I'm trying to find out how different starches behave and how they interact with other ingredients. Corn starch (Maizena), for example, will act as a thickener as soon as it reaches its gelatinization temperature. Wheat starch (wheat flour), on the other hand, only achieves the proper texture after having been mixed with butter or margarine and then with milk or cream, after which you need to reheat it to the gelatinization temperature of the mixture.

When making mashed potatoes, the boiled spuds themselves remain crumbly when mashed, in spite of the fact that the boiling, in spite of the fact that the boiling has gelatinized the potato starches, and only after mixing them with butter/margarine and milk/cream the consistency of the potatoes (i.e. the structure of the starches) changes to the desired creamy mash.

I'm also not entirely clear why, when making sauces or mash, one first adds butter and then milk, seeing as milk and cream both are a suspension of butter particles in water.


Question 1: what is the difference between these various starches that makes them behave so differently?

Question 2: how do wheat and potato starch interact with butter/margarine and milk/cream (and why do these have to be added in that order) when making a sauce or mash, respectively?

All suggestions (and pointers into the right direction) are greatly appreciated!

  • 2
    Your question surprises me. Why would wheat starch need butter? It functions just as cornstarch in my experience. – rumtscho Oct 19 '18 at 10:19
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    When thickening a stew or something like that, I mix a little corn starch in water and add that to the simmering stew, which then thickens immediately. Wheat flour used the same way works less well and, in my opinion, produces a different consistency and can create lumps. – Frank van Wensveen Oct 19 '18 at 10:30
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    But that's flour, not pure wheat starch. If you take pure wheat starch, there will be practically no difference for a home cook when making a slurry. – rumtscho Oct 19 '18 at 10:32
  • You have a point. However, the starch component in the flour is the active ingredient in starch gelatinization and subsequent thickening, is it not? – Frank van Wensveen Oct 19 '18 at 10:34
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    The starch is what thickens a starch slurry, yes. And the other stuff in flour doesn't gelatinize, that's a term used exclusively for starch. But this doesn't mean that the other stuff in flour is inert, or that flour behaves like pure starch. – rumtscho Oct 19 '18 at 10:36

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