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August 28, 2005

Cooking flour

When using all purpose flour in a sauce you must cook it for at least 5 minutes or it will not taste as it should. When beginning a sauce, heat the oil (or butter or lard), then add the flour slowly, whisking vigorously to be sure it is fully incorporated. (And speaking of whisks, a flat one works best.) If trying to brown a sauce, do not use too high a flame and do whisk near constantly. For a truly rich looking, mahogany sauce, use lard.
Once the fat/flour are cooked to your satisfaction, THEN add the liquid. Only a little at first, being sure that the flour mixture is fully incorporated. Too much volume will prevent it, since it moves around the whisk rather than thru it. If adding cups of liquid, once the sauce is relatively thin and well incorporated you can add the rest of the liquid at one time.

If you want to thicken something quickly with flour use Wondra. (a micropulverized flour sold in a cardboard can at virtually all stores.) It incorporates more easily and cooks more rapidly, though it tends to cook back to thin if cooked for too long. Alternatively, you could use cornstarch or arrowroot, but remember that these make your sauces shiny, whereas flour gives you the “gravy-dull” which one usually associates with meat, chicken and fish sauces.

Another “special” tip: if adding flour to thicken, especially late in the cooking process, you can use a small lidded cup (or cocktail shaker,) add a little liquid and the flour and shake vigorously to suspend it. Be careful, though, to hold the lid on tight and uncap it carefully. For reasons I do not understand the mixture is “explosive” and will literally “blow out” of the container all over your counter and/or stove. If you use the hot liquid from the stew or soup you are cooking, allow it to cool a little, the mix is even more explosive if you use hot liquid.

Posted by The Curmudgeon at August 28, 2005 10:28 AM