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Best batter for fish


Lindsey
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I work in a very popular Seafood Pub on the N.E. Coast of Scotland, one of our best sellers is beer battered haddock. I feel there is something missing from the batter mix, historically no seasonings have been added and I wonder if the addition of salt would change the keeping quality of the batter. We do make fresh every day, if not twice a day but would the addition of salt and maybe pepper shorten the life of the batter. And any other additions to recommend?

Thanks for your thoughts.

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I do a lot of haddock at my diner on the east coast of Canada. I generally season the fish before dipping it, rather than seasoning the batter. That works for me, FWIW.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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I do a lot of haddock at my diner on the east coast of Canada.  I generally season the fish before dipping it, rather than seasoning the batter.  That works for me, FWIW.

Thanks for that

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I guess it wouldn't hurt to scoop out a couple cups of the batter, add some salt and pepper to it, dip a small piece of fish fry it. And then do the same using your regular batter and taste it side by side to compare. Preferably a blindfolded tasting by two people for a more objective result.

If you do a blind tasting, let us know the result!

I've used batter with salt in it mostly because our motto was that everything is supposed to be seasoned... I had no problem with it all night especially when it sat on ice to keep cool.

The thought of fish germs in a batter just sitting in a warm environment for a night was not really appealing and it made for a crispier breading.

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I work in a very popular Seafood Pub on the N.E. Coast of Scotland, one of our best sellers is beer battered haddock. ... I wonder if the addition of salt would change the keeping quality of the batter. We do make fresh every day, if not twice a day but would the addition of salt and maybe pepper shorten the life of the batter.

Ummm.

Salt is a preservative, but that ought not to be the point.

The point about using beer in the batter is supposed to be the carbonation.

Heating the batter drives off some gas, supposedly making the batter "lighter" (or rather, foamy - which has a lot of effects, including allowing the very outside layer to be quite thin/hot/crisp.)

The problem I see is that leaving it sitting around all day will lose a lot of the CO2. Flat beer doesn't help to make 'light' batter. I suspect that, if anything, salt might make it go flat faster.

But I really don't think it ought to be sitting around all day.

(Keeping it cold will better preserve the dissolved CO2, but might alter your ideal cooking times and temps.)

I'd suggest a taste test between absolutely freshly made and several hours old batter.

And using different beers. For this job (if not for drinking) fizzy should be good.

It may also be necessary to point out to international readers that the Scottish taste preference is for LOTS of salt!

However, thinking commercially, if this really is 'one of your best sellers', then you mess with it at your peril. If the customers like it (whatever you might think), beware of changing it unless you intend finding different customers!

Perhaps the development thinking would best be concentrated on those offerings that are less popular?

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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For the first twenty years of my life, I dipped the fish in milk/egg/beer batter and dredged in flour seasoned with salt and white pepper.

Then someone (I think it was Thomas Keller) said, no!, try it in reverse:

Dredge fish in flour seasoned with salt and white pepper first, and then dip it in milk/egg/beer batter and fry.

What a difference that made!

I don't do this commercially, so my technique might be too much work, but I assemble the batter fresh for each batch as:

- While oil is heating to 375 F

- Immersion blend to a froth: 1 cup milk, 1 cup strong Belgian ale (can be flat, as its the flavour you want, not the carbonation), 4 eggs

-Dredge fish into flour seasoned heavily with salt and white pepper

-Dip into batter

-Fry in hot oil

-Remove and salt immediately

-(optional) throw handful of finely chopped onions, shallots, scallions over fish

-serve

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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I work in a very popular Seafood Pub on the N.E. Coast of Scotland, one of our best sellers is beer battered haddock. ... I wonder if the addition of salt would change the keeping quality of the batter. We do make fresh every day, if not twice a day but would the addition of salt and maybe pepper shorten the life of the batter.

Ummm.

Salt is a preservative, but that ought not to be the point.

The point about using beer in the batter is supposed to be the carbonation.

Heating the batter drives off some gas, supposedly making the batter "lighter" (or rather, foamy - which has a lot of effects, including allowing the very outside layer to be quite thin/hot/crisp.)

The problem I see is that leaving it sitting around all day will lose a lot of the CO2. Flat beer doesn't help to make 'light' batter. I suspect that, if anything, salt might make it go flat faster.

But I really don't think it ought to be sitting around all day.

(Keeping it cold will better preserve the dissolved CO2, but might alter your ideal cooking times and temps.)

I'd suggest a taste test between absolutely freshly made and several hours old batter.

And using different beers. For this job (if not for drinking) fizzy should be good.

It may also be necessary to point out to international readers that the Scottish taste preference is for LOTS of salt!

However, thinking commercially, if this really is 'one of your best sellers', then you mess with it at your peril. If the customers like it (whatever you might think), beware of changing it unless you intend finding different customers!

Perhaps the development thinking would best be concentrated on those offerings that are less popular?

Thank you for you thoughts, I quite agree, if it ain't broke don't fix it makes great sense however, the Boss has the last word and he wants it bigger and better!!! :blink:

I am happy to report that, in this neck of the woods at least, taste for salt has lessened considerably, I use hardly any in my cookery and it seems to please.

Will let you all know how we get on with tastings etc.

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... 1 cup strong Belgian ale (can be flat, as its the flavour you want, not the carbonation), ...

No - its you that wants beer flavour. :biggrin:

However, I want lightness and crispness.

And Heston Blumenthal, Tom Aikins and plenty others will tell you that crispness and lightness are indeed helped by carbonation.

No matter how good your fish, it can be ruined by bad batter. Batter has to insulate the fish from the high heat of the fryer and also turn a crunchy, crusty brown in the time it takes for the fish to cook. So it was vital to develop a batter that suited the thickness of an average turbot fillet. A water-based batter takes a long time to go brown, because all the water has to evaporate before it will cook. Vodka is more volatile, so it evaporates much more quickly. It has the added benefit of not developing the gluten in the flour the way water does, which means you get a crisper crust. Using lager and a soda {in USA 'selzer'} siphon enhances the batter’s crunchiness by introducing lots of bubbles that give it a marvellous lightness.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_...ticle631377.ece "Extracted and adapted from In Search of Perfection by Heston Blumenthal (Bloomsbury £20)."
Aikens's fish-sourcing policy is admirable, but his attention to detail, reassuringly, does not stop with his prime ingredient. He has spent hours testing cooking fats, batters and potatoes in order to make sure that his fish and chips are the best on the market. His conclusions from all that testing? Well, he reckons beef dripping's the king when it comes to deep-frying ("the flavour's better"), beer and carbonated water beat the spots of other batter ingredients ("crisper and lighter") and Maris Piper potatoes chip the best ("nice and fluffy on the inside, consistently crisp on the outside").
http://www.florigo.co.uk/latest-news/tom-aikens-london/

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Blumenthal's recipe is great. You can keep the pressurized can in the frisge and dispense bubbly batter for at least a few hours. The use of honey is also good to help brown the batter. I don't use the vodka as he does due to cost--just replace with another liquid.

I would say flinging extra batter onto the fish as it cooks is good for the bigger and better thing too.

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And Heston Blumenthal, Tom Aikins and plenty others will tell you that crispness and lightness are indeed helped by carbonation.

I've tried it and I just don't see a difference re:flat, not flat. It could because I'm introducing so many bubbles with the immersion blender (faux carbonation? faux decarbonation? :unsure: )

I've heard that Thai chefs use some sort of powder (one waiter said lime (not the fruit, I assume) powder), but I can't find any reference to it in the books I have. Whatever they use, I want some, because it makes just a sublime crust.

Ooooh, vodka. There's an idea. It works marvelously when making flaky pastry...

Edited by fooey (log)

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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I've heard that Thai chefs use some sort of powder (one waiter said lime (not the fruit, I assume) powder), but I can't find any reference to it in the books I have. Whatever they use, I want some, because it makes just a sublime crust.

I think it's limestone water. It's used in some Chinese pastries, too (I think), so you may be able to find it at a Chinese grocery store if you don't have a Thai one in your area.

eta: http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/ingredients/limestone.html

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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I think it's limestone water.

That's the stuff. I shall acquire some. Thanks!

Limestone Water (nahm bpoon daeng): A natural mineral water made with pink limestone is widely used in batters for fried foods and pastries as a key ingredient that promotes crispiness.

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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Hi Lindsey,

I'm not a commercial chef, but I always salt the fish, salt & pepper the flour, and salt & pepper the batter. That way no element is left bland. So, I agree with your policy of 'season everything'. I believe the biggest difference is salting the fish far enough in advance for the salt to penetrate (fish only needs half an hour in the typical thickness of fillets for fish'n'chips).

Recently I've also settled on lemon juice or malt vinegar for the liquid in the batter (just something I came up with whilst messing about with it). Raw, the batter seems like it will be intolerably sour (and pungent in the case of malt vinegar). Fried, it's just nicely tart. It also means you're not then sprinkling on wet vinegar or lemon juice that makes the crust soggy again. (This is all very well, but as dougal said, you'd want to be careful how it'd go down in the chippy).

Hi dougal -

the Scottish taste preference is for LOTS of salt!

Is that from your personal experience ? As a Scot I've cooked and lived abroad for many years and found people of all nationalities enjoy the same amount of salt that I do :wink:

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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...

Hi dougal -

the Scottish taste preference is for LOTS of salt!

Is that from your personal experience ? As a Scot I've cooked and lived abroad for many years and found people of all nationalities enjoy the same amount of salt that I do :wink:

Its cultural rather than genetic, I believe, but it is the case that Scots have had a particularly high dietary salt intake.

Rather than cite anecdotal evidence, I'll give a reference -

The Scottish diet is notoriously high in fat, salt and sugar and low in fruit and

vegetables.  Next to smoking, our diet is the single most significant cause of our poor

health, contributing to a range of serious illnesses, which includes coronary heart

disease, certain cancers, strokes, osteoporosis and diabetes.

From "A Review of Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes from National Surveys in Scotland: Comparison to the Scottish Dietary Targets" (2006) at "Page 1" (its page 13 in the pdf). http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/scotdietrytarg.pdf

Salt consumption in 1996 was 63% above the healthy target ... and progress towards the 2010 (originally 2005) target needs new surveys for measurement

"As sodium in the diet is derived

mainly from processed foods and, to a lesser extent salt added in cooking and at the

table, sodium intake in population groups has to be estimated from urinary sodium

output. The Food Standards Agency Scotland is currently commissioning separate

surveys of both sodium intake by urinary output, and NME sugar intake amongst

children." (at page "56" - 68 in the pdf)

As physical evidence, I need do no more than cite the popularity of the "Aberdeen Rowie" (or 'Butteries' as I knew them) http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/news/tm_object...-name_page.html

The rowie has high amounts of salt and fat but 10 million of them are sold every year

Jim Leel, who makes hundreds of rowies every day at {Aberdeen's} Buttery Company, said: "There's nothing wrong with our roll, it's beautiful."

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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...

I've tried it and I just don't see a difference re:flat, not flat. It could because I'm introducing so many bubbles with the immersion blender (faux carbonation? faux decarbonation?  :unsure: ) ...

So, how many hours would you let it sit between blending and use?

Currently the restaurant makes "fresh every day, if not twice a day but would the addition of salt and maybe pepper shorten the life of the batter." ?

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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The Scottish diet is notoriously high in fat, salt and sugar and low in fruit and

vegetables

... As physical evidence, I need do no more than cite the popularity of the "Aberdeen Rowie" (or 'Butteries' as I knew them) http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/news/tm_object...-name_page.html

The rowie has high amounts of salt and fat but 10 million of them are sold every year

Yes, the statistics say so, don't they ?

Funnily enough, I lived in Scotland - 2 hours from Aberdeen - till I was in my twenties, and it's now more than twenty years since then, but I'd never heard of rowies or butteries till about ten years ago, via the web. I'll shoot down your physical evidence by saying they're about the same as croissants in dietary terms, and ten million per year is of the order of 2 per head, per year. Of course they're a local thing, and there's no accounting for Aberdonians.

On average the Scottish diet is famous, as you say. Though short on vegetables other than potato, I don't think Fish and chips counts as the kind of processed food that does the damage.

A big part of the dietary problem, I believe, is the aggressive marketing of sugar since the 19th century, by groups in the UK with interests in overseas sugar cultivation. But none of this has much to do with fish batter :smile:

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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... Funnily enough, I lived in Scotland - 2 hours from Aberdeen - till I was in my twenties, and it's now more than twenty years since then, but I'd never heard of rowies or butteries till about ten years ago, via the web.  I'll shoot down your physical evidence by saying they're about the same as croissants in dietary terms, and ten million per year is of the order of 2 per head, per year.  Of course they're a local thing, and there's no accounting for Aberdonians.

...

We Aberdonians are famous for our careful accountancy!

Butteries, as you acknowledge, are a local speciality, so averaging consumption across the population of the whole country is a trifle misleading! I'd suggest more like 50/year for every man, woman and child in the area!

BTW, the classic Butteries came from Kelly's, in Cults. Waaaay more saturated fat than a croissant (even before being buttered), and distinctly salty, which is not like any croissant I've eaten!

As to the relevance of excessive amounts of fat and salt in that specific part part of Scotland, well, we are discussing adding more salt to deep-fried food and what the locals want ...

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Thanks everyone for the input - food for thought indeed. I have to admit it was my thought that the batter needed seasoning, not the locals :rolleyes:

Butteries are consumed daily up here with glee, we are about 11/2 hours from Aberdeen. Never having tasted one I was unaware of the high salt content.

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I make a good beer battered cod.

I use draught beer which I purposely over-carbonate the night before. I also put a pinch of double-action baking powder in the batter -- but not too much because otherwise you can taste it.

I dredge the fish (cold and DRY) in a seasoned flour/corn starch mix (about 25% corn starch). Then I pat off the excess and dip it in the batter. Then allow the excess batter to drip off and fry.

I wouldn't let batter sit around for more than an hour, and I keep it cold. I have no facts to back this up, but in my experience, cold, fresh batter results in a lighter, flakier fry.

Now if only I could make an onion ring that is as good....

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Butteries are consumed daily up here with glee, we are about 11/2 hours from Aberdeen. Never having tasted one I was unaware of the high salt content.

When I bake bread I put about 1 3/4 tsp of salt in a loaf made with 14oz of flour. I have a Japanese breadmaker with a Japanese menu book, and those recipes ask for the same amount, if not a little more. Other recipes from a variety of countries use much the same ratio, and frankly, bread that's too salty is pretty unpleasant.

This rowie / buttery recipe quotes 1/2 tsp of salt for 12oz of flour, which is quite a bit less, proportionally.

No doubt rowies are served sprinkled with salt, giving a salty hit for the eater, but even in this thread we've expert opinion that salt used in cooking / sprinkled on at the table isn't the major factor in Scotland's high-salt diet.

So I have my doubts about the rowie as 'salty' in the unhealthy sense. Fatty, sure, big tiime. You and I though, Lindsey, not having experience to speak from, have to bow to dougal's other eminent scientific journal, the Sunday Mail.

Oh yes, just to stay on topic, erm... fish batter.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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...

No doubt rowies are served sprinkled with salt ...

So I have my doubts about the rowie as 'salty' in the unhealthy sense.  Fatty, sure, big tiime.  You and I though, Lindsey, not having experience to speak from, have to bow to dougal's other eminent scientific journal, the Sunday Mail.

No - not sprinkled with salt - you are imaging things!

Served with lots of salted butter on the salty bread, yes.

Having mistakenly averaged local consumption across the entire country, Blether now offers a cosmopolitan recipe as authentic - "draws culinary inspiration from Italy, New York, NE Scotland, London, Los Angeles and California" indeed!

As one who has actually eaten many croissants in Paris and many butteries in Aberdeen, I can vouch for the difference in salt content.

Butteries, in their home town, are salty. Really quite salty.

He famously outraged the rowie-lovers of Aberdeen when he dared to compare the taste of the flat, salty, fat-laden delicacy to “a mouthful of seaweed”, but now Sir Terry Wogan has been urged to find out what else the cuisine of north-east Scotland has to offer.

Organisers of the Taste of Grampian festival yesterday invited the veteran entertainer to attend the annual showcase of the region’s finest food and drink this summer ...

http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1095199

Who would ever, even in jest, describe a croissant like that?

And since it was in the Press & Journal, Lindsey would know that it must be true!

Blether might also be interested to see http://www.danlepard.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1191 (I'd like to know just how much salt Sue Lawrence prescribes)

and http://www.danlepard.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=3169#3169

The important point remains that the taste preference, in the North East of Scotland, has been for food that would elsewhere be described as "salty".

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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