Category Archives: Cooking Tip

Baking with Different Types of Flours

Cooking Tip #5

There are various different types of baking flours, some designed for specific purposes and all offering a wide range of unique benefits in baking. Gluten to gluten-free, strong flavoured to mild, silky smooth to gritty in texture. Explore the wonderful diversity of baking with different types of flours.

Types of Wheat Flours

To start with let’s look at the most common baking flours made from a type of wheat grass. There are 8 main types of wheat-based flours made for different baking purposes. White, all-purpose, whole-wheat, white whole-wheat, bread, pastry, cake and self-rising. What is the difference between them?

White or All-Purpose: This is the most commonly used type of flour made from a blend of soft and hard wheat. White flour is stripped of most of its nutrients during processing and is “enriched” with several B vitamins, folic acid and iron afterwards. This is a good all-purpose flour for making most types of baked goods.

Whole-Wheat Flour: Made by grinding entire kernels of red wheat, which results in a darker flour. Whole-wheat flour is an excellent natural source of B vitamins, folate and iron. Whole-wheat flour is often blended with all-purpose flour in recipes to lessen its strong wheat flavour; and is commonly baked in hearty breads.

White Whole-Wheat Flour: This flour is made by grinding hard white kernels, which results in a paler and milder flavoured flour than that of the red kernel wheat. White whole-wheat is an excellent natural source of B vitamins, folate and iron. White whole-wheat flour is often blended with all-purpose flour to achieve healthier and heartier results in baking.

Bread Flour: Similar to all-purpose flour except it is made with a wheat grain with a higher gluten and protein content. Gluten produces a chewier consistency and reacts well with yeast, part of the reason this flour is used exclusively for yeast breads, pretzels and rising-crusts.

Self-Rising Flour: Similar to all-purpose flour but with salt and baking powder added to it. A popular flour when baking biscuits, breads, muffins and pancakes. This flour will not work with yeast bread recipes.

Cake Flour: This is a finely milled flour from soft wheat that is has been highly processed and stripped of its natural essential nutrients and protein content. The result is a high-starch acidic flour that helps cake recipes to rise and turn out tender and fluffy.

Pastry Flour: This is a finer flour, made from a softer grain; and falls somewhere in-between a cake flour and an all-purpose flour. This flour has a lower amount of protein and higher starch than that of cake flour. This flour gives pastries and pie crusts a tender and crumbly texture whereas a higher protein flour would result in a harder pastry.

Semolina: This heavy flour is made from the coarsely ground endosperm of durum wheat; which is the hardest variety of wheat. Semolina is heavy and coarse with a high protein content, best used to make pasta and couscous.

Non-Wheat Flour Varieties

A growing trend continues to move towards gluten reduced and gluten free diets and foods. In this list we are going to explore the gluten free flours followed by the gluten-reduced.

Almond Flour (gluten free)
Through adding 1/4 of the flour content in a recipe with almond flour will add a moistness to your baked goods with a light almond flavour. This flour provides a little binding and density to baked goods as well. This flour works well in pastry crusts, tarts and cookies.

Amaranth Flour (gluten free)
This is a powerful ancient grain packing more protein than any other grain. Up to 20% of a recipes flour content can be replaced with this flour, but no more is recommended.  This flour or whole grain is most often used in bread, biscuit and cracker recipes; as well works better when combined with the wet ingredients in a recipe like eggs, butter and dairy. Amaranth is often added to breads, nutrition bars and cookies.

Rice Flour (gluten free)
Made from both white and brown rice, this flour can have a slightly coarse texture. White rice tends to be lighter, milder and easier to digest than wheat flour. Rice flour works well as a thickening agent in sauces and is used to make rice noodles, tempura batters and different asian desserts all for its (non-gluten) glutenous effects. Rice flour can be made more malleable when mixed with oat flour.

Buckwheat Flour (gluten free)
This flour is loaded with nutrients, has a blue hue and a nice nutty flavour. Buckwheat flour can easily be introduced into many types of recipes, often mixed with other flours. Buckwheat is very absorbent, so recipes substituted with the flour may require extra liquid. Buckwheat makes noodles, dense cakes and excellent pancakes. When substituting, add no more then 25% buckwheat flour, otherwise it may be structurally challenging.

Chickpea Flour (gluten free)
Also known as garbanzo flour, gram flour and besan; this flour is commonly used in many countries such as India, Pakistan and Nepal. Up to half of the all-purpose flour ingredients in a recipe can be substituted for chickpea flour; as well this flour can be used as an egg substitute in vegan cooking. To replace one egg, use ¼ cup of chickpea flour and ¼ cup water.

Corn Flour (gluten free)
Corn flour is often used in combination with other flours most often with bread and  breading recipes. Corn flower is refined finer than corn meal, which has a slightly grittier texture.

Millet Flour (gluten free)
This ancient grain is naturally sweet and is most commonly used in desserts and sweet breads. Substitute no more then 1/3 of the all-purpose flour for the millet flour.

Oat Flour (gluten free)
Oat flour makes baked goods more moist than ordinary wheat flour as it has a fluffy texture; as well it is sweet to taste. Oat flour is easy to make, just add dried cereal oats to a blender and grind it until it is smooth. Oat flour makes excellent bread when mixed with wheat flour.

Quinoa Flour (gluten free)
Quinoa flour is one of the most nutritious grain flours available and is a great healthy addition to anyones diet. Substitute up to half of the all-purpose flour in a cookie recipe for quinoa flour for an excellent health boost.

Tapioca Flour (gluten free)
This is a starchy white flour with a faintly sweet flavour. Tapioca flour or starch works well as a binding agent in gluten-free recipes; as well is an ideal thickening agent. This flour is a great substitute for cornstarch; use 2 tablespoon of tapioca flour to 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

Barley Flour (gluten reduced)
This flour is a popular alternative to wheat flour as it is gluten reduced and has a nice malt flavour. Barley flour is a mild flavoured with a slight nutty hint. A healthy alternative for those looking to lose weight as it has less calories than wheat flour and 4 times the fibre. Gluten reduced flours do not rise very well with yeast recipes; substituting only half the flour with all-purpose flour can make up for this. Allowing doughs and batters made from barley flour sit overnight will also help soften the bran, making the product easier to work with, and balance the flavours.

Spelt Flour (gluten reduced)
Spelt flour is the most popular and widely available alternative baking flours. Spelt is related to wheat but its fats are more soluble, reducing its gluten content. Most people with IBD complications and wheat digestion issues can often tolerate spelt. Severe IBD cases should stay with gluten free flour choices. Spelt is high in essential nutrients and has a nutty and slightly sweet flavour. This flour can be fully substituted for wheat in bread making; producing a heavier and slightly more dense bread. Up to half of all-purpose flour can be substituted for spelt in most other recipes.

Rye Flour (gluten reduced)
Rye flour can come as a light, medium or dark flour, depending on how much of the bran was removed in the milling process. Since rye flour is gluten reduced it is often only used 1 part rye to 2 parts wheat in recipes to ensure the bread rises properly. Rye is a healthy choice for people with diabetes.

Pumpernickel Flour (gluten reduced)
This flour is made from whole rye berries and produces a dense dark and strongly flavoured bread.

Written by: J. Marshall

References
•    Cheat Sheet: http://www.cheatsheet.com/life/9-types-of-flour-what-they-are-and-how-to-use-them.html/?a=viewall
•    Self Nutrition Data: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5744/2
•    Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/16/guide-to-baking-flours_n_1388420.html
•    What’s Cooking America: https://whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/FlourTypes.htm
•    Vegan Baking: http://www.veganbaking.net/recipes/egg-replacers/chickpea-flour-the-underrated-egg-replacer
•    Bon Appetit: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/guide-to-flour
•    Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/baking-guide/flour-101-guide-to-different-types-and-uses

What You Need To Know When Buying Salmon

Cooking Tip #4

Wild or farmed? Atlantic or Pacific? Different Species and grades? Difference in quality, flavour and nutrition? How well do you know your salmon?

Wild vs Farmed Salmon

When buying salmon, there are a few things to consider as not all salmon are created equal. Wild salmon are considered the healthier choice over farmed salmon for several reasons. Wild salmon are a natural species uncorrupted by genetic manipulation like some of the farmed salmon available today. Genetically modified (GMO) salmon have been altered to grow faster and larger than regular salmon. The greatest concern about GMO foods is that it is not safe to eat. There is evidence that some GMO food products when fed to other animals can cause organ failure, cancer and early death.

Another concern about the GMO salmon is that many of these farms are kept in fenced-off areas of the ocean where some of the fish could ultimately escape. This could lead to them multiplying in the wild and overcrowding and devouring the native fish. Since GMO fish are bred to grow faster, they also come with large appetites and have been known to even eat each other.

Wild salmon eat other organisms found in its natural environment, whereas farmed salmon are given a processed high-fat feed. Farmed salmon as a result are much higher in unhealthy fats than wild salmon, containing slightly more omega-3s, but far more omega-6 fatty acids and 3 times the amount of saturated fat, with a total of 46% more calories.

Wild salmon also acquire more essential nutrients through their food than farmed fish, making them more nutritious. The deep reddish orange colour that occurs in natural salmon is a result of their traditional diet of Krill. This pigment caused by their diet produces a powerful antioxidant in the fish that offers many health benefits such as: stimulating the immune system, preventing bladder cancer, protecting the retina from oxidative damage, and can be used to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well other nervous system disorders.

Farmed salmon are at a higher risk of accumulating contaminants from their environments than wild salmon. These contaminants include several chlorinated pesticides, dioxins and PCBs. These dangerous chemicals have been linked to cancer and various other health problems.

The conclusion is that wild salmon offer far more health benefits and far less potential health risks than farmed salmon.

Farmed fish and GMO foods do not have to be labelled according to the FDA. In order to avoid consuming these foods, chose foods that are labelled “wild”, “organic” and “non-GMO”. If a product does not have these labels, they are likely farmed and could be a GMO.

Atlantic vs Pacific Salmon

Atlantic salmon have been reduced to the point of near extinction in the past two decades. This has been caused by overfishing, pollution, habitat deterioration and disturbances to migration routes. Today, 99.5% of all native Atlantic salmon have disappeared from the wild. Protecting what remains of the species is critical. Therefore choosing Pacific salmon over Atlantic is the ethical choice when shopping.

The Pacific Salmon Family

There are five species of the Salmonidae family; the king salmon (chinook), the red salmon (sockeye), the silver salmon (coho), the pink salmon (humpback) and the chum salmon (dog).

  • King Salmon – The largest of all salmon and the most desirable species for a few reasons: it has the highest percentage of body fat (Omega 3) and the most preferred flavour. King Salmon comes in several pigment variations including red, white and marbled flesh.

  • Red Salmon – Red Salmon eat only Krill and Phytoplankton as opposed to fish, so they are more nutritious and obtain a noticeably deeper orange hue than other species.

  • Silver Salmon – The silver salmon is a smaller fish with a lower fat content (omega-3) and have a lighter hue but can taste close to Sockeye if from a healthy source.

  • Pink Salmon – The smallest and most abundant of Pacific salmon, but are not as flavourful as premium kinds due to lower fat content and therefore are often canned.

  • Chum Salmon – Chum Salmon is the type found at discount grocers in the frozen section. The outer skin of Chum salmon resembles a tie-dye and the flesh is lighter in colour.

Written by: J. Marshall

References

•    Authority Nutrition – https://authoritynutrition.com/wild-vs-farmed-salmon/
•    Slow Food – http://slowfood.com/slowfish/pagine/eng/pagina.lasso?-id_pg=88
•    Natural News – http://www.naturalnews.com/025969_salmon_fat_fish.html
•    Time – http://time.com/4120648/fda-approved-aquabounty-gmo-salmon/
•    Alternet – http://www.alternet.org/food/atlantic-salmon-basically-extinct-youre-eating-genetically-eroded-version  
•    Genetic Literacy Project – https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/11/13/10-studies-proving-gmos-are-harmful-not-if-science-matters/
•    Collective Evolution – http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/04/08/10-scientific-studies-proving-gmos-can-be-harmful-to-human-health/

How to Test the Freshness of Eggs

Cooking Tip #3

Are you wondering how fresh your eggs are?  Well, there are a couple of ways you can find out.

Method #1:
Fill a medium sized bowl with room-temperature water and place the egg in the bowl of water.

The egg will do 1 of 3 things that will tell you how fresh it is.

  1. If the egg lays on its side at the bottom, it means the egg is fresh.
  2. If the egg stands upright on the bottom it means it is not fresh but still good to eat as long as it is eaten soon or hard-boiled.
  3. If the egg floats to the top, it means the egg is expired and should not be eaten.

Egg Fresh Test

Method #2:
Crack an egg into a saucepan with no heat. The egg will do 1 of 3 things that will tell us how fresh it is.

  1. The egg yolk and the whites are firm and hold together well, this means your egg is fresh.
  2. The egg yolk and the whites are thin and spread out in the saucepan, your eggs are not as fresh but still good to eat as long as it is eaten soon or hard-boiled.
  3. The egg whites are thin and the egg yolk membrane is weak and breaks. The egg may also have an odour and/or discolouration, in this case the eggs are bad and should not be eaten.

How Long are Eggs Fresh For?

A freshly laid egg is good for 60-90 days. How long depends on how the eggs have been cleaned and stored.

  •  Fresh eggs should be wiped clean with a clean dry rag. Washing the egg with water will remove the natural, anti-bacterial coating on the shell called the “bloom” and make the egg more susceptible to bacteria and spoilage. Wash the eggs under luke-warm water when you are ready to use them.
  • Eggs should be packaged in clean paper egg-boxes with good airflow.
  • Eggs should also be stored with their pointed end downwards to avoid risk of contaminating the yolk. The yolk is naturally centered at the pointed-end surrounded by the non-bacteria friendly white and the not so bacteria friendly air-sac is in the blunt-end. Through maintaining this pointed-end downward trend, risk of contaminating the yolk is reduced, keeping it fresher longer.
  • Store eggs in a refrigerator on a bottom shelf and not in the door, this will ensure a cool and consistent temperature.

Are Eggs Safe Kept at Room Temperature?

Fresh eggs kept out on a counter at room temperature will be safe to eat for a while, but they will age quicker and spoil sooner. One day on the counter equals around one week in the fridge.

Brown Eggs vs White Eggs

What is the difference between brown and white eggs other than their colour? Brown eggs are laid by brown-feathered chickens with red earlobes and white eggs are laid by white-feathered chickens with light coloured ear-lobes; that is it. There are  types of hens that also produce a blue egg, but few people breed these types of birds. Brown eggs are equally as nutritious as the white eggs. The colour is no indicator of quality, brown eggs generally cost more than the white eggs because brown-feathered chickens are slightly larger then the white-feathered chickens and have a larger appetite.

What the Colour of the Yolk Means

Egg yolk colour can range from pale yellow to a deep orange hue. The colour of the yolk is influenced by the type of feed the chickens have ingested. Wheat-based feeds tend to produce a paler yolk colour while corn-based feeds produce a darker yolk colour. The more naturally pigmented the feed is, the darker the yolk will be.

What the Size of the Egg Means

The size of an egg depends on the age of the hen. Younger hens lay smaller eggs and older hens lay larger eggs.

Nutritional Facts about Eggs

  • Eggs contain the highest quality of protein the body can get!
  • One egg contains only 70 calories, but has 6 grams of protein along with 14 other essential nutrients such as vitamin A, D and E, along with folate, iron and zinc.
  • Eggs are rich in choline as well, which promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the  function of transporting essential nutrients throughout the body.
  • Eggs also have all 9 essential amino acids: which are the building blocks of the body; capable of forming tissues, organs, muscles, skin and hair.

Eggs in a row

Written by: J. Marshall

References

How-To Stop Milk from Curdling when Cooking It

Cooking Tip #2

When making dairy-based sauces or soups it is important to follow the following rules, otherwise you may end up with curdled milk.

~Never bring milk to a boil. Boiling milk will cause it to curdle.

~Warm milk slowly. Warming milk too quickly can also cause it to curdle, even if it doesn’t come to a boil. Heat milk gently over medium-low heat.

~Temper the milk. Do not add cold milk directly to a steaming hot liquid because it will likely curdle. Instead, add small amounts of the hot liquid to the cold milk; when the milk is warm add it to the hot liquid.

~Use a higher fat content. The higher the fat content, the less prone the milk will be to separating or curdling.

~Stabilize with a starch. Starches like flour help stabilize the milk and prevent it from separating when introduced as a paste (a mixture of flour and water).

~Avoid Strong Acids. Acidic ingredients like wine, tomatoes, lemon juice and even salt will cause curdling, unless the milk has been stabilized with a starch and thickened already.

How to Fix a Curdled Sauce

If a cream or sauce has separated and began to curdle, do not panic as it can be fixed.
Adding fat content to the separated sauce and gradually reducing the sauces temperature can reverse the curdling. Begin by immediately removing the curdled milk from the heat source. In a separate saucepan, gently warm a small amount of the dairy base until it is lukewarm. Then slowly add the curdled sauce to the separate saucepan, whisking constantly as you go until it has all been added. This should reverse the curdling.

Written by: J. Marshall

How-To Keep Salad Greens and Herbs Fresher Longer

Cooking Tip #1

Are you tired of going to the fridge to prepare a salad and find it wilted and with slimy leaves? Following these few steps will not only keep your salad greens and herbs crisp and ready for you, but will also add up to five days to their edible lives.

Clean. The best way to keep greens fresher longer is to start by cleaning them as soon as possible. Cut away and remove any bad leaves or stems before gently rinsing them of any noticeable debris.

Soak. Next soak the greens in a large bowl of clean water to loosen any dried on dirt. After about 10 minutes, take the greens out of the water and gently shake the excess water off before laying them on a clean kitchen towel.

Dry. The easiest and quickest way to dry greens is with a salad spinner. If you do not have a spinner, try placing a colander in a large bowl, add the greens and a lid and gently spin the excess water into the bowl. Greens can also be carefully rolled into a clean kitchen towel and given a light shake to release the excess water.

Careful not to bruise. Most important thing to keep in mind when cleaning greens is to not bruise them. That is to avoid squeezing them or folding the leaves, as this will cause the greens to brown and decay in these areas faster.

Storage. Store greens and herbs lightly wrapped in a paper towel, and placed loosely in a sealed container. The paper towel will absorb excess water from the greens preventing them from getting slimy. The paper towel should not be allowed to get wet though, only slightly dampened.

Written By: J. Marshall