Starches As Thickeners

Animal fats, such as chicken fat, beef drippings, and lard, are used when their flavor is appropriate to the sauce.Thus, chicken fat can be used for chicken velouté, and beef drippings can be used for beef gravy. When properly used, animal fats can enhance the flavor of a sauce.

Vegetable oil and shortening can be used for roux but, because they add no flavor, they are not preferred. Solid shortening also has the disadvantage of having a high melting point,which gives it an unpleasant fuzzy feeling in the mouth. It is best reserved for the bakeshop and the fry kettle.

Today, roux-thickened sauces are often condemned for health reasons because of the fat content of the roux. It should be remembered, however, that when a roux-bound velouté or brown sauce is properly made, most of the fat is released and skimmed off before the sauce is served.

Flour

The thickening power of flour depends, in part, on its starch content. Bread flour has less starch and more protein than cake flour. Eight parts (such as ounces or grams) of cake flour has the same thickening power as 10 parts of bread flour.

Bread flour frequently is used for general cooking purposes in commercial kitchens even though it has less thickening power than cake flour or pastry flour. Most sauce recipes in this book, as well as in other books, are based on bread flour or on allpurpose flour,which has similar thickening power. Proportions of roux to liquid must be adjusted if another flour is used.

Flour is sometimes browned dry in the oven for use in brown roux.A heavily browned flour has only one-third the thickening power of unbrowned flour.

In addition to starch, wheat flour also contains proteins and other components. As a roux-thickened sauce is simmered, these components rise to the surface as scum.They then can be skimmed off. Sauces are generally simmered for a time even after the starch is completely gelatinized so these "impurities" can be cooked off. This improves the tex-ture,gloss, and clarity of a sauce.When a high-protein flour such as bread flour is used in a roux, the sauce must be cooked longer and skimmed more often to achieve good clarity.

Ingredient Proportions

Correct amounts of fat and flour—equal parts by weight—are important to a good roux. There must be enough fat to coat all the starch granules, but not too much. In fact, Es-coffier called for even less fat than our standard proportions (8 parts fat to 9 parts flour).

A good roux is stiff, not runny orpourable. A roux with too much fat is called a slack roux. Excess fat not only increases the cost of the roux unnecessarily, but the excess fat rises to the top of the sauce, where it either is skimmed off or makes the sauce look greasy.

Figure 8.5

Cooking white roux.

Figure 8.5

Cooking white roux.

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