Monday, August 28, 2006

Potato Problems

I haven't posted here for a while, in part because I am having trouble with potato starch, and I usually like to have something definite before I post. I have "Food Chemistry" by Belitz and Grosch right now. It's not really a Food Science book; it's a Food Chemistry book, so aptly named, I guess.
Anyway, here are some facts about starch that I am trying to put in some usable context. The book is due tomorrow…

Size (um) Swelling (95) Gel Temp (C). %amylose
Wheat 2-38 21 53-65 26-31
Corn 5-25 24 62-70 28
Sorghum 4-24 22 69-75 21-34
Potato 15-100 n/a 58-66 23
Tapioca 5-35 n/a 52-64 17

Wheat Potato
Start of Gel 56.5 60
End of Gel 62 68
Swell (80) (%) 7.15 62.30
Water binding (%) 89.1 102.00

I have a few thoughts about these numbers, but I have some more thinking to do before I try to draw any conclusions.

I am also considering moving over to blogger. The problem is moving, leaving, or ignoring the archives…

Friday, August 18, 2006

Welcome to Google

I did a google search for Elwood City Blues this morning. We finally are public! Searching for Elwood City Blog gets you here. So does "Baking with Jowar" and "Baking with Sorghum Flour". I must be cool to be searchable.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sorghum Vs Quinoa

Do you want the short story, or the long story? Several people have asked me what the nutritional content of Sorghum is. I have always had to answer that I thought it was pretty good, because it is related to millet, but that I don’t know for sure. Until now, that is. The short answer is that protein-wise, it is as good as or better than Quinoa, which is currently being touted in the media as a sort of super-grain for its protein content. That’s the short answer.

Do you want the long answer? OK. Here come a few numbers… One warning before you start, I didn’t count significant figures in any of the math that I did.

There are several amino acids that the Human body is not capable of producing, for which we depend upon our diet to supply. These are known as the Essential Amino Acids. I went to for these numbers, comparing whole Sorghum (S), All-purpose enriched wheat flour, bleached (W), and whole quinoa (Q). My unproven assumption in this comparison is that sorghum and quinoa are ground whole into flour, so the nutritional data of the whole grain and the flour are identical.

For the essential amino acids, in mg/cup:
Trp 238 (S), 159 (W), No data (Q)
Thr 664 (S), 351 (W), 780 (Q)
Ile 831 (S), 446 (W), 803 (Q)
Leu 2863 (S), 888 (W), 1336 (Q)
Lys 440 (S), 285 (W), 1248 (Q)
Met 324 (S), 229 (W), 445 (Q)
Cys 244 (S), 274 (W), No Data (Q)
Phe 1048 (S), 650 (W), 913 (Q)
Tyr 616 (S), 390 (W), 624 (Q)
Val 1077 (S), 510 (W), 1001 (Q)
His 472 (S), 288 (W), 534 (Q)

Total Protein in g/cup:
21.7 (S), 12.9 (W), 22.3 (Q)

Total Carbohydrates in g/cup:
143 (S), 95.4 (W), 117 (Q)

Total Fiber in g/cup:
12.1 (S), 3.4 (W), 10.0 (Q)

The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board has set targets for essential amino acid levels for an “ideal food”. These are, with the values for sorghum calculated, in mg/g total protein:
Trp 7 11.0 (S), 157%
Thr 27 30.6 (S), 113%
Ile 55 38.3 (S), 69.6%
Leu 25 132 (S), 528%
Lys 51 20.3 (S), 39.8%
Met+Cys 25 26.2 (S), 105%
Phe+Tyr 47 76.7 (S), 163%
Val 32 49.6 (S), 155%
His 18 21.8 (S), 121%

So Sorghum is deficient in Ile and Lys. We make up for it in total protein content, compared to Quinoa, in Leu,
Ala, Glu, and Pro, of which only Leu is essential. lists 999 foods that you can include in your diet that have a higher Lys/Leu ratio, to compensate for the Lysine you are missing eating Sorghum. This list is headed by turkey and mushrooms, and includes pretty much any meat or cheese, burdock root, and oranges. I thought that was great, because of course everyone loves burdock root, and oranges are a great way to supplement your protein intake. Actually, a mushroom-turkey melt on bread made with Jowar would be perfect.

I didn’t look up foods high is Isoleucine, and didn’t suggest any, because Ile is not the “limiting” amino acid.

Compared to all-purpose enriched wheat flour, bleached, sorghum is by far the champ protein-wise. It even has one-and-a-half times as much Lys, which is supposedly the big deficiency that sorghum has. It appears to be less of a problem with wheat, because the targets for “ideal foods” are set by ratio with the total protein, which is also lower for wheat.

The only area that sorghum appears to have a significant lack is in the area of minerals. Enriched wheat flour is, of course, enriched. As a result, it is chock full of minerals that don’t really belong there. Quinoa appears to be naturally high in all minerals, and is OK on most vitamins. Sorghum has good levels of only of iron, potassium, and phosphorus. It is also good in thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. It is missing manganese, zinc, copper and selenium. So, keep taking your multi-vitamin with minerals, but don’t worry so much about amino acid levels.

One final note for any non-chemists who may read this, who may also care to know and who don’t already, (I realize that the intersection of those three demographics may be vanishingly small) the abbreviations for amino acids mentioned above are:
Trp tryptophan
Thr threonine
Ile Isoleucine
Leu leucine
Lys lysine
Met methionine
Cys cystine
Phe phenylalanine
Tyr tyrosine
Val valine
His histidine
Ala alanine
Glu glutamate
Pro proline

Friday, August 11, 2006

3:1, not 2:0.66

I did the math finally. 2:0.66 is the same as 3:1. I guess I just like to make things more complicated.

Another entry in the potato starch data set. We made pancakes this morning, for the second time. I thought they were too flat last time, so I added another tsp of baking powder, for a total of 3. It solved the problem, but tasted a little bitter. Not too bad though. I’m a little over-analytical on flavor issues. It makes me wonder, though, if I need more starch in the mix.

I think it’s time to do the experiment of using 2:1 Jowar/potato starch, to see if they end up lighter. To compare apples to apples, I need to see how they turn out that way. I think that pancakes are a good model system. They are thin enough that texture and issues of “light” and “heavy” have a greater effect, proportionally, than in muffins. Controlling the variables is harder with waffles, because I can’t really watch them bake. Changes in flavour will be harder to observe in Brownies. So Pancakes seem like they have the lowest signal-to-noise ratio.

The only problem is that the Maestro doesn’t really like pancakes. I had a big stack of pancakes, and he chose to eat the last frozen waffle for breakfast.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Good Results Optional

I just realized that I left in the "Xanthan gum (optional)" line from waffle recipe I started with. I think that means "If you don't care if your waffles are any good, feel free to save a bunch of money by leaving this part out."

Waffle Stew

We made waffles last night, using potato starch. Fabulous. With corn starch, I have always had trouble keeping them crisp. I had to bake them longer than the waffle baker recommends, and even then, they tended to go limp while waiting to be eaten. No one likes a limp waffle, do they? Well, Hildr does, I guess.

What I observed with the muffins seems to hold true—crustier, less prone to going soggy, and tastes more like stew. Did I mention that Riley likes the taste of potato starch better than corn starch? It’s not blatant, regardless of how much you like hash, especially if you put maple syrup on them instead of ketchup. Here is the recipe.

2 eggs (separated)
1/4 cup corn oil
1 3/4 cup milk
2 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 3/4 cup sorghum/starch mix*
4 t baking powder
1 t Xanthan gum (optional)

So far it passes with 2:1 Jowar/Corn Starch, and now with 2:0.66, or 2 to 2/3 Jowar/Potato Starch. One tip, though, don’t use1/4 cup soy milk and 1 ¾ cup oil.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Here I Go Again On My Own...

I realized something last night. I was in the mood for a treat, so I decided to make some brownies. I’ve made some gluten-free brownies before, but they were based on mashed black beans, not any sort of gluten-free flours. They are pretty tasty, but a little too gooey, and we like brownies gooey, so that’s saying a lot. That and it appears to be impossible to completely mash up the black beans, resulting in what appears to be chocolate chips mixed in -- somewhat bean-y chocolate chips, but chocolate chips. They bother Riley.

So I wanted to make some brownies using Jowar. I have a recipe from Dr. Fenster that I got off the internet several months ago, but have never tried. The batter was VERY thick, and the result was something that definitely tasted like brownies – not very good brownies. They were too cakey, salty, and dry. They might have seemed better if I’d been a celiac since the early 1970’s, and had forgotten what a real brownie tastes like, but my memory of good brownies was pretty fresh, and slightly offended.

I opened up my Purity Flour cookbook to look at an authentic brownie recipe and found that the flour, sugar and cocoa ratio was mostly the same. The recipe for the Fenster Special had twice the salt, a ½ tsp of baking powder that the Purity version didn’t (gosh, would that make it too cakey?) and one less egg.

It appears likely that my problems with the gluten-free recipe arose from deviations in the amounts of the non-gluten-free ingredients. What I mean is, the problem wasn’t the amount of xanthan gum; it wasn’t the amount or type of starch in the flour blend. It wasn’t a problem with any of the special adjustments you have to make when you are getting rid of the wheat flour. It was extra baking powder and not enough egg, which are problems that come from starting with a not very good recipe in the first place.

So why do I start with a gluten-free recipe at all? I often end up having to figure out what to change to make it into something I like anyway. Why don’t I just start with a wheat-based recipe that I am sure that I like, add what seems like the right amount of xanthan gum, and use a Jowar/starch mix in place of the flour. I don’t really trust that the amount of xanthan gum or the starch type/ratio in most of the internet gluten-free recipes are based on anything more that guesswork anyway, so starting with a wheat-based recipe doesn’t put me any further behind. Then I don’t have to go back and take out the baking powder that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

So from now on, when I need to make something I haven’t tried before, I am going to start with a regular, wheat-based recipe. At least then I know what I’m starting with.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hildr Hits the Trail

One of the things that the Maestro and I used to do in the evenings--before he gave up naps and started having to start to bed immediately after dinner--was to go for walks to the gas station. There is a small gas station, with a big air compressor that he likes, about a half mile up the four-lane road we live on. It took Riley several weeks to get used to the idea of him walking on the sidewalk next to the road, but he was not about to go on the road where he might get “smushed”. The main point was what he could find on the sidewalk or in people’s yards anyway. It was kind of an Elwood City nature walk.

Last night Hildr and I went for our first walk to the gas station. She’s thirteen months old, so she only made it about a quarter-mile, but I thought that was a good start. Since we didn’t make it, it may not seem like it was really a walk to the gas station, but it was of a type with what the Maestro and I used to do.

He was in bed, and Hildr and I were playing fetch in the living room when she went over to the front door and started pulling on the knob. I helped her into one of her ten favourite pairs of shoes, and we went out to the front yard. After looking at the flowers by the front step, she headed off across the lawn and up the sidewalk. We walked together, sometimes holding hands, sometimes not. She would stop to look at, and knock the fuzz off, the neighbour’s dandelions that were going to seed. She would try to sneak up people’s driveways, and make sure I noticed the motorcycles roaring past or the birds flying by.

We weren’t really going anywhere, and we weren’t really looking at anything. We were going exploring, and looking at everything. Before I realized it, we were half-way to the Maestro’s gas station, and Hildr needed to be picked up and carried home, just like the Maestro used to. When we got home, she was ready to snuggle into my arms, with one arm hooked around my neck, and quietly fall asleep.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Potato Starch II

I had time recently to do a couple of more potato starch experiments. The first was a batch of banana-chocolate chip muffins. Unfortunately, I added too much banana, and it was useless as a data point. They were pretty good banana bread pudding though, with a little soy milk on them.

This morning I made some pancakes using 2:2/3 mix Jowar:potato starch. The result was similar to the first muffin experiment. They were chewier, and the flavour was slightly different. Riley said that she liked the flavour better than tasting like cornstarch. One thing I noticed this time was that they didn’t brown as quickly. The may explain the crust on the muffins. If the cook longer before they “look done” they would be crustier, wouldn’t they? The crust may be a function of being more chewy, but it may be a baking/frying process issue. I’ll let you know if I resolve that.

The next question, now that I feel like I have repeatable results, is to see if the texture changes are due to potato vs. corn starch, or a results are due to 1 equivalent vs. 2/3 equivalents.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Kellogg's Sugar Guy

I had the opportunity to talk to a scientist from Kellogg on Saturday. He was explicit in his disclaimer that he was not here as a representative of Kellogg; his views were his own. He was here to give a talk at our annual “Careers in Chemistry” Symposium. His point was that in order to find a right job for you, you need to know yourself, and how you work with others and that sort of thing.

After his talk, I had the chance to talk to him. He is Kellogg’s “Sugar Guy” so I asked him about Starch. I was hoping that he could tell me what different effect each starch would have in a recipe, or how I could learn such things aside from having a test kitchen. He said, essentially, that the starches behave differently in different situations, and that he couldn’t tell me without knowing the temperature and water concentration. He suggested that really having a test kitchen is the best way to figure things out. That, and getting a good Food Science textbook.

Given his choice, he said he would use tapioca starch, because it has the clearest of flavours. I guess I will need to set up my test kitchen to investigate the effect of texture.