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Thicken That Sauce!

Posted on June 18, 2022 by Christopher Armstrong

With the majority of sauces and nearly all kinds of gravy you'll need to use a thickening agent at a certain point. This might be one of any number of things.

The most commonly used are starches of some kind, since they have the quality of swelling up in almost any liquid to which they are introduced. However, it's important to be aware that they also tend to act differently.

Arrowroot, for example, has an interesting property. It tends to clarify any liquid in which it is introduced.

This is terrific for fruit sauces but might not be quite so powerful with a meat-based gravy. It gives it an artificial look in my view, though you may quite enjoy it and if you do, use it.

Starch chemicals like arrowroot, corn starch and potato flour have to be mixed with a cold liquid before being added to anything sexy. They ought to be added a little at a time and allowed to cook for some time after each batch.

This has to be done at the end of the preparation, since the thickening effect does not always last that well. Kept on the heat, liquids thickened by starch tended to lean out again after a moment.

Using flour

Do not worry that flour will make your gravy lumpy! Providing there's a fat gift, flour will act itself, and even if it does not it will still whisk in the gravy or sauce.

The best way to use it's either as a roux, or as a beurre manié. These are basically the exact same thing but used in a slightly different manner.

Both are a combination of half flour and half butter (or other fat if you prefer) and both produce the same result - they thicken liquids.

To Create a roux

Place an ounce of butter in a small saucepan and bring it to cooking heat, then add an ounce of plain flour and cook it while stirring. The length of cooking time depends entirely on the colour you would like to attain.

The flour will darken with prolonged cooking, providing you with a browner sauce consequently.

When your mix is the colour you wanted to be, take the pan off the heat and add half a pint of stock while whisking vigorously.

Please forget everything you've ever read about this procedure. The stock doesn't have to be cold, or hot, or added a bit at a time. Just slosh it all in and whisk away. Then return the pan to the heat and bring it to the boil.

The resulting gravy will have to be cooked for at least a further two minutes, otherwise it will have a tendency to get a raw end, thanks to a raw starch. Just leave it on a low heat, but cover it to prevent a skin forming.

Even if a person does form, you can usually whisk it back in and if not, strain it before serving.

Beurre Manié

Named for the chef who invented it, nobody really knows why or how this works, but it does and it is very effective if you will need to thicken a large number of liquid, or one that has food cooking in it.

With the exact dimensions as for the roux, the trick is to slightly soften the butter and combine it with the flour. Then you drop little nuggets of the mix into the liquid to be thickened and bring it to the boil while stirring.

As the flour cooks, so it is going to blend into the liquid and thicken it.

Sweet sauces

Much is dependent on the foundation of your sauce in the first place and whether you need it to be cold or hot. Fruit juices, as an instance, can be reduced while adding liquid sugar. This will make a shiny sauce that's quite stable when cold.

By steady, I suggest that it will not separate and it will not move around the plate which is advantageous if you're working to produce a specific effect.

Hot sauces are often thickened with cornstarch or arrowroot. The latter will be clear while cornstarch creates a generally cloudy effect. Both have to be added with care. Overdoing it can generate a sauce that's practically inedible.

The golden rule is to add a bit at a time, and if the mixture gets too thick add some more liquid.

Egg yolks, gelatin and even lotion can be used as thickening agents. Eggs, for instance, are used as the foundation for all kinds of custard, such as things like lemon meringue pie.

Once again you want to experiment and see what suits you. A sauce that's extremely runny when hot, may nevertheless become thick and clingy as it melts.

Toffee sauce is a fantastic example of this. It's simply a decrease in water and sugar to which cream is stirred as it starts to go brown. Left to cool it'll look like, act like, and taste a lot better than bottled caramel topping.

Vanilla sauce is somewhat similar. I make mine from three egg yolks whisked with two oz of sugaronto which I pour 250 milliliters of hot cream. This is then cooked to the consistency that is required, without boiling, and a couple of drops of vanilla essence added.

For special events I use a vanilla pod rather than the essence. A classic illustration of egg yolks used as a thickening agent.

Be inventive

As time goes by and you become more experienced, you'll end up developing your own methods.Try to think outside the box. By way of instance, why not thicken a sauce for lamb with red currant jelly? Or even a combination of mint sauce and gelatin (yes, that really does work).

Remember, whatever you're trying to do just you know whether you have achieved it. Hence the consistency of the sauce you serve is precisely how it ought to be up to your guests are involved. Do not make yourself feel a failure by apologizing for it.If it looks good, tastes good and complements the food it's served with you've done your work brilliantly. Who cares if it is somewhat thin, or you could cut it with a knife? There'll be people who enjoy it either way and both ways.

The trick isn't to let on. Cook it with dash - serve it with panache.