How to Make Brown Flour
Since I was a young child, I can remember the cooks in my family browning white flour and storing it in jars to be used later. Aunt Emma T, the real food expert in the family, split her browned flour into portions, seasoned some, and would refrain from seasoning the remaining amount.
There was an on-going joke among the cooks in my family about gravy for beef – if it was not sufficiently brown, the flour wasn’t cooked properly. If it was too brown, it was store-bought!!! You would have to know the cooks in my family – Emma T and Bunch would tell you in a heartbeat – “made from scratch”! Forty years later, I am much more appreciative now, than I have ever been, about their insistence in cooking from scratch, and their pride in doing so. In those days, such pride had more to do with signature of taste. Nowadays, there are also great health concerns pertinent to additives and chemicals in processed foods!
Now, before going into the kitchen, let’s chat a minute about this technique of browning flour: You MUST have patience! There is no quick way to brown flour; there is no shortcut except to have an extremely hot pot; and if you do – I can almost assure you of failure!!!!! So, unless you are ready to spend 30-45 minutes to do this, let’s stop now and save this little task for another day! No hurt feelings here – I’d rather you do this when you are going to have stellar results. That way, as the old jazz torch song says “Love Me, or Leave Me” goes — you’ll love me, instead of leave me!!!
The most crucial word to have in your vocabulary when in a conversation about browning flour is “dry”! Everything must be absolutely dry – not a drop of water near your flour, or utensils!
Let’s go brown flour! We start out by setting up the following utensils/tools on our kitchen counter –
A 4-cup dry measuring cup;
1 large hand-held sifter
1 large wooden spoon;
1 wooden spatula;
1 offset metal icing spatula
1 medium-size hand whisk;
1 large metal mixing bowl
1large sauté pan that’s at least one-inch deep.
For browning flour, I love using a tin-lined copper pot. A very high-quality steel pot is also an excellent choice. I have found the high-end French copper, and our American high-end steel and steel/copper combinations, equally excellent choices for this task.
You should have on the ready: A bag of all-purpose flour, your four-cup measuring cup setting on top of a sheet of wax paper; with your sifter setting on top of your measuring cup. Then pour your flour into the sifter, and simply use your wooden spoon to agitate and sift the flour into the measuring cup. You will have a bit of a mound of flour, and you need only using an offset metal spatula to level off your four-cup measure of flour; then let the browning begin!
I brown flour in 4-cup amounts because it is so much efficient than having to constantly brown flour for sauces and gray. I use glass jars to store it once the browned flour is cooled to room temperature, or chilled in the refrigerator! Because we are essentially cooking at an extremely low temperature, it’s really best to have a warm pot to start the process.
I turn my range up on high, and set my dry pot on it. Once the pot is very hot, I remove it from the heat and set it off to side to cool back down to “high-warm”! High-warm is hotter than a cool or cold pot; it is very much cooler than a hot pot! There is no testing for a “high-warm” pot! Here’s where you prove that you are indeed an accomplished, experienced cook!!!
Next, I turn my heat-setting down to just below medium. Then I return the warm pot back to the range, and pour in the four cups of flour. I do absolutely nothing for 3 full minutes. Then suddenly, I have wooden spoon and wooden spatula at the ready, and intermittently using the two utensils alternately, I begin to stir and turn my flour. I step back and let it be another 3 minutes. Then suddenly, with the same utensils at the ready, I repeat the process of the stir, then let it be!
Usually, I will have a high stool or high-leg kitchen chair at the range, so that I can sit while stirring and waiting. However, there will not be time to read a good book because you must keep your eye on the flour!
After about 15 minutes of cooking and stirring, you should begin to see the slightest of color change to your flour! Your first indication of success is the flour should begin to bring on an ivory-ecru color! But, don’t let that excite you; don’t try and rush it by turning up the heat – you will ruin it!!! Be patient, and do some more stirring!!!
After about 20-25 minutes of cooking and stirring, you should begin to see a richer color hue – your flour should be bringing on the color of walnuts! And, with your patience intact, you begin to have that feeling of pride about your excellence. At this point, you want to turn your heat down to low, because the browning will not begin to accelerate! Your stirring will become more constant, such that you will not “let it be” from now to the end of the browning process!
Once your flour has browned to point of “pecan” in color, we are ready to remove it from the heat. This is crucial, because the warm pot will continue to cook the flour a bit more after you remove it from the heat. Keep stirring; keep stirring; keep stirring for another three minutes or so. You want to stir then pour the flour into the cool mixing bowl. (Hint: To be certain that my cooking of the flour stops immediately, I have my mixing bowl in the refrigerator while I am cooking the flour. That way, it is absolutely cold when I pour the flour into it!)
Congratulations! You have now browned flour! Don’t buy another bottle of gravy mix! Don’t buy another pouch of gravy mix! Don’t buy another jar of pre-cooked processed gravy! YOU have just made the best foundation for brown gravy! (Light gravies and sauces we will talk about in another post!)
Putting all your excellence to work to now give it your taste signature, we divide the flour. We put half the flour in a canning jar just as it is (unseasoned) and add that to our pantry. For the second half, we season it!
Many times, I use a brown gravy for my red meats. If I am doing a brown mushroom gravy, chances are minced garlic and diced or minced onions are also part of the symphony of flavors! Thus, I want my browned flour to accentuate those ingredients as well. Here’s how I do season my browned flour for a mushroom gravy –
In a small bowl, I mix three tablespoons of browned flour with 1 teaspoon each of iodized salt, finely-ground black pepper, dry rubbed sage, onion powder, garlic powder, dry yellow mustard powder. To make the gravy, I make slurry with 3 tablespoons of red wine and ¼ cup of water. I pour this over a sauté pan of buttered, simmering mushrooms, minced garlic and diced or minced onion combination. I simmer this for two to three minutes until thickened. I add more water if needed, or simmer a bit longer if more thickening is needed.
Use your browned flour to make your signature brown gravy or brown sauce! You’ve earn the distinction of Gravy Master!
As I know those two ladies of great cooking skills, Aunt Emma T and Bunch are smiling with much pride that you are cooking their good, pure, unadulterated gravy from scratch, instead of buying that stuff in the jar!!!!!!!