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#1035 - Cooking with Dairy Products II
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Two weeks ago we thought it would be good to re-visit some cooking fundamentals, so we took a look at working with milk and cream. This week we'll continue with dairy and take a look at sour cream, yogurt and butter.
-This is light cream that has been inoculated with beneficial bacteria who convert the lactose sugar into lactic acid, a mildly sour compound. Furthermore, the cream is drained, and mixed with a little gelatin to give it a bit of firmness.
-The biggest use for sour cream is to substitute it for milk in baking recipes; you can use it on a 1 to 1 basis. Also a lot of recipes may call for buttermilk, which is hard to find, so you can use sour cream for that if you like.
-Sour cream is great for making the eggless Italian custard Panna Cotta. You mix in a little gelatin and some sugar, and you're on you way to one of the lightest, most fruit friendly desserts.
-Despite its 18% fat content, sour cream will curdle or separate under heat, so try adding 1 tbs flour to each 1/2 cup sour cream in a recipe that calls for heating.
-As noted, putting cold sour cream into anything hot will make it break down, so allow it to come to room temperature. In the case of Beef Stroganoff, sour cream is added at the very end, when the mixture is off heat and has cooled down a little bit. Once blended in, the mixture can be re-heated.
-Yogurt is a curdled milk product that has very low fat content, and is often strained to thicken the consistency.
- As with sour cream, you can substitute yogurt for milk in many baking recipes, adding piquant sourness and thicker texture.
-Used in cold dishes, it makes an easy sauce, and is a great vehicle for spices and seasonings.
-Used with hot dishes, yogurt is very tricky. Because of its low fat content, it will break easily in the presence of heat. So if you are making, say, an Indian curry, take the finished curry off heat, let it cool down considerably, then stir in the yogurt. It will create a creamy texture and lend a cool, refreshing sourness to the dish. Again, allow the yogurt to come to room temperature before adding or the difference in temperatures will shock the yogurt into separation.
-A semi-solid form of butterfat derived from milk.
-Most cooks prefer using unsalted "sweet" butter.
-Keep your butter cold! If you need to warm it quickly for a cooking use, put a stick in between two sheets of wax paper, and pound it flat. It will warm up momentarily. Otherwise, keep it cold. To test the proper temperature for butter to be used in baking, keep the stick in its wrapper, and gently bend it. If it bends without breaking, it's good to go.
-In making pie crusts, keep the butter very cold, cut it into small pieces, and work with a cold bowl, and cold hands. Butter melts at 96.8 degrees F.
-Butter has three parts: a solidified liquid fat, a whey phase of solids, and heavier but very small milk solids. They can be noticed when you melt butter. The liquid is clean and yellow, the solids sink to the bottom and the white whey floats on top.
-Butter has a very low smoking point of 265 degrees, which is a barely warm skillet. By contrast, olive oil is 350 degrees, and safflower oil is 450 degrees. Since we sauté at well over 400 degrees, we often mix butter with oil.
-And for sautéing, you want to use clarified butter, which is melted butter with the whey removed, drained off its solids. Much higher smoke point 485 in the case of Ghee, which is Indian clarified butter.
-When working with butter in a skillet or sauce pan (or better yet, a double boiler) you need very gentle heat. Butter burns easily and is fairly useless once it has burned.
-Mixing butter and flower is an ancient technique for thickening and smoothing a sauce. The classic roux is a blend of flour and clarified butter (which having no water content, will not separate). The color and flavor of a roux change the longer it cooks: the spectrum is blond, hazelnut, brown and dark brown. No roux can stand neglect, so you must stir and watch it very carefully.