Let’s Talk Thickeners

While I’m re-thinking my approach to vanilla slices/custard squares, it strikes me that this is a good time to do a rundown of thickeners for the Baking Ingredients section. I’ve been asked several times to create one, but have never gotten around to it. Thickening is really the heart of my issue with vanilla squares, so I should strike while the pie iron is hot, donchathink?

4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Thickeners”

  1. Hey Joe,

    Greetings from down under and congratulations on Vanilla Slice Mark I. It looks fantastic and very authentic if I do say so myself. Am really glad though that you are going to keep going and try them with a more commercial type filling. (Remember the beauty of a vanilla slice, unlike the French Mille Feuille, is that it will happily live in a child’s school lunch box, and survive till midday without damage or perishing, ready to be devoured at room temperature). Who knew the humble snot block would prove the starting point for a series on thickeners???? Wow I have a whole new appreciation for my national cuisine!

    Looking forward to Vanilla Slice Mark II.

    Bruce (and yes that really is my name)

    1. Love the comment, Bruce! Thanks very much. Several readers encouraged me to do both early on. I tried to split the difference but ended up with something a little too highbrow for the lunchbox, good as it tastes. Thanks for the encouragement and we’ll see what comes next!


      – Joe

  2. Yes, do! I can’t tell you how many times I come across a recipe for something that uses a thickener and question the choice because there are so many recipes for the same thing that use one of a variety of thickeners so it stops me in my tracks while I wonder. Why flour in a pastry cream when cornstarch works and makes it look more translucent and delicate? Why cornstarch or flour thickening a fruit pie when tapioca cooks up clear and holds up as well or better? Why do custards with a few eggs need as much thickener as a pudding with no eggs? Every time I see a less frequently used thickener, like arrowroot, for something traditionally thickened with cornstarch, for instance, I wonder why that choice. I’ve cooked enough to question those choices but don’t know enough to adapt a replacement so I can make a recipe still work.

    1. Hey Susan!

      Well said. I think many of those choices are made just out of habit. I’ll do my best to sort these out over the next few days. There sure are a lot of thickeners out there…I wonder how long this will take!

      Guess I’ll find out!

      – Joe

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