Thickening Agents

It is J's birthday today! In an effort to make him a delicious "cake" like substance to celebrate I resorted to one of his favorite pies! For those of you who don't know, J doesn't much care for cake, and much prefers pie. Pumpkin is his favorite, but Pumpkins aren't so much in season right now. Alas we found ourselves in the kitchen looking for a substitute for his favorite pie, that He, N and I could all enjoy together!

Coconut cream pie it was! J and I love it! The only problem was I wanted Noah to be able to have it. The recipe I had mad previously had corn starch or flour, or arrowroot in it, all of which, N can't have. So, I began a hunt for another thickening agent! I am happy to say, I found one that worked, how do I know it worked? The pie "sat" up!

So, I have discovered that Egg Yolks are a wonderful thickener for "custard" like substances or sauces, when you would usually have to use a starch in some variety. The trick is determining the amount of egg YOLK required. I emphasis Yolk, because the yolk is the thickener, and too much of an egg white in a recipe can really throw off the texture and flavor.

So, what do you do? In general for sauces or custards, omit up to 1/3 cup starch with 2 egg yolks. 1/3 of a cup b/c all starchs are used in different quantities. If a recipe only call for 2 Tbsp or less of starch, add one egg yolk.

The trick is in cooking. For "starch" thickeners it generally doesn't matter if the mixture comes to a ferocious boil, as long as it doesn't burn to the bottom, but when you are dealing with egg binders it does! You need to pay careful attention to the temperature. Don't allow your mixture to reach higher than 158 degrees or the egg separates. It is also important to slowly bring the egg up to temperature. Just like you premix your starch with cold water until dissolved prior to add to a hot mixture, you need to fully beat your egg yolks and than slowly add in a "warm" mixture 1/3 of a cup at a time to avoid "cooking" the yolk.

The mixture will thicken in several minutes at a temperature of 158 with constant stirring. Good luck and happy "starch free" foods! :)


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