Cooling, Further Thickening, and Congealing

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Once the starch in a sauce has gelated, its amylose has leaked out, and the cook judges the sauce to be properly cooked, he stops the cooking, and the temperature of the sauce begins to fall. As the mixture cools down, the water and starch molecules move with less and less energy, and at a certain point the force of the temporary bonds among them begins to hold the molecules together longer than they are kept apart by random collisions. Gradually, the longer amylose molecules form stable bonds among themselves, the kind of bonds that held them together in the granule initially. Water molecules settle in the pockets between starch chains. As a result, the liquid mixture gets progressively thicker. If the amylose molecules are concentrated enough, and the temperature falls far enough, the liquid mixture congeals into a solid gel, just as a gelatin solution settles into a jelly. (Bushy amylopectin molecules take much longer to bond to each other, so low-amylose starches are slow to congeal.) This is the way in which pie fillings, puddings, and similar solid but moist starch concoctions are made.