Starch is a very affordable and fairly easy-to-use type of thickener. After mixing it with water, you heat it and then cool, it makes the mixture gluey and the cooked dishes thicker. Starch is a key ingredient to a wide range of products and dishes, such as jellies, sweet sauces, fruit grounds, custards, desserts. We also use starch in baking as a type of flour in some types of biscuits and pastry dough.
Depending on the raw material from which it is made, starch can be of different types: potato, corn, rice, sago, barley, sorghum, tapioca. And when dissolved in water they give different densities for the same volume of liquid. You get the densest consistency with the rice starch, followed by the potato starch, while corn starch gives an even delicate consistency.
Starch will also affect the taste of your dishes, therefore potato starch is most often used for cooking savory dishes, and corn starch for sweet ones. However, the taste and smell of corn starch are mild. When cooked, it has a slight aftertaste and aroma of corn grains, and even some of its varieties are specially produced tasteless. Moreover, corn starch paste is better able to retain its properties during further cooking process and storage.
You can use corn starch for:
- as a thickener for jelly, mousse, pudding, sauces, and some soups;
- as part of pie fillings;
- a thickener for dairy and almondy kissel (a kind of starchy jelly drink);
- as a molding material for soft types of sweets;
- to give plasticity to the sponge-cake dough;
- in baking to improve the taste and extend the shelf life of products;
- as part of dairy and meat products to absorb moisture;
- one of the staples of Asian cuisine;
- When marinating meat with starch, you get a velvety texture when you cook it;
- you can use it as a binder for meat patties instead of eggs;
- as a breadcrumbs substitute.
But no matter what type of starch you work with, remember some of the nuances:
- You better sift the starch before cooking;
- It is better to add starch to the dough together with flour or, for example, with cocoa, sifted;
- Starch can make the dish more “tasteless”, so increase the dose of sugar and citric acid in the dish;
- Do not add starch directly to a hot dish! Dissolve the starch in cold liquid beforehand.
Let`s see how you can use cornstarch in baking and for thickening sauces and gravies.
How to Use Cornstarch in Baking
To make the dough airier, softer, and lighter, you can substitute a small part of the flour for corn starch. Usually, you replace the amount of no more than 10% of the specified quantity of the flour in the recipe.
For example, you have 200 g of all-purpose flour in the list of ingredients. So, you add 180 g of flour and 20 g of cornstarch instead (as 200*10%=20).
It is beneficial and practical to use starch for baking, as the taste of the finished product improves because you do not have any more that specific mealy/floury taste in the pastry. You usually need to make this substitution in sponge dough for the layers of different types of cakes. With starch, they rarely sink. Besides, do not forget that we also increase the shelf life of the cake at the same time.
You can also add starch to crepes batter. By adding a small amount of starch, you get the batter that evenly distributes over the pan; pancakes turn out very thin and with holes.
How to Thicken Sauce with Cornstarch – Cornstarch Slurry Recipe
Cornstarch is that key ingredient that makes gravies and sauces perfect. It gives thin liquids body; it binds all the juices that you have in the skillet from fruits, veggies, and meat into the types of sauces that evenly covers all the ingredients. So, to achieve all that mentioned above, we need to make a cornstarch slurry:
- Sieve one tablespoon of cornstarch and combine it with one tablespoon of cold or room temperature water. Give a mixture a nice stir to combine the ingredients properly.
- Do not forget that they separate quite quickly. So make sure to stir it once more just before pouring it into the sauce on the stove.
- Continue cooking the sauce on high heat by constantly stirring to avoid the lumps.
- Keep mixing until the mixture comes to a boil, then lower the heat and wait until it thickens.
- It can take you from 1 to 3 minutes. However, make sure not to overcook it as the liquid can become thin again. If you got the level of thickness just right, it is the sign to turn off the heat.
If you want to use cornstarch as a thickener, there is this one simple formula to follow: Use one tablespoon of cornstarch for every Metric cup of liquid (around 250 ml).
Keep in mind that there are a lot of variables during cooking that affects the final result: the types of liquids in the sauce; the amount of acidic liquids as they make the effect of starch lower; how full is the skillet with ingredients of your stir-fry or gravy, and, of course, how thick you like your sauce. So, the estimates that are given in the formula are preferable. Only with practice, you can get the amount of starch just right for you.
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