Cereals Paste Products And Starches

Cereals are made of wheat, oats, corn, rice, rye, and barley. They are often considered as breakfast foods, but are not limited to the breakfast meal. Cereals are divided into two main classifications, those that are ready to cook and those that are ready to eat. Some cereals are made of one grain, and others of a combination of grains. Macaroni, noodles, and spaghetti are the most popular of the paste products. Paste products are made from flour high in gluten content. Cereals and paste products are starchy foods and are good sources of carbohydrates, which supply energy. Starches in the form of flour starch, corn starch, potato starch, and tapioca (made from the cassava root) are used to thicken gravies, soups, and puddings.

Basic Food Prep

READY-TO-EAT CEREALS

Ready-to-eat cereals have been processed during manufacture so that they can be eaten as taken from the package. These cereals, which are quick to prepare and convenient to use, save time and add variety to the menu. They should be stored in tightly covered containers in a cool, dry place and should not be opened until ready to be served. Fruits may be provided to add variety to the cereal.

READY-TO-COOK CEREALS

Ready-to-cook cereals fall into three groups: Small granules such as corn meal or farina, flaked grains such as rolled oats, and whole grains such as rice and hominy. The objective in cereal cookery is to gelatinize the starch and to soften the cellulose, thereby improving the flavor and texture and contributing to the ease and completeness of digestion.

PRINCIPLES FOR COOKING CEREALS

Ready-to-cook cereals are cooked with boiling water by the method that will prevent lumps. Various types of ready-to-cook cereals should be prepared as follows:

  1. Farina and corn meal are mixed with cold water to make a paste which is then added to boiling water.
  2. Hominy grits, rolled oats, and whole-wheat meal are added directly to boiling water.
  3. Rice is added to the appropriate amount of cold water, brought to a boil, and then covered tightly and simmered until done.

SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY

Instructions for cooking each type of cereal are given in Part E of Armed Forces Recipe Service. Each cereal should be cooked the length of time specified in the recipe or cooked according to the special instructions on the package. The following suggestions should help in controlling the quality of cooked cereals:

  1. Extremely hard water may require that rice be cooked for a few extra minute.
  2. When rice is boiled rapidly, the kernels tend to break down, and the rice becomes mushy.
  3. If it becomes necessary to reheat cold cooked cereals such as farina, oatmeal, and rolled wheat, it should be done in a double boiler. The cereal should not be stirred until it is well heated. If the cereal is too thick, a little hot water should be added.
  4. Vigorous stirring of cereal while it is cooking tends to produce a sticky and gummy mass.
  5. Cereals which are kept covered while cooking are more evenly moist than those not covered. The use of a cover also prevents a dry coating from forming on top of the cereal.
  6. The starch in cereals cooks quickly. It is best to cook cereals only a short time before serving.

JUDGING THE QUALITY

Cooked cereals should be free of lumps and should have a consistency that is just moist enough to retain shape when the cereal is served into dishes. Grains of cooked rice should be light textured, and each grain should stand separately. Enough salt should be used in cooking the cereal to bring out the full flavor of an otherwise bland product. Cereals should be cooked until the pasty appearance and starchy taste have disappeared.

PASTE PRODUCTS

Paste products such as noodles, macaroni, and spaghetti are easily prepared and served. The standard recipe (E. Cereals and Paste Products No. 4, Armed Forces Recipe Service) gives instructions for cooking these products. Care should be taken to avoid overcooking, especially when the paste product is to be combined with other foods in making casseroles or other baked dishes.

STARCH AS A THICKENING AGENT

Products thickened with flour or other starches, such as gravies, white sauces, cream fillings, and puddings, require special consideration to obtain the desired viscosity (consistency) and to give a smooth opaque gel. The same amount of different starches does not produce starch gels of equal firmness. Cornstarch produces a gel that is firm whereas potato starch produces a gel that is more like a soft liquid paste. A dispersing agent such as fat, sugar, or cold liquid mixed with the starch is necessary to prevent lumping when the starch is cooked. For a firm gel, most starches of ordinary concentration need to be cooked at a minimum temperature of 195° F. When a mixture of starch and water is heated, the starch granules absorb water, swell, and form a viscous solution. The thickening of this solution reaches a maximum at just below the boiling point (212° F.). However, a starch-thickened mixture thins when heated for a prolonged length of time at a temperature of more than 195° F.

Cold Water Paste Starch Food Science

METHOD OF PREPARATION

Except for the instant puddings, which control specially treated starches, the swelling of starch takes place only during cooking. When the swelling has reached a maximum, the starch is gelatinized (cooked). Pure starch is transparent at this stage, whereas flour remains cloudy because of the protein content. Methods of mixing used in starch cookery are designed to disperse the starch granules evenly throughout the product. The standard recipes indicate the amount of liquid and flour or other starch required for each food item and give the methods of combining the ingredients for the best results.

SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY

Heat, acid, sugar, certain other products, stirring, and in some instances, egg cause starch gels to thin. A partial breakdown of the starch molecule to a simple nonsugar particle, dextrin, occurs in the heating of starch. This breakdown occurs in the dry state or in the presence of moisture. Dextrins have less thickening power than the original starch molecules had. Increased thickness is generally observed in most starch products with increased cooking, but some starches such as potato starch lose their capacity to hold water when heated. Acid hastens the breakdown of starches in direct proportion to the amount of acid present. Sugar decreases the stiffness of puddings and sauces; a white sauce with the same amount of cornstarch is much stiffer. Some of the starch thickeners may be used interchangeably; for example, flour is generally used in gravy, but cornstarch may be used as effectively. The following hints should be helpful in preparing and in using starches:

  1. The starch product should be heated quickly and stirred during the thickening process. Stirring should be discontinued, except to prevent sticking, after the particles are fully dispersed.
  2. The starch product should be cooked until the starch is fully swollen and transparent.
  3. Starch-thickened products become stiffer as they cool.
  4. Excessively browned drippings that are used to make gravy may hasten the breakdown of starches, and extra cooking will not thicken the gravy because the meat drippings continue their breakdown action.
  5. The cold-water paste made with flour is thicker than that made with an equal amount of pure starch thickeners such as cornstarch. (The gluten in the flour absorbs the water.)
  6. Eggs generally give additional thickness, as well as desirable flavor, to starch puddings.
  7. Butterscotch puddings may thin after the addition of eggs.
  8. Because some thinning of a sauce occurs when fruit juice is added to it, a gel that is thicker than that desired in the finished product is needed for the base. (The rinds of citrus fruits are added only for flavor; they have no effect on the thickening process.)
  9. The size of the batch affects the viscosity of the food, for it determines the cooking time and the amount of stirring necessary.

JUDGING THE QUALITY

Products with a starch base should be cooked until the starchy taste is gone. The viscosity should be acceptable for the finished product; that is, thick for puddings, thinner for gravies, and even thinner for sauces. The starch product should be free of lumps.

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    What nutrients can you get from eating cereal and starch dish?
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    What are the methods of cooking starch and cereal?
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