Culinary School—Week 5
Hi, gang. I’m into week 5 of culinary school. It was rough for me because I was sick, but I was able to get through it because, fortunately, my classes were mostly lectures this week. That really helped me energy-wise. Plus, handling knives while hopped up on Dayquil is not a good idea.
So, this week, we had discussions about quality ingredients and some “science” of cooking, an herb and spice lecture, and grain identification, as well as our first quiz. The quiz was on sanitation—the hazards chefs need to worry about and food-borne illnesses, how they are transmitted, and the prevention thereof. (I got 100, by the way. Woohoo!)
The discussion of quality ingredients touched upon the subjects of irradiation and genetically modified foods (GMs or GMOs [genetically modified organisms]) and the effects of various foods on other foods. For example, did you know that sugar added to yogurt (whether in the form of “regular” sugar or fruit) kills the live bacterial cultures that we eat yogurt for in the first place? When you start looking at food, its components, its origins, its travels from its starting point to your plate, and its interactions with other foods and your body, it’s really a fascinating and complicated thing. It’s going to take me a while to understand it all.
The science of cooking demonstration was just a cursory introduction to the
effects of certain elements in cooking. This included 3 demos:
1. Cooking shredded cabbage in two pans: one with salt and one without salt. The one with salt cooked faster because the salt breaks down the cell walls of the cabbage, causing it to soften more quickly.
2. Stirring three thickeners in apple juice: kudzu, arrowroot, and cornstarch. They were whisked into the juice until they gelatinized. Of the three, the kudzu seemed to make the smoothest, most appealing product.
3. Oatmeal was dropped into two pots of water: one with boiling water, one with cold water. The oatmeal in hot water was chewier; the oatmeal in cold water was creamier.
Herbs and spices are a cool subject but I was more interested in the grain ID portion of class because we were shown samples of many different grains, some of which I had never actually seen with my own eyes. Whenever there is a food product out there that I have never seen or heard of before, it becomes my mission to get my hands on it. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. There were a few in class that I finally got to see. (God, I’m a geek.)
Anyway, it seems fitting then that I should choose to showcase this March food holiday:
National Flour Month
There is a multitude of flours available on the market. The regular, everyday wheat flour that we all grew up with itself comes in a variety of forms:
● Whole Wheat
— Whole Wheat Pastry
— Bolted (definition from recipetips.com: A type of whole-wheat flour in which nearly 80 percent of the bran has been removed. Bolted flour may also be referred to as reduced bran wheat flour.)
● Durum Wheat
For those who decry wheat flour as the downfall of civilization, there are many other flours on the market. The world of flour also includes—
● Brown Rice
● Non-Waxy Rice
● Amaranth Flour
● Ground Matzo (for Passover)
● Potato Starch
● Light Rye
● Medium Rye
● Dark Rye
● Chick Pea (Garbanzo)
● Water Chestnut
● Tapioca Starch (also known as manioc/mandioca, cassava, or yuca flour)
And this does not even include any flours that are found only regionally in certain countries. For thickeners, we also have kudzu, arrowroot, sago, sahlab, mochiko flour, sweet potato starch, sorghum starch, lotus root flour, and a few others. (Mochiko flour, by the way, made from sweet glutinous rice, is a great alternative to wheat flour as a thickener because it freezes better. Or, rather, the substance that it is in will freeze better. It won’t separate or change consistency. I learned that when I was a personal chef.)
The world of cooking and baking does not begin and end with wheat. It can be fun experimenting with different flours, but it can also be frustrating because flours can’t be interchanged one to one. So, you’ll definitely want to consult some substitution charts before starting those gluten-free muffins. Below are a few links to help you out, as well as a couple of yummy recipes to try out.
Sesame-Ginger Spelt Waffles — By Lorna Sass, author of a great whole-grain cookbook, Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way
The Whole Grains Council has a list of links where you can get more whole-grain recipes.
See you next week!
Helpful Flour Substitution Information