baked flour base?

Joined Feb 5, 2002
I've recently stumbled on this excellent forum and in rummaging around some recent posts I saw a reference to "gumbo with a baked flour base."

Ok, I'm curious. Last night's gumbo seemed to have an obscene amount of oil and something a little lighter but with a great nutty roux would be welcome. (By the way the pitiful okra that manages to make it's way to central ohio isn't even worth the bother.)
Joined Feb 21, 2001
I used to work for an old school French chef who had us toast the flour for roux. We would then mix it with butter, but in nothing like the quantities that one would normally use. I asked him why we were doing this, and he held up his thumb and forefinger and shouted, "To kill the molecule!", whatever that means. This is the same guy I ran into in the cellar of the huge old house the restaurant was in, a short little guy with a very tall bonnet , who waggled a roll of toilet paper at me and roared, "Go to take a crap, no paper!"
My understanding of it, courtesy of Madeline Kammans and Auguste Escoffier, is that under heat, fat percolates through the starch cell walls, converting it into a substance capable of absorbing six times it's own weight in liquid. Or at least I used to think that. But cornstarch doesn't need fat, it depends on the starch swelling and then bursting to enmesh liquid. The fat must be there strictly to help brown the flour. And now that I think of it, we used to dissolve the roux in stock before adding it to hot stock to thicken a sauce. If you skim very carefully you can recover most of the butter in a roux and any other undissolvable matter from the flour. Escoffier predicted that the day would come when purer forms of starch other than flour would be used, but if you have ever made real old fashioned demiglace you know that shine and body can't be duplicated with arrowroot or cornstarch.
Joined Feb 5, 2002
Ok, that makes sense. I'll have to experiment with a baked roux. I think Escoffier would roll over in his grave at the current uses of those "purer forms of starch" inflicted on us by the various Better-Living-Through-Chemistry Food Companies. I'll be sticking with flour.

Thanks for the reply!
Joined Feb 2, 2002
Hi Spikezoe:

Browning the flour will help change the flavor of a dish.
This method is not used as much today, but I have worked with chefs years ago who liked to brown their flour first.

Make sure the oven is not too hot, and continue to stir the flour, or you will go beyond the brown stage to burnt.

You know the old saying "When it's's cooking, and when it is black.... it's done!!!"
Well if the flour turns black, you might as well throw it away.

Have you tried cooking the flour & oil in an oven?

Heavy botton pot.......keep the mixture slightly lose, and stir often.
Do not think of a French brown roux. A good roux for a Gumbo goes way beyond this in color, and flavor.

Time????? Some chefs will cook their roux for an hour or more.

You could also make a pretty good dark roux on top of the stove.
Cast Iron works well. and lots of stirring.....and most of all patience!!!

And if you are concerned about any fat floating on top of your sauce. Skim it off....the thickening will already have taken place, and the flavor will be losing some oil shouldn't hurt things. And don't forget to add the File Gumbo at the end.

Take care, and good luck

Chef Nosko
A Fresh Endeavor
Boston, MA

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