Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

About roux


hotle
 Share

Recommended Posts

While I agree that burning only bits in a roux seems odd (I've never burnt one, even using whole butter--and again, why on earth use clarified, when whole will yield a much fuller flavor and mouthfeel?), is there any reason for accusing someone who is simply asking for advice of "gross incompetence"? Besides, I can imagine burning a roux if, for example, my pan weren't perfectly clean...

Bottom line: start again, make your roux, expect it to separate, and mix it again before you add the hot stock for your sauce.

"Degenerates. Degenerates. They'll all turn into monkeys." --Zizek on vegetarians

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, all,

Many thanks for the replies.

As for the burning bits, we're talking maybe 8 or 9 tiny bits. I went back to Raymond Sokolov's excellent book The Saucier's Apprentice, and even he talks about being sure to remove the burned bits in a roux (although he's talking about brown roux, and my roux wasn't anywhere near brown). But clearly, given that I seem to be the only one clarifying the butter before making the roux, my clarification wasn't to blame.

Regarding my gross incompetence: I'm not ruling it out, but making roux seems like a pretty straightforward process. Maybe I was using too high a heat.

Anyway, I'll give it another try. (My textbook also highly recommends using cake or pastry flour, BTW.)

Thanks again for the responses.

--Josh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, Luckylies,

No, stainless rules in this house. :-)

When I say "burned bits," I wonder if people think I'm talking little blackened crudgies or something. They're not black at all. They are (a few) small bits about the size of a flea that are several shades darker than the rest of the roux.

I just remade the roux, making sure to use a lower temperature and a heavier pot. I still noticed a speck or two of darker roux. I'm beginning to think that when I'm stirring, I'm perhaps leaving a little at the bottom of the pot that isn't getting scraped up (or, at least, not often enough), and it's getting darker than the rest of the roux.

I'm curious as to why the textbook emphasizes making the roux with clarified butter, and the sentiment here seems to be that that would detract from it.

--Josh

Edited by Josho (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I say "burned bits," I wonder if people think I'm talking little blackened crudgies or something. They're not black at all. They are (a few) small bits about the size of a flea that are several shades darker than the rest of the roux.

--Josh

Could it be that you have pantry pests in your flour?

Jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm also having a hard time figuring out how you're burning only small parts of the roux. How's your stirring technique? I always use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir because it lets me get right into the corners of the pot, while with a whisk they're easy to miss.

Dr. Zoidberg: Goose liver? Fish eggs? Where's the goose? Where's the fish?

Elzar: Hey, that's what rich people eat. The garbage parts of the food.

My blog: The second pancake

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Definitely not vermin of any sort...they're flour (or, rather, fat-dampened flour).

DoctorTim, I use a wooden spoon. I guess I should try a wooden spatula and see if that does a better job for me. Bits that I miss on the bottom of the pot are, frankly, the only thing I can think of.

--Josh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The reason to use clarified butter for a roux is pretty simple...roux is a mixture of equal parts fat and flour. Whole butter is not 100% fat...it has a significant amount of water and other things. Clarified butter is 100% fat, so using it ensures a proper roux.

Now, thats not to say that using whole butter is "wrong" or won't give you results, it's simply not the "textbook" way to do it, hence it is in your textbook.

Those burnt clumps are more than likely little bits of flour that weren't fully incorporated into the fat, and essentially don't have the protective heat barrier that fully integrated flour would, so therefor it browns more quickly. I personally wouldn't worry about it too much if it is only a speck or two.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the roux is blonde, then the darker bits will definitely stick out. Butter is relatively cheap, and cooking school is about practice, so use the not-perfect one it at home (it's not bad enough to be inedible) for a cream soup and DO ANOTHER ONE. That's the only way to learn.

Personally, I go for the whisk-then-spatula school of roux-making. Heat the fat to where a tiny bit of flour immediately sizzles when dropped in, then add the rest of the flour, whisking vigorously to incorporate the flour into the hot fat with NO lumps. Once it is smooth, switch to a spatula or other flat-bladed tool that fits into the edges of the pan. Keep stirring. Remove the whole pot from the burner when you've reached the desired shade, as the residual heat of a cast-iron grate will continue cooking the flour, as will the heat retained by a cast-iron or heavy stainless pot. If you want to stop it at the EXACT shade, scrape it out into a heat-proof bowl, or add an ingredient (onions, celery, etc) that will dramatically lower the temp. I think that it's easier to do a blonde roux after you've made several really dark ones--taking it almost to burnt will teach you quite a bit about the changes in viscosity, smell, texture, etc that the roux undergoes as it cooks.

Practice makes perfect, esp with a roux.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Qwerty and HungryC,

Thank you both -- your answers make perfect sense and I'll take them to heart.

These are all for my experiments at home, and I'm not throwing anything away -- can't really afford to! I use organic butter when cooking at home for my family, so "butter is cheap" is no longer really a truism for me -- around here, cheapest I've found for organic butter is $7 a pound!

I haven't tried making any brown roux yet, but that'll be my next home project. The blond roux is for a veloute that I'm using to make a Shrimp Bisque out of my textbook. One of the other teams in my class made it a few weeks ago, and it was simply one of the best soups I've ever tasted. I'm making a gallon for friends and family later this week.

--Josh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I get around the burning issue by starting my roux in an enameled cast iron pot on the stove, and transferring it to a low oven until it's as dark as I want it. I stir it every 5-10 minutes or so. It makes it a lot more difficult to burn the roux.

I think I first saw it on Good Eats. Thanks Alton!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Qwerty and HungryC,

Thank you both -- your answers make perfect sense and I'll take them to heart.

These are all for my experiments at home, and I'm not throwing anything away -- can't really afford to! I use organic butter when cooking at home for my family, so "butter is cheap" is no longer really a truism for me -- around here, cheapest I've found for organic butter is $7 a pound!

I haven't tried making any brown roux yet, but that'll be my next home project. The blond roux is for a veloute that I'm using to make a Shrimp Bisque out of my textbook. One of the other teams in my class made it a few weeks ago, and it was simply one of the best soups I've ever tasted. I'm making a gallon for friends and family later this week.

--Josh

Organic butter is pretty much a waste of money if you're going to be clarifying it. You're cooking out all of the characteristics that make it specials so you might as well go with the cheapest kind.

PS: I am a guy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Organic butter is pretty much a waste of money if you're going to be clarifying it. You're cooking out all of the characteristics that make it specials so you might as well go with the cheapest kind.

Hi, Shalmanese,

I'd like to hear more about this (and any links to further info if you happen to have any). My impression was that many of the offending chemicals that one is trying to avoid by buying organic meat and dairy are fat-soluble, not water-soluble, and thus more likely to be found in the butterfat than in the water and milk solids that are discarded during clarification.

If I can find documentation that the hormones, antibiotics and pesticides indeed reside completely within the water and milk solids, then I'd be DELIGHTED to use regular butter...it'd certainly reduce my costs!

--Josh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't imagine how you can get burnt bits on a blonde roux except via gross incompetence and I'm having a hard time imagining how you could remove them. My advice would be to just start again, butter and flour are cheap and there really is no point in starting from a flawed base.

Second, yes, roux left by itself will seperate out. It's only when you add a liquid that the flour gelatanizes and captures the fat into an emulsion.

Um, just have to ask....."flour gelatanizes"? And captures the fat into "an emulsion"?

All new information for me....grossly incompetent cook that I am.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sherry,

I'm cramming for a test in Food Prep 1 tomorrow, and thought I'd chime in here.

The basic effects of heat on the basic components of food:

Proteins coagulate

Starches gelatinize

Water evaporates

Fats melt

and

Sugars caramelize

In the case of flour (starch), the particles of starch, when heated in the presence of liquid, absorb the liquid, swell, soften, and become somewhat clearer. Hence the thickening power of flour, cornstarch, arrowroot, etc. It's properly called gelatinzation.

And apparently you're not grossly incompetent unless you've got burned bits of roux!

--Josh

Edited by Josho (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I live in south Louisiana: making a roux is like boiling an egg in my local culture. You can't really cook if you don't know how to make a roux. Have you tried using the microwave? Easy-peasy, especially if you're trying to get a medium result (color of peanut butter). Use equal parts of flour & oil, whisked together in a 4-quart pyrex measuring cup (important to use heat-safe glass). Nuke on high for 4-6 minutes, depending on the shade you like and the power of your microwave. Stop after 3.5 minutes and stir CAREFULLY--the oil will get napalm-hot. Continue cooking--watch carefully 'cause it will brown quickly once the oil heats up.

Another fat-free alternative is to brown the flour dry. Heat the oven to 350, spread the flour onto a rimmed baking sheet/hotel pan, and cook until it reaches the desired shade of brown. Stir every 5 minutes or so, depending on how quickly the flour colors in your oven. A gluten insensitive friend does this with rice flour; she says that you need to use more rice flour than wheat flour to achieve the same thickening results.

I counted SIX different brands of pre-made roux on the shelf at my local superWalMart recently, and at least four different types: dehydrated-just-add-water roux in a shaker can, light oil & flour, dark oil & flour, plain browned flour w/no oil.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many, many thanks to everyone for their responses.

I've invested in a very fine chinois, and I'll see if that does the trick in lieu of cheesecloth.

I've also remade the roux, and it turned out beautifully. More practice, I'm sure, will help. I'm greatly intrigued by the thoughts of making roux in the microwave and in the oven, and will be testing those out over the next few weeks.

HungryC, it's fascinating -- I can't find instant or premade roux anywhere (here in upstate NY). I certainly found it online, but I'd prefer to learn to make it well myself the old-fashioned way (and then, perhaps, branch out into the more hands-off methods, such as the microwave and standard oven).

BTW, for anyone interested in the little tangent about clarified organic butter: I've checked with two biologists, and they both told me more or less the same thing: while some chemicals (antibiotics and hormones, primarily) are not notably fat-soluble and thus would be largely removed by clarification, there are others (notably pesticides) that ARE fat-soluble and will be concentrated by the act of clarification. Moreover, they both considered the pesticides more dangerous than the antibiotics or the hormones. The hormones and antibiotics, they both said, are less likely to survive the digestive process than pesticides are...pesticides are created specifically to build up in the tissues and have a cumulative effect. (Remember how much DDT was found in mother's milk?)

Therefore, if one is trying to avoid ingesting pesticides, it pays to use organic butter, whether or not it's going to be clarified.

--Josh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Josho - first I want to say that this forum drives me crazy when people call people names especially when you are asking a great question. as a culianry school grad and someone that changed careers to follow the food craze - I think when you ask questions it is a good thing. If things happen like "burning" or whatever - you are wondering WHY? The reason I went to CIA, one because I am old, but I wanted to have answers to questions like these. You continue to aks --- ok - and ignore the negatives. In a kitchen, you can learn something everyday - things never are the same twice. I am not sure who said it - but it was - you can never look at the same river twice - you think about it. Everything you cook will be different, it is applying all of the questions and answers you know or have asked to have a perfect result almost everytime!

As far a roux. It does seperate after it sits. It can get some darker spots around the edges if you don't stir it. My favorite is making it for a gumbo that you alert the entire building that some burnt smells are coming. And that the exhaust is running well. cook that stuff down to a dark chocolate color - now some of the thikeing power is lost but the end flavor result is amazing!!! Keep on keepin on!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Therefore, if one is trying to avoid ingesting pesticides, it pays to use organic butter, whether or not it's going to be clarified.

--Josh

Pesticides are a massively overblown fear:

The toxicological significance of exposures to synthetic chemicals is examined in the context of exposures to naturally occurring chemicals. We calculate that 99.99% (by weight) of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves. Only 52 natural pesticides have been tested in high-dose animal cancer tests, and about half (27) are rodent carcinogens; these 27 are shown to be present in many common foods. We conclude that natural and synthetic chemicals are equally likely to be positive in animal cancer tests. We also conclude that at the low doses of most human exposures the comparative hazards of synthetic pesticide residues are insignificant.

cite

I was more talking from a taste basis.

Anyway, the "gross incompetence" comment was not meant to be an insult towards anyone. It's just it seems like you would need to be actively trying in order to burn a blonde roux. I can understand burning the roux for a gumbo but even the most cursory of stirring would stop a blonde roux from burning.

PS: I am a guy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pesticides are a massively overblown fear

Possibly so. However, neither of the two biologists I spoke with felt that the fear was misplaced or inappropriate.

I'm the parent of a female toddler. I see some fairly frightening trends, including the rising incidence of precocious puberty, ADHD, asthma, autism, Asperger's, food allergies, diabetes, and so on. Some of these are readily explainable -- poor nutrition, not enough exercise, overdiagnosis (or previous underreporting), and so on. For some of the others, all science is offering us right now is a shrug of the shoulders and reassurances that, "Well, it's not the air per se" and "it's not the food per se" and it's not the water per se." I don't take a lot of comfort from those answers, since they're not really answers at all...and they often fail to take synergy into account.

As a layperson, I'm certainly swimming upstream against a tide of sensational newsreports about the latest threats, clumsily trying to pick out which are legitimate causes for concern and which aren't. Bottom line for me is that since my little girl eats my food, and since whatever negative effects contaminants may have are likely to be magnified by her age, I'm going to hedge my bets juuuuust a bit and have her consume as little mercury, BPA, synthetic hormones, antiobiotics, and other unnecessary chemicals as possible. If I were only cooking and baking for myself, I probably wouldn't feel as strongly about it.

Anyway, the "gross incompetence" comment was not meant to be an insult towards anyone. It's just it seems like you would need to be actively trying in order to burn a blonde roux. I can understand burning the roux for a gumbo but even the most cursory of stirring would stop a blonde roux from burning.

I stirred the roux every moment throughout the cooking. And yes, I got the corners, I got the sides, I got the bottom. As I say to my wife, "Hey, it's not rocket scientist."

--Josh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pesticides are a massively overblown fear

Possibly so. However, neither of the two biologists I spoke with felt that the fear was misplaced or inappropriate.

I'm the parent of a female toddler. I see some fairly frightening trends, including the rising incidence of precocious puberty, ADHD, asthma, autism, Asperger's, food allergies, diabetes, and so on. Some of these are readily explainable -- poor nutrition, not enough exercise, overdiagnosis (or previous underreporting), and so on. For some of the others, all science is offering us right now is a shrug of the shoulders and reassurances that, "Well, it's not the air per se" and "it's not the food per se" and it's not the water per se." I don't take a lot of comfort from those answers, since they're not really answers at all...and they often fail to take synergy into account.

As a layperson, I'm certainly swimming upstream against a tide of sensational newsreports about the latest threats, clumsily trying to pick out which are legitimate causes for concern and which aren't. Bottom line for me is that since my little girl eats my food, and since whatever negative effects contaminants may have are likely to be magnified by her age, I'm going to hedge my bets juuuuust a bit and have her consume as little mercury, BPA, synthetic hormones, antiobiotics, and other unnecessary chemicals as possible. If I were only cooking and baking for myself, I probably wouldn't feel as strongly about it.

--Josh

Nicely said. Not to mention soil health and water health.

The sea was angry that day my friends... like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

George Costanza

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and I gotta chime in here... since it's been a topic I've searched and can't seem to get an answer...

Now the rule is never to mix hot roux to hot stock (i.e. gumbo) - always have cold to hot or hot to cold - ok I get that - got it in my head however the lingering questions is... why? I've done the wrong thing and added hot to hot with foul results but still, why does it overcook the roux? What is the science behind this? Where oh where is Alton when you need him?

:-)

Brian

Brian Misko

House of Q - Competition BBQ

www.houseofq.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing thats always surprised me about roux recipes is the lack of advice on how to add the flour. I love roux. It's such a beautiful foundation of many a sauce or soup. I consider myself a master!

Whatever your butter to flour ratio, you shouldn't add all of the flour at once. This makes the roux too cakey and allows pockets of flour to brown faster than others. Besides, browning the butter is the most important flavor feature. Keep the roux a very thin batter. I even keep it at a watery consistency if I know I'm going brown or darker. The thinner the roux the more consistent the surface of the roux is touching the surface of heat. Add a little more flour as it thins out. This is especially useful for really dark rouxs, the ones you really don't want to burn. You can keep a dark roux really thin through the cooking process and add the last of your flour in the end to start the cooling process. There's more than enough heat to cook any amount of flour.

As for clarified vs whole. I've used clarified to make gumbo roux and it just doesn't result in the same flavor. You lose all of those nutty caramel flavors from the milk solids.

And yes, roux is like tahini when it sits. All of the non fat solids sink to the bottom. Just warm it up and stir it smooth again.

Sorry to sound like a nerd here. Just made tons of roux over the years. Literally tons.

RM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unclarified butter will burn like hell if you try to make a mahogany or darker roux--an oil with a high smoking point is best (like peanut oil). Honestly, I make roux most often with bacon grease! I'm no fan of the some-now-some-later method of adding flour, mainly because I'm shooting for dark color, and introducing new flour lowers the temp, extends the cooking time, and seems like it would result in a lighter end product overall.

Regarding the relative temps of stock & roux, I've had success adding hot to cold, cold to hot, and hot to hot, regardless of what the "rules" say. It always works out in the end, but then I'm making long-cooked gumbos or etouffees or stews most of the time, and not veloutes/white sauces. When making gumbo in 60-quart pots, where the roux is 2-3 pounds of flour alone, I generally allow the roux to cool a little--to around 120 or so, or hot to the touch but not hot enough to burn your fingers--and add it to already-boiling stock & aromatics. It works just fine, as long as you stir like hell while adding the roux to the pot, and stir like hell for the next 5 minutes or so.

When the roux does separate out from the stock, or it refuses to mix in, time is the solution. Be patient, keep cooking, and all will be well. I've never had a roux completely unwilling to mix in. If you're inattentive, it can separate into globs and fall to the bottom of the pot (esp large pots), but thorough stirring and a good rolling boil will take care of those globs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...