Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Flour…The Other White “Stuff” That Gets All Over Your Kitchen Countertops While You Cook

Okay, so these last two posts have looked specifically at dredging your food in flour before frying…

But before we leave the topic of flour, let’s talk about the different flours that are actually out there.

 

Typically when we thnk about flour, we all imagine the white stuff in the biggest canisteron the left of the canister set…that stuff that used to be all over the kitchen when you were helping your Mom make cookies at Christmas time…no, not the sweet stuff…the stuff that you thought was powdered sugar, only to find out disappointedly that it wasn’t.

 

Even though most flour, such as the yucky-tasting white stuff, is milled from wheat…flour can also be milled from several other food products—such as corn, rice, nuts, legumes, seeds, amaranth, arrowroot, barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, kamut, oats, potato, quinoa, rye, soy, spelt, tapioca, and teff….(more on this later)…

 

Each of these flours is actually different than its counterparts, and choosing the right type of flour can totally make or break your end result…so it is important to know which type of flour is best suited to which different endeavor.

The basic difference between the several types of flours is the protein content. High-gluten flour is milled from hard wheat and has a high protein content,  Flours with such a higher protein content are often referred to as “harder” flours,.These flours are great for making crusty or chewy breads. Flours with a lower protein are often referred to as “softer” flours. These flours are better for cakes, cookies, and pie crusts.

1.  All-Purpose Flour…That white powder that you accidentally mistook for powdered sugar as a kid is most likely to have been all-purpose flour…the type of flour used most frequently here in the United States.
  • Gluten Content…All-purpose flour has a medium gluten protein content of 9.5-12%.
  • Best for…many bread and pizza bases, but most artisan bakers prefer other types of flour—such as bread flour.

 

 

 

2.  Bleached Flour…Bleached flour is not actually a type of flour in itself, but any type of flour that has been through a chemical process. Many manufacturers bleach flour so that it is more attractive.

  • Gluten Content…Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached.
  • Best for…pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and waffles.

 

 

 

3.  Bread Flour…Bread flour is made from hard, high-protein wheat…and often also contains ascorbic acid to increase volume and create better texture.  

  • Gluten Content…Bread flour has a higher gluten protein content—12% to 14%—than all-purpose
  • Best for…yeast products….because this additional protein in the flour helps the flour trap carbon dioxide released while the yeast is fermenting, making your breads rise higher and taste chewier.

 

 

 

4.  Cake Flour…Cake flour helps to keep your cakes from collapsing and improves their texture by distributing fat more evenly through the batter.

  • Gluten Content…Cake flour has the lowest protein content of any wheat flour—6% to 7%.
  • Best for…light, delicate products—such as sponge cakes and genoise

 

 

 

5.  Pastry Flour…Pastry flour is another type of flour made with soft wheat. that is able to hold foods such as cake together, while at the same time allowing you to create flaky crusts.

  • Gluten Content…Pastry flour has the second-lowest gluten protein content, with 7.5-9.5%
  • Best for…making tender, crumbly bread proeducts—such as biscuits, pie crusts, brownies, cookies, quick breads, tarts, and muffins.

 

 

 

6. Self-Rising fFour...Self-rising flour is a low-protein flour with salt and leavening—namely baking powder—already added.  Typically 1-1/4tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt have been added for 1C flour.  

The fact that you are buying a flour that already has the baking powder evenly distributed throughout the flour supposedly means that you will get a more consistent rise in baked goods. Honestly, I’ve been cooking for thirty-plus years and have only bought this stuff once.

Best for…especially suited for biscuits, muffins, cakes, pastries, and some quick breads, scones…,but never for yeast breads.  

 

 

 

7. Unbleached Flour…Unbleached flour is simply flour that hasn’t undergone bleaching and therefore doesn’t have the expected white color typically associated with flour. The process of using bleaching agents has been considered unhealthy by some…so this is why we have unbleached flour in the first place.

Best for…Danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, Yorkshire pudding, lairs, cream puffs and popovers.

 

 

 

8.  Whole-Wheat Flour…Whole wheat flour contains more nutrients in general, especially having a higher fiber content.

Whole-wheat flour is derived from the complete wheat kernel, and is typically brown in color.

When compared to all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour gives your baked products more of a nutty flavor and denser texture. However, any breads made with whole wheat flour do nor rise as high as your typical white breads…so most bread recipes will call for a combination of the two.

Whote wheat flour is an example of a low-gluten flour.

 

 

 

 

Now let’s look at a few more low-gluten and gluten-free flour alternatives.

 

 

Low-Gluten Flour Alternatives

 

1. Barley Flour

  • What…a non-wheat flour made from grinding whole barley
  • Taste…mild, but very slightly nutty
  • Nutrition…has slightly fewer calories and more than 4 times the fiber of all-purpose flour
  • Cooking Tips…When making yeast bread recipes, there is not enough gluten in barley flour to properly develop the bread, and it is recommended swapping only one quarter of all-purpose flour.
  • Best for…quick breads and pancakes.

2, Pumpernickel Flour

  • What…made from coarsely-ground whole rye berries
  • Taste…pumpernickel breads tends to be dense, dark, and strongly flavored.

3. Rye Flours

  • What…rye flours typically fall into one of three categories—light, medium, and dark—depending on how much of the bran has been removed through the milling process
  • Nutrition…Rye bread may be a better choice than wheat bread for persons with diabetes.
  • Cooking Tips…When baking, substitute one-third of the amount of rye with wheat flour to ensure the bread will rise properly.

4. Spelt Flour

  • What…flour made from spelt, another member of the wheat family
  • Nutrition…the fats in spelt flour are more soluble than any other type of flour, making it a good choice for people who have issues with wheat digestion, but who are not “gluten”…also spelt flours have a higher nutritional content than traditional wheat flour
  • Taste…a nutty and slightly sweet flavor similar to that of whole wheat
  • Best for…one of the most popular and widely available of alternative baking flours

Gluten-Free Flours

 

1. Almond Flour

  • What…made from ground almonds
  • Best for…pastry crusts, cookies, and quick breads

2. Amaranth Flour

  • What…produced from ground amaranth, an ancient grain which was commonly used by the Aztecs
  • Nutrition…contains more protein than any other gluten-free grain and more protein than wheat flour.
  • Cooking Tips...Substitute up to 25% of the flour in your original recipe with this.

3. Buckwheat Flour

  • Taste…nutty
  • Uses…pancakes, soba noodles, crepes,

4. Chickpea Flour

  • What…made from dried chickpeas
  • Uses…a staple ingredient in Indian, Pakistan, and Nepal cuisines
  • Cooking Tips…use as an egg substitute in vegan cookery….substitute up to half the amount of all-purpose flour called for in a recipe with chickpea flour

5. Coconut Flour

  • What…ground from dried, defatted coconut meat
  • Nutrition…highest fiber content of any flour, very low concentration of digestible carbohydrates
  • Taste…very light coconut flavor
  • Cooking Tips….replace up to 20% of the flour in a recipe, but add eggs and an equal amount of oil to compensate as this flour soaks up the liquid

6.  Corn Flour

  • What…made from finely-ground cornmeal
  • Uses…used for breading and in combination with other flours in baked goods…also used as a filler, binder and thickener in cookie, pastry and meat industries
  • tortillas, tamales’

7.  Millet Flour

  • What…made from millet, one of the oldest foods known and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes
  • Taste…naturally sweet flavor
  • Uses…most commonly used in desserts and sweet breads
  • Cooking Tips…When substituting for wheat flour, it is usually best to start with about a 3-to-1 ratio of wheat to millet.

6. Oat Flour

  • What…made from ground whole oats
  • Uses…to make a baked good more moist than wheat flour

7. Quinoa Flour

  • Nutrition…one of the most nutritious grain flour available
  • Uses…ideal solution for those following a gluten free, vegan or vegetarian diet
  • Cooking Tips…substitute this flour for half of the all-purpose flour called for in many recipes…also completely replace wheat flour in cakes and cookie recipes

8. Rice Flour

  • What…can be made from finely ground grains of white or brown rice…which can be used interchangeably
  • Nutrition…lighter, milder, and easier to digest than wheat flour…bown rice flour has higher nutritional value than white rice flour
  • Uses…great as a thickening agent in sauces…widely used in Western countries especially for people who suffer from gluten-related disorders

9. Sorghum Flour

  • What…made from ground whole grains of the sorghum plant
  • Uses…very good substitute for wheat flour in many recipes, especially if combined with other, more denser, flours.

10. Soy Flour

  • What…made from ground soy beans
  • Uses…works best in sweet, rich, baked goods like cookies, soft yeast breads, and quick breads
  • Cooking Tips…substitute for 10% to 30% of flour called for in the recipe.

11. Tapioca Flour

  • What…made from the starch extracted from root of the South American cassava plant
  • Taste..slightly sweet
  • Uses…improves the texture of baked goods…also an ideal thickening agent for a wide variety of baked goods—such as breads and pancakes…as well sauces and desserts—such as tapioca pudding
  • Cooking TIps…use 2Tbsp tapioca flour for each 1Tbsp corn starch

12..Teff Flour

  • What…made from teff, an ancient and intriguing grain
  • Nutrition…packed with nutrition…higher in protein than wheat…has a high concentration of a wide variety of nutrients—including calcium, thiamin, and iron…very high in fiber …is thought to benefit people with diabetes as it helps control blood sugar levels.
  • Uses…dark breads…of considerable importance in eastern Africa
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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Pan-frying…Chicken Fried Steak

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dreading the Breading

So we’ll start our discussion on frying foods with breading.

Breading is a basic process that involves coating your food—such as fried chicken and onion rings—before frying it.  

This coating can consist of many different types of crumbs—such as rushed corn flakes, fine dried breadcrumbs, crushed cracker meal, and even potato chips…(more on this later)…

Breading differs from using a batter to prep your food.

 

Breading involves using basically dry ingredients whereas Battering your food involves combining flour of some sort with a liquid and perhaps other ingredients—such as eggs and baking powder.

Battering your food coat them in a thicker and more goopy layer.

Your goal whenever you are frying food is to create delicious food that has a crunchy and delicious exterior with a moist and flavorful interior.

Batters and breadings are important in this process because they both serve the same basic purpose—to help seal in moisture.

You do not want the oil to immediately come into direct contact with the food because you are more likely to end up with food that is either burned or leathery.

Instead you want to create a barrier between the hot oil and the raw food that will help the food cook more gently and evenly, instead of burning.or turning leathery.

Breading not only serves these purposes, but also helps reduce spatter, adds a very subtle crunch, and aids with browning.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Eentsy Weentsy Spider Went Into the Frying Pan

My husband and I have been married, and most night making dinner for about thirt-five years now..but there’s one thing that I have noticed. I tend to gravitate toward those cooking methods that do not require you to stand by the stove for forty-five minutes “keeping an eye” on something…and actually lean more towards stirring some stuff together, putting it in a 9×13, and walking away.

I guess there are two reasons for this.

First of all, I have this terrible fear ofr being burned.

But secondly, I am plain out lazy and just don’t want to stand up.

But that won’t get your fried okra or fried squash or fried anything else on the table, so I am determined to learn how to master these “stove-top” cooking methods…e ventually making it my goal to be like one of those impressive home chefs that can cook without using a recipe…kinda like those people who can sit down and play piano by ear, having not one day of the way-too-many piano lessons to count.

So far in this attempt to create not only healthier eating habits and cooking skills, I have been thinking about what I should, or would< keep in my kitchen if I totally gutted everything and started all over., we have collected a few things along the way…

Even though frying is considered a quick and easy cooking method, there are still issues that come up—such as ruined meals, messy oily splatter, burned fingers, and even minor kitchen fires.

But half the battle is having the right equipment and knowing how to use it the right way.

 

 

1.PanItems that you should have in your kitchen so far based on the cooking methods that we already talked about—sauteeing and stirfrying–you should at this point only have two pans—a saute pan and a wok.

 

Now we need to add two more pans to our collection—one for panfrying, and the other for deep frying.

 

As far as pan frying, many people like to fry with cast iron skillets because they retain heat well, cook evenly, and are just the right weight.

Enamel  or stainless-steel would also be a great option.

 

As far as non-stick pans, some people will tell you not to buy them because the coatings are not always able to stand the high heats  required for certain types of frying….while others will tell you that they are a good option because they help keep the breading on the food, rather than on the pan.

The size pan that you need will obviously depend on what you will be cooking.

If you’re making fried chicken,  you will need something like a large cast iron skillet,but if you are making something more like apple fritters, you will need to grab your taller stock pot or something similar.

 

The pan that you decide to use for any type of frying should be

  • deep enough to keep most of the “oil splatters” that happen as your food fries, contained in the pan itself
  • heavy-bottomed so that the pan will distribute heat evenly without hot spots.
  • large enough to avoid overcrowding your food…always choose a pan that is bigger than you might think you need

 

If you are buying a pan for deep-frying…(more on this later)…you will need to find a pan that will be able to hold 4 to 6 quarts of liquid…deep enough to hold at least 3″ of oil with another 3 inches space between the top of the oil and the top of the pan…something like a 6-quart, or even larger, Dutch oven or cast iron skillet

 

 

So at this point, you shoulld have four different types of pots in your kitchen…

  • Sautee pan…for sauteeing
  • Skillet…at least a 12” cast iron or similar…for panfrying
  • Dutch oven or something similar…for deep frying
  • Wok…for stirfrtying

 

2. Cookie Sheet/Wire Cooling Racks…A cooling rack like the one that you probably use whenever you’re making cookies placed over a sheet pan to drain fried food is a much better option than using a paper towel-lined plate.

Setting hot food on paper towels can make your food even more soggy and greasy. Having the food lifted up from the counter onto a rack will keep steam from forming between the paper towel and the hot cooked food.

Using a cooling rack and cookie sheet will also allow you to keep one batch warm in the oven on low heat while another batch cook.

Line the cookie sheet with paper towel, and then set the cooling rack on top. The paper towel will collect any excess grease that may drip from the food.

3. Spider…A “spider” is a wok tool with a wooden handle and a wire mesh basket designed to drain excess oil from foods when removing them from hot grease…and turn food while “hanging out” in the hot oil.

Because spiders are originally designed to be used with a wok, they are generally larger than what you need to be using when pan frying…so choose a smaller one out of the selection.

4.  Spatula…You will need some sort of spatula for flipping your food. Metal works so much better than either rubber or plastic, which might melt under the heat.

5. ThermometerKnowing the exact temperature of the oil that you are frying your food in is so very important.

As more food is added to the skillet, the oil will drop in temperature…and you may  need to adjust the heat on your stove.so tthat that every single cutlet is cooked to the same golden-brown perfection.

There are two different types of thermometers that you can use when frying food—candy thermometers that clip to the side of the pabn…’or probe thermometers.

Regardless which type of thermometer you are using, It is important that the be able to nake accurate measurements, especially in the temperature range of 350-400 degrees.

The candy thermometer simply clips onto the side of the pan as the food is frying so that you cacn keep an eyer on exactly how hot your grease is.

This type of thermomemter allows you to control the temperature of the oil that the food is frying in. If the oil  is too hot, your food can burn, but  if the oil isn’t hot enough, your food can burn on the ourside bvurt still not br cooked through on the inside.

The proble thermometer can be stuck into each piece of food as it is taken out of the pan to get an exact measurement of its internal temp. You at least want the inside of your meat to read 165°F.

6.  Tongs… You will need to use long-handled tongs to lower food into the hot oil and to flip items so that you can evenly fry both sides.

Use a second pair of  tongs to remove the cooked meat from the oil. It is never a good idea that the same utensils touch both raw meat and cooked meat…might make you sick of something..(another reason not to go eat Korean barbecue.perhaps(?!__…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

I Can Bring Home the Bacon…AND Fry It Up In a Pan

 

Panfrying is an easy and straightforward dry cooking method that is used all over the world, giving us such great foods as breaded pork chops and chicken cutlets.

Panfrying allows you to get dinner on the table more quickly than several of the other cooking methods that we have or will be discussing…as long as you prepare as much as possible before throwing the first pork chop into the oil…and as long as the food that you will be cooking is actually food suited for this cooking method.

Panfrying simply involves cooking food in a heavy pan containing a small amount of hot oil over moderate heat until it is brown on one side, then flipping it over so that the other side browns also.

The oil should only cover half of the food’s height, unlike deep frying where the food is completely suspended in oil. The fact that the food actually touches the bottom of the pan means that the crust will be even darker than if it had been floating in the oil.

Panfried foods are often covered with some sort of breading before being added to the hot oil…(more on this later)…

This layer creates a barrier that prevents the oil from soaking into the food and making it greasy

As food is panfried, the moisture contained in the inside part of the meat turns into steam and then has a battle with the very hot oil surrounding it. The steam fights to keep the oil out, while the oil  fights to keep the moisture in. 

Actually I was a little puzzled about why frying would be considered as a “dry cooking method” even though the food is cooked in liquid.

Supposedly this is the case because oil is actually a fat that contains no water at all.

Even though both oil and water are liquids, oil behaves much differently than water.

Fewer flavor compounds found in food dissolve in oil. This means that foods cooked in oil are less likely to lose their flavor than those same foods cooked in water.

Save water for making stocks and broths, since so much of the flavor originally found in the food will be dissolved into the water anyway..

The goal of panfrying is to maintain a moist interior while at the same time creating a crisp, tasty, golden-brown crust, Pan-fried foods are favored for these browned surfaces, crisp coatings, and tender interiors.

Panfrying is an effective way to not only retain the moisture and tenderness that these cuts of meat such as pork chops should have, but also to add rich, caramelized flavor.

Food that has been panfried correctly should have a moist interior and a crispy exterior that you refuse to share with anybody.

One primary difference between panfrying and sauteeing, that we talked about in this previous post, is that panfrying uses lower heat.

This lower heat is important because panfrying involves cooking whole pieces of meat, not food that has already been cut into smaller pieces before cooking. If your temperature is too high, the exterior of the food will overcook while the  interior of the food will be undercoked…(ever cut into a hot piece of chieken only to find that the interior is still pink)…

In these next few posts, we will discuss the right equipment, the proper oils, which foods are best for panfrying…and how frying food can be done so that it isn’t quite as bad for my diabetic husband and my own big fat butt…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Shandong Campaign

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Hunan Campaign

When I first decided to take a detour through the different Chinese cooking cuisines, I had no clue that this was going to take up a total of nine posts…what started as one post, soon led into about two or three weeks on my blog.

And all this time I have been thinking back on those times as a kid playing the game of Risk with my brother…fighting over who holds what territory.

 

But Chinese regional cuisine also poses a risk of a sort…the risk of cooking with the wrong methods and ingredients for taking care of a diabetic…as well as the risk of standing at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet debating between  getting Sichuan chicken or Hunan chicken for about twenty minutes and then settling for the orange chicken of the sweet-and-sour chicken like most of us do anyway…

 

 

Anyway, on to the next province…

 

The Hunan Province is a land-locked agricultural hub in south-central China that produces a broad range of vegetables and herbs.

And Hunan cuisine takes advantage of  the great variety of ingredients that its rolling hills and beautiful valleys that the region provides.

Hunan cuisine is very similar to Sichuan food, but even hotter.

But the fact that the spiciness is derived from chilies makes it even more delicious because you can actually taste the ingredients,  instead of only being able to taste mouth-numbing peppercorns.

 

 

Hunan cuisine is not only known for this spicy flavor, but also for its deep colors, oily texture, and fresh aromas.

Another characteristic of Hunan cuisine is an emphasis on sourness. All shapes, sorts, and sizes of pickles are popular in the Hunan region.

 

 

As far as meat, Hunan cuisine uses lots of peppered and smoked meats, such as cured hams

As far as spices, people in the Hunan region can’t even begin to imagine life with without chilies. In fact, no dish is complete without chilies…kinda like no dish is complete without sour cream to many people, including me..

As far as other ingredients, Hunan cuisine uses heaps of garlic, shallots, and tofu, fermented bean curd.

 

 

Examples of foods that you might find in the Hunan region include…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Fujian Campaign

 

Because the Fujian province is surrounded by both the mountains and sea, Fujian cuisine can be a true culinary adventure.

This cuisine takes advantage of both worlds by incorporating the best of both worlds..the offerings of the sea—such as mussels, shrimp, and various types of fish—as well as the offerings of the mountains woodland—such as forest-foraged herbs and mushrooms, garlic, bamboo shoots

 

The people of the Fujian province tend to prefer mild and lightly seasoned…with a great passion for what we know as “sweet and sour.”

The chefs of this region take great pride in their expert knife skills and use these skills to enhance the flavor, aroma and texture of their food.

 

Another factor that distinguishes Fujian cuisine from the other Chinese cuisines is the use of fermented products…making the region distinct by its reputation for  marinated dishes, soups, stews and stir-fries.

 

 

As far as meat, Fujian cuisine includes pork, duck, chicken and beef…but especially takes advantage of what the sea offers—such as mussels, shrimp, and various types of fish.

As far as sauces, Fujian cuisine takes advantage of many different sauces—such as fish sauce, shrimp paste, shacha sauce and preserved apricots. In addition to these, orange juice is often used for a little complexity and sweetness.

As far as spices, Fujian cuisine is known for the precise use of scintillating, but not tongue numbing, spices. Fujian cuisine uses sugar, much like Sichuan cuisine uses Sichuan peppers…probably not a bood thing for any of my diabetic readers, right?

 

Examples of Fujian cuisine recipes that you might find on the internet include…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Sichuan Campaign

Sichuan cuisine is the most unique of the eight main regional cuisines.

Famed for its bold flavors and use of strong spices, this cuisine was strongly influenced by Indian cuisine.

As foreigners, including Buddhist missionaries and Spanish traders, began travelling through this landlocked, mountain-ringed province along China’s famous “Silk Route.” they introduced the locals to the characteristic spicy flavors of Indian cuisine. The people of the area eventually developed their own unique cuisine based on these influences, a cuisine that is so very different and distinct from any other Chinese cooking styles.

Even though this cuisine is famous for being spicy, not all Sichuan dishes are spicy., many Sichuan dishes taste like fish or fried tangerine.

 

 

Let’s take a look at some of the conventional Sichuan ingtredients…

—As far as meat, Sichuan cuisine gives you your typical meats—such as chicken, freshwater fish, and pork…but you will also find more unconventional ingredients—such as shark fins and bear paws. You will also find that air-dried meats are commonly used.

—As far as sauce, Sichuan cuisine tends to use more sesame paste, fish sauce, ginger juice, sweet-sour sauce, garlic puree, red chili oil….(and soy sauce, of course)….

—As far as spices, Sichuan cuisine uses Sichuan pepper…lots and lots of Sichuan pepper…as well as chili peppers and garlic.

—As far as other ingredients, Sichuan cuisine leans more toward pungently flavored vegetables such as garlic and onions. Nuts and seeds are also commonly used in Sichuan cuisine.

 

A few of the most popular Sichuan entrees that you might find on the menu, kook for…

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Cantonese Campaign