manioc root), and arrowroot are larger-grained starches that gelatinize at relatively lower temperatures. Sauces thickened with these starches are more translucent and glossy, and they have a silkier mouthfeel. Root starches also have less forward flavors once cooked.

    These root starches don't stand up as well as grain starches to longer cooking and so they're best used to thicken sauces toward the very end of cooking.

    Choosing Which Starch to Use

    If you need to thicken at the beginning of cooking, as for macaroni and cheese or a classic beef stew, go for a grain starch. If you need to quickly thicken a sauce just before it comes off the stove, use a root starch.

    We also prefer using root starches in baking for custards, puddings, and pie fillings. We find that the flavor is more neutral and our results are more consistent."
  3. MotoMike

    MotoMike Founding Member

    thanks Lucretia
  4. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member

  5. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    My personal favorite for soups is beurre maniƩ added right before service. It tightens things up more than acts as a thickener but I like the effect.
  6. I don't think flour hides flavours. It's just that dishes with flour taste differently. (And indeed, not always good. A "flowery" taste, where I live, is not a compliment.) And other thickening agents sometimes taste really good. "Butter makes it better", hence beurre manie. But I still prefer a roux a the base for a soup or a stew.
  7. chefcomesback

    chefcomesback Founding Member

    I have used all the ones stated above in numerous dishes and many kitchens, so this is my take :
    Roux : you have to cook the roux , I mean really cook it not to get he raw flour taste in your mouth , it will go well with dairy based products but since Australia is so sensitive to gluten allergy I haven't used roux for years . Also the trickiest to reheat and doesn't like it if there is no dairy .
    Corn flour : most common thickener in North America and Chinese dishes ( initial thickening is good , when reheated looses that viscosity and becomes thinner )
    Arrow root ( tapioca )
    More expensive than the others , clean flavour , my mentor chefs favourite .
    Lecithin and xanthan : stringy and masking flavours , they work well with foams or gluten free applications
  8. Stumblinman

    Stumblinman Founding Member

    I'm not sure if you're talking about putting 'raw' flour to thicken ? Beurre manie is raw flour mixed with butter. I don't use it just a butter finish. A good roux will add flavor if worked right. Goes from white to dark brown. Each step darker more taste. That nutty brown complexness used for Gumbo. Peanut butter for Etoufee etc... A way to get around making a roux, if going with flour, can be to sweat you veggies than add flour. It'll use your oil that's in the pan. insta roux easy. You have to work out other flours though. They can make it grainy and too much corn starch will have a chalky taste.
  9. Lucretia

    Lucretia Founding Member

    Gelatin can also be used to thicken. And it's protein vs carbs for the other thickeners if you've got dietary restrictions.
  10. Jeffery Hunter

    Jeffery Hunter Founding Member

    Agar Agar for a vegan option to this as well
  11. MotoMike

    MotoMike Founding Member

    Thanks everyone for so much "food" for thought.
  12. Mrmnms

    Mrmnms Founding Member Gold Contributor

    You can temper egg yolks with a bit of the liquid you're trying to thicken before gently incorparating it into you warm/ hot mixture. You have to gently heat it to avoid curdling your sauce or custard but it will thicken. Lobster Newburg comes to mind as an example. It's been a while. Old school but wicked good.
  13. John Fout

    John Fout Founding Member

    Been playing with Xanthan Gum for cold stuff. Been making some egg free ice cream with it. It is more or less a binder and not really a thickener. It can get stringy if you use too much in anything- baked and solid or liquid. It also can clump really bad. I have a spare fine dredging can I measure what I need and shake it into my mix gently while whisking.

    I need to get an accurate gram scale...

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