What is Roux?
Roux (“roo”) is a thickening agent made from fat and flour. It is used in production of sauces, gravies, stews and soups for getting the desired consistency. Equal part of fat and flour (1:1) is cooked over flame to get the required color and doneness. Depending upon the color, cooking time and doneness, roux can be classified into three types and that are-
1) White Roux- The mixture of the fat and flour is cooked just for 2-3 minutes on medium flame, the raw flavor of the flour is just cooked out while maintaining the white color of the mixture and without developing any toasted aroma. This roux is used in white sauce preparation such as béchamel because of the color. All milk based sauces are made with white roux.
2) Blond or Blonde Roux- Also called as yellow roux or golden roux. Blonde roux is cooked for 3-5 minutes, thus caramelizing it and giving it a dark blonde color. This roux is used in making of veloute and other sauces which require golden texture. This is the most common roux used in culinary preparations because of its balanced flavor and taste also blond roux has excellent thickening power in comparison to brown roux.
3) Brown Roux- This roux is cooked for 8-10 minutes until the mixtures develops dark brown nutty color which has more pronounced and sharper aroma. The thickening power of brown roux is less because of the cooked flour and hence the quantity required is more in sauce making. This roux is used in brown sauce preparation such has espagnole and other brown gravies.
Types of Flour used
Mostly the bread flour or the all-purpose flour is used in making the roux for sauce preparation, because of the starch content in it which is less then cake flour when compared. If any other flour apart from all-purpose flour is to be used in roux making, then the proportion of the fat should be adjusted accordingly.
Types of Fat used
There are many option of fat in roux making such as clarified butter, margarines, vegetable oil and shortenings and animal fat. The use of these options depends upon the requirement of taste, aroma and texture of the sauce or gravy preparation. Below is the description of the taste and other effect on the roux of these options.
1) Clarified Butter- This is preferred for the finest sauces because of its flavor. The butter is clarified because the moisture content of whole butter tends to gelatinize some of the starch and makes the roux hard to work.
2) Margarine– This is widely used in place of butter because of its lower cost. However, its flavor is inferior to butter, so it does not make a fine sauce. The quality of margarine varies from brand to brand.
3) Animal Fats- There are many options such as chicken fat, mutton fat, beef drippings and lard, to use, the use of these fat depend upon the requirement and when their flavor is appropriate to the sauce. Thus, chicken fat can be used for chicken velouté, and beef drippings can be used for beef gravy. When properly used, animal fats can enhance the flavor of a sauce.
4) Vegetable Oil and Shortening- This can be used for roux preparation but, because they add no flavor, they are not preferred. Solid shortening also has the disadvantage of having a high melting point, which gives it an unpleasant fuzzy feeling in the mouth.
Roux used for clarifying of Sauce
In addition to starch, wheat flour contains proteins and other components. As a roux thickened sauce is simmered, these components rise to the surface as scum. They then can be skimmed off. Sauces are generally simmered for a time even after the starch is completely gelatinized so these “impurities” can be cooked off. This improves the texture, gloss, and clarity of a sauce. When a high-protein flour such as bread flour is used in a roux, the sauce must be cooked longer and skimmed more often to achieve good clarity.
Health issues with Roux prepared Sauce.
Today, roux-thickened sauces are often condemned for health reasons because of the fat content of the roux. It should be remembered, however, that when a roux-bound velouté or brown sauce is properly made, most of the fat is released and skimmed off before the sauce is served. Sauces made with wheat flour do not freeze well because some of the starch breaks down when frozen, reducing its thickening power.
Precautions in Roux preparation
Correct amounts of fat and flour i.e. equal parts by weight are important to a good roux. There must be enough fat to coat all the starch granules, but not too much. In fact, Escoffier called for even less fat than our standard proportions (8 parts fat to 9 parts flour). A good roux is stiff, not runny or pourable. A roux with too much fat is called a “Slack Roux”. Excess fat increases the cost of the roux unnecessarily; the excess fat rises to the top of the sauce, where it either is skimmed off or makes the sauce look greasy. Too much flour will result in a starchy taste and too much oil will cause a “Slick” on the top of the sauce.
Staka is a type of roux particular to Cretan cuisine. It is prepared by cooking goat milk cream over a low flame with wheat flour or starch, the protein-rich part of the butterfat coagulates with the flour or starch and forms the staka, which is served hot. It is generally eaten dipping bread in it, occasionally served over French fries.
The fatty part separates to form stakovoutyro, staka butter, which is kept for later use and has a faint cheesy flavor. Staka butter is used in Cretan pilaf (piláfi), commonly served at weddings.
For other options of thickening agents, read this following Post