Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous
Includes thickeners and food wrappers
alum, aluminum potassium sulfate, ammonium aluminum sulphate
alum
Pickling recipes sometimes call for alum to give pickles extra crunch.
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aluminum foil, tin foil
aluminum foil
This is an excellent all-purpose wrapper, able to withstand both heat and cold. It's the best choice if you're wrapping foods for freezer storage, since it works better than plastic wrap at preventing moisture loss.
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American black caviar
If substituting an inferior caviar, consider perking it up with a splash of fresh lemon juice.
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arrowroot starch, arrowroot, arrowroot flour, arrowroot powder
arrowroot starch
This starch thickener has several advantages over cornstarch. It has a more neutral flavor, so it's a good thickener for delicately flavored sauces. It also works at a lower temperature, and tolerates acidic ingredients and prolonged cooking better. And while sauces thickened with cornstarch turn into a spongy mess if they're frozen, those made with arrowroot can be frozen and thawed with impunity. The downside is that arrowroot is pricier than cornstarch, and it's not a good thickener for dairy-based sauces, since it turns them slimy. Arrowroot also imparts a shiny gloss to foods, and while it can make a dessert sauce glow spectacularly, it can make a meat sauce look eerie and fake. To thicken with arrowroot, mix it with an equal amount of cold water, then whisk the slurry into a hot liquid for about 30 seconds. Look for it in Asian markets and health food stores. Equivalents: One tablespoon thickens one cup of liquid. Substitutes: tapioca starch (very similar) OR Instant ClearJel® OR cornstarch (Cornstarch doesn't impart as glossy a finish and can leave a starchy taste if undercooked.) OR kudzu powder OR potato starch OR rice starch OR flour (Flour makes an opaque sauce, imparts a floury taste, and can easily turn lumpy. Use twice as much flour as arrowroot.)
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baker's ammonia, ammonium bicarbonate, ammonium carbonate, baking ammonia
baker's ammonia
Originally made from the ground antlers of reindeer, this is an ancestor of modern baking powder. Northern Europeans still use it because it makes their springerle and gingerbread cookies very light and crisp. Unfortunately, it can impart an unpleasant ammonia flavor, so it's best used in cookies and pastries that are small enough to allow the ammonia odor to dissipate while baking. Look for it in German or Scandinavian markets, drug stores, baking supply stores, or a mail order catalogue. Don't confuse this with ordinary household ammonia, which is poisonous. Varieties: It comes either as lumps or powder. If it isn't powdered, crush it into a very fine powder with a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin.
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baking powder, double-acting baking powder, single-acting baking powder
baking powder
Baking powder is a mixture of one or more acidic salts and baking soda, an alkali. These two compounds react when they get wet and release carbon dioxide gas bubbles. These, in turn, cause baked goods to rise. Baking powder is perishable. To test a batch, add 1 teaspoon to ½ cup hot water. If it doesn't bubble, throw it out. Look for baking powder among the baking supplies in most supermarkets. Most recipes that call for baking powder intend for you to use double-acting baking powder. This includes two acidic salts--one that reacts when wet and one that reacts heated. By giving the baking soda two chances to react, it usually results in light and airy baked goods. Less common is single-acting baking powder, which only reacts when it becomes wet. When using this kind of baking powder, you have to get the batter into a preheated oven immediately after you mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Aluminum-free baking powder is preferred by many cooks; powders made with aluminum lend an unpleasant flavor to delicately-flavored baked goods
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baking soda, bicarb, bicarbonate of soda, bread soda, sodium bicarbonate
baking soda
Baking soda is alkaline, and when mixed with acidic ingredients, it reacts and releases bubbles of carbon dioxide. These bubbles, when trapped inside batter, help baked goods rise. Baking powder contains baking soda, along with acidic salts that react with the soda when they get wet or heated. Recipes that call for both baking powder and baking soda are probably using the baking soda to offset extra acidity in the batter (from ingredients like buttermilk or molasses) and to weaken the proteins in the flour. Omitting the baking soda from these recipes may alter the color or flavor of whatever you're baking, and make it less tender. Tips: Baking soda is used in devil's food cake because it turns the cocoa powder reddish brown. Vegetables cooked in water mixed with baking soda don't lose as much color, though the baking soda makes them mushier and causes them to lose vitamin C. Sprinkling baking soda on a grease or electrical fire will help extinguish it. Placing an opened box in the refrigerator or freezer will absorb bad odors Baking soda is a good, mildly abrasive scouring powder. Store baking soda in a cool, dry place.
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bamboo leaves
bamboo leaves
Southeast Asians use these to wrap and tie rice packets before steaming. They're hard to find fresh, but Asian markets often carry dried leaves in plastic bags. Soak them in warm water before using to prevent them from cracking.
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banana leaves
banana leaves
People in the tropics use these huge leaves to line cooking pits and to wrap everything from pigs to rice. The leaves impart a subtle anise fragrance to food and protect it while it's cooking. Frozen leaves--once thawed--work just fine. Boil the leaves before using them to keep them from cracking. Look for banana leaves among the frozen foods in Asian, Hispanic, or specialty markets.
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beluga caviar
beluga caviar
In recent years, over-fishing in the Caspian Sea has greatly depleted sturgeon populations. Please consider using caviar and roe from more abundant species until the Caspian Sea sturgeon populations can recover. Beluga caviar is one of the best and priciest of the caviars. The eggs are large and bluish-grey, and slightly sweet. A pasteurized version is available in jars, but fresh caviar is much better. Malossol (lightly salted) beluga is the finest, and the most expensive. If substituting an inferior caviar, consider perking it up with a splash of fresh lemon juice. For substitutions for caviar in general, click here.
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beurre manié, beurre manie, kneaded butter
beurre manié
This flour-butter mixture is used to correct overly thin sauces at the last minute. To make it, blend equal weights of butter and flour, then knead them together. After you whisk it into a sauce, let it cook for no more than a minute or two, since sauces thickened with flour pick up a starchy taste after they've cooked for a few minutes.
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bird's nest, dragon's teeth
bird's nest
Available at some Chinese markets. The white nests are cleaner and more expensive than the black ones.
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borage, starflower
borage
Borage is best known for its attractive blue flowers, but Europeans sometimes use the leaves as an herb in salads and soups. Borage has a mild flavor that's been likened to that of cucumbers. The leaves are covered with prickly, throat-catching hairs, so it's best to either blanch them or chop them finely before serving them.
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bottarga, botarega, botargo, boutarque, salted mullet roe, Sardinian caviar
bottarga
This Mediterranean specialty is made from the salted and sun-dried roe of either tuna (bottarga di tonno) or mullet (bottarga di muggine). You usually buy it as a sausage and shave off thin slices for hors d'oeuvres or grate it over pasta, fish, or salads. It's expensive but very tasty.
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bowfin roe
This has small, very dark olive-green eggs with medium firmness. It's an inexpensive, environmentally responsible alternative to the luxury caviars from the Caspian Sea. Consider perking up the flavor with a splash of fresh lemon juice.
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capelin roe, masago
capelin roe
Japanese cooks use these tiny, fluorescent eggs as a topping for sushi.
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carnation
carnation
Carnations have a peppery flavor. While they're edible, some people may have an allergic reaction to them.
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caviar, sturgeon roe, Malossol caviar, payusnaya caviar, pressed caviar
caviar
Over-fishing in the Caspian Sea has greatly depleted sturgeon populations. Please consider using roe from more abundant species until the Caspian Sea sturgeon populations can recover. Caviar is known for its subtle, buttery flavor, sensuous texture, and high price. It should always be served cold. Just as diamonds are rated according to the four Cs, caviar can be evaluated by the three Fs--flavor, firmness, and freshness. The flavor of caviar depends on the sturgeon's species and habitat, and is variously described as buttery, nutty, sweet, fruity, earthy, briny, and even herbaceous. The firmness of each egg determines how the eggs burst when you squeeze them against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Fresh caviar is considered much better than the pasteurized version. Varieties: (from highest to lowest price) imperial caviar, beluga caviar, ossetra caviar, and sevruga caviar. Imperial caviar is the rarest and most expensive. Beluga caviar is soft, and almost melts in your mouth. Ossetra and sevruga caviars are relatively firm, and will pop when gently squeezed. Within these categories, malossol, or lightly salted caviar, is of higher quality than pressed caviar = payusnaya. If substituting an inferior caviar, consider perking it up with a splash of fresh lemon juice. Equivalents: 2 tablespoons = 1 ounce Fresh caviar lasts just over a year if properly stored, though its shelf-life can be extended with heavy salting. Experts claim that some of the fresh caviar that's being sold at bargain prices over the Internet is well past its prime. The color and size of the eggs--called the bead--can help you (and your guests) identify the different varieties of caviar.
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ClearJel
This modified cornstarch is the secret ingredient that many commercial bakers use in their fruit pie fillings. Unlike ordinary cornstarch, ClearJel® works well with acidic ingredients, tolerates high temperatures, and doesn't cause pie fillings to weep" during storage. ClearJel® is an especially good choice if you're canning homemade pie fillings, since it doesn't begin thickening until the liquid begins to cool. This allows the heat the be more evenly distributed within the jar during processing. This is such an important safety advantage that ClearJel® is the only thickener the USDA recommends for home canning. You can also use ClearJel® to thicken sauces, stews, and the like, though it's a rather expensive all-purpose thickener. One downside is that products thickened with ClearJel® tend to break down if they're frozen and thawed. If you plan to freeze what you're making, use Instant ClearJel®, arrowroot, or tapioca starch. ClearJel® is available either as pearls or powder from mail-order suppliers, but it's not yet available in grocery stores.
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cod roe
cod roe
Scandinavian markets sell this in tubes, so that it can be extruded onto crackers and such for hors d'oeuvres. It's relatively inexpensive, but very salty.
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coral, lobster coral, lobster roe
coral
This roe turns a lovely coral color when cooked.
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corn husks, hoja de maíz
corn husks
Hispanic cooks use these, both fresh and dried, to wrap tamales before steaming them. Before using, soak the husks in hot water for about 30 minutes to make them more pliable.
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corn starch, corn starch, cornflour, crème de mais, maize cornflour
corn starch
One tablespoon (1/4 ounce) thickens one cup of liquid. Notes: This silky powder is used to thicken sauces, gravies, and puddings. Like other starch thickeners, cornstarch should be mixed into a slurry with an equal amount of cold water before it's added to the hot liquid you're trying to thicken. You then need to simmer the liquid, stirring constantly, for a minute or so until it thickens. Cornstarch doesn't stand up to freezing or prolonged cooking, and it doesn't thicken well when mixed with acidic liquids. Cornstarch is called cornflour or maize cornflour in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Don't confuse cornstarch with the finely ground cornmeal that Americans call corn flour
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dianthus
dianthus
These have a clove-like flavor. Some people may have an alergic reaction to dianthus.
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dumpling wrappers, dumpling skins, shao mai skins, shiu mai wrappers
dumpling wrappers
These thin round wrappers are used to make the delicate dumplings that are so popular at dim sum restaurants. They're made to be stuffed and steamed, but they're not sturdy enough to be fried. While assembling the dumplings, keep the stack of wrappers moist by covering them with a damp towel. You can seal the dumplings with a "glue" made with cornstarch and water. Look for fresh or frozen wrappers in Asian markets. Store them in the refrigerator or freezer, but let them come to room temperature before using.
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egg roll wrapers, egg roll skins, eggroll skins, eggroll wrappers
egg roll wrapers
The Chinese use these dough squares to make deep-fried egg rolls. While assembling the egg rolls, keep the stack of wrappers moist by covering them with a damp towel. You can seal the rolls with a "glue" made with cornstarch and water. Look for fresh wrappers in Asian markets and many supermarkets. Store them in the refrigerator or freezer, but let them come to room temperature before using.
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egg yolks
egg yolks
Higher in fat, but increasing the egg yolks in a baked good often makes it moister and more flavorful. Egg yolks make wonderful thickeners--imparting both a rich flavor and velvety smooth texture--but they're tricky to use. You can't just whisk them into a simmering sauce--they'd curdle on contact. Instead, you need to "temper" them by adding some of the hot liquid to the egg yolks, whisking the mixture together, and then adding it to the sauce. To prevent the yolks from coagulating, you need to keep the sauce below 190°, although this rule can be broken if the sauce has a lot of flour in it. Finally, never cook sauces with egg yolks in aluminum pans or they'll turn gray.
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empanada wrappers
empanada wrappers
Hispanic cooks wrap these six-inch diameter rounds of dough around sweet or savory fillings, and then bake or fry them. Look for them among the frozen foods in Hispanic markets.
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fig leaf
fig leaf
These are great for wrapping delicately flavored foods before grilling them.
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flying fish roe, tobikko, tobiko, tobiuonoko
flying fish roe
These fluorescent orange eggs are wonderfully crunchy and flavorful. The Japanese are particularly fond of them.
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golden caviar, American golden caviar, whitefish caviar, whitefish roe
golden caviar
This has crunchy, amber-colored eggs and makes a colorful garnish. They're often flavored with various seasonings before they're sold.
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grape leaves, grape vine leaves, vine leaves
grape leaves
Greeks stuff these with ground lamb and rice to make dolmades, but they're used elsewhere to make pickles and beds for food. They're hard to find fresh in markets, but you can often find them in cans or jars. Trim the stems and rinse off the brine before using. To make your own: Plunge grape leaves (that haven't been sprayed with harmful chemicals) for one minute in boiling, salted water (2 teaspoons pickling salt per quart), then drain.
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guar gum
guar gum
This thickener is very popular among people with gluten allergies. Look for it in health food stores.
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gyoza wrappers, gyoza skins
gyoza wrappers
The Japanese use these round wrappers to make pork-stuffed dumplings similar to Chinese potstickers. Western cooks sometimes use them to make ravioli.
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gypsum powder
gypsum powder
Recipes for ale and mead often call for this.
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hackleback roe, black pearl caviar
hackleback roe
This American caviar comes from farm-raised hacklebacks.
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herring roe
herring roe
The Japanese traditionally serve this on New Year's Day. It has an interesting texture, but it's not very flavorful.
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