Burnt Flour – What Is It? How Chefs Are Using It?

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . . . .

As the “no waste” food movement gains steam, top chefs keep finding practices that go back centuries. Long before bouillabaisse began showing up on Michelin-starred menus, it was a hearty French stew made using the odds and ends of fish; likewise, the ancient inventors of coq au vin found a way to soften up old roosters by cooking them in wine.

Now another modest culinary tradition is getting a makeover. Grano arso, translated literally as “burnt grain,” has become prized for the earthy, toasty flavor it gives pastas and breads. “It’s a nuttiness that envelops you,” says Kevin Adey, who uses it to make a smoky orecchiette at his restaurant Faro in Brooklyn.

Burnt flour may sound like a kitchen accident, but it’s an ingredient steeped in the history of Puglia, in the south of Italy. Origin stories trace its heritage to poor, 18th century villagers who would harvest the scorched grains that remained after farmers burnt their fields to make way for new crops. Others claim it was the burnt flour collected off the floor of communal ovens after loaves were baked. Both are likely correct.

One of the alluring characteristics of burnt flour is that it tricks you. The color gives pasta a charcoal hue and turns bread loaves a chocolate brown when split open, yet instead of sharp, ashy overtones you get hints of coffee and popcorn.

And, as with the revolution in coffee-bean roasting, some professional kitchens are investing in their own mills to geek out on the process, start to finish, giving cooks the opportunity to expand the flavors they can extract from grains. In Philadelphia the James Beard-winning chef Marc Vetri toasts wheat before milling it for use in dishes such as focaccia with smoked fish and créme fraîche. For the pappardelle at the Michelin-starred SPQR in San Francisco, chef Matthew Accarrino chars pre-milled grains by first baking them, then uses a kitchen torch so they’re well-blackened. “Burnt flour pairs really well with sweet flavors and is pumped up when you add fat, like cheeses,” he says.

Eataly offers burnt flour products outside of the bread department, including imported orecchiette from Pastificio Alta Valle Scrivia.Photographer: Hannah Whitaker for Bloomberg Businessweek; Food styling: Maggie Ruggiero

At Washington’s Masseria, chef Nicholas Stefanelli is taking the process one step further. “When we burn our flour, it caramelizes the starches, giving it a deep, bittersweet quality that’s incredibly distinct.” At Officina, his new Italian marketplace opening this spring in the Wharf, he’ll sell fresh grano arso pasta, as well as the burnt flour itself.

The trickle-down from chef to consumer is being felt at marketplaces such as Eataly’s Downtown New York location. Head baker Stephanie Tantillo, who arrived last June to bolster the bread program, has added a $3.80 charred loaf to the product line. She starts by aggressively toasting flour in the nearby pizza oven, stirring it often. She’s discovered that customers have a ceiling on how blackened they want their food to be. “When we changed the description from burnt to charred, sales tripled,” she says.

Home toques can use it, too. In the $500 five-volume Modernist Bread, which came out in November, authors Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya suggest using burnt flour in pizza dough to mimic the flavor of a charred Neapolitan crust. The recipe directs cooks to toast flour on a parchment-paper-lined sheet at 400F until black and then cut it with regular flour.

Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, says it’s unusual for an ingredient that has such strong associations with poverty to become popular in Italy. But the options for grano arso keep expanding: A recipe on the Italian food blog Cravatte ai Fornelli now suggests making cookies from burnt flour and filling them with tomato cream for a savory whoopie pie.

Source: Bloomberg


Is High Blood Pressure Curable?

Enlarge image . . . . .

Marvin M. Lipman, M.D. wrote . . . . . . .

Several years ago, a 55-year-old English professor was referred to me for a suspected overactive thyroid. She had a two-year history of episodes of lightheadedness, nervousness, headache, sweating, and palpitations—thought to be panic attacks. Tranquilizers were of no help, and the attacks (which often occurred before lectures) never lasted long enough for her to be examined while having one. She had also been taking medication for high blood pressure for five years.

By the time I saw her, thyroid tests had been done and were normal. But she had an elevated blood pressure of 160/100. Her description of her so-called panic attacks reminded me of what I’d often observed in asthma sufferers after an injection of epinephrine (Adrenaline and generic), a now-antiquated treatment for acute asthmatic wheezing.

The reminiscence paid off. A blood sample showed a level of metanephrine (an epinephrine derivative) five times the upper normal limit. An MRI disclosed the source of the metanephrine: a tumor of her left adrenal gland. This pheochromocytoma (or pheo) was removed and found to be benign. That normalized her blood pressure and eliminated her panic attacks.

A Rare Cause of Hypertension

The vast majority of people with high blood pressure have primary or essential hypertension—implying that the cause is unknown. Five to 10 percent may have secondary hypertension, where elevated blood pressure is due to a definable cause. (Pheos are a very rare cause.)

Unlike primary hypertension, secondary hypertension may actually be curable rather than simply controlled. The larger consideration is whether it is fruitful to subject millions of people to the expensive and possibly harmful tests to find the tiny number whose disease is potentially curable. From a cost-effectiveness standpoint, the answer is no, especially if the blood pressure is controlled by medication. Sometimes, however, clues can alert a doctor or patient to be more selective in their choice of suspects.

A Few More Possible Causes

One of the most common causes of secondary hypertension in older adults is renal artery stenosis (narrowing of one of the two arteries feeding each kidney). Proper diagnosis and artery stenting can cure this, provided the process has not gone on too long. Keen judgement is required to make that decision.

Another cause is primary hyperaldosteronism (the inappropriate secretion of the adrenal hormone aldosterone). The sole culprit was originally thought to be an adrenal tumor, removal of which cured the low potassium and high blood pressure it caused. But it has been found that sometimes both adrenal glands are at fault, making medical treatment with the diuretics spironolactone or triamterene preferable to surgery.

Cushing’s disease and syndrome result in hypertension, type 2 diabetes, brittle bones, and easy bruisability due to the excessive secretion of the steroid hormone cortisol. This is usually cured by eliminating the source of the excess cortisol. However, because the symptoms are so common, this eventually fatal disorder often eludes diagnosis for years.

Obstructive sleep apnea, by dint of its sympathetic nervous-system stimulation and episodic lack of oxygen during sleep, is considered by many to be a cause of secondary hypertension. Treatment of apnea can improve blood pressure.

Raising the Red Flag

Such secondary, and possibly curable, causes of high blood pressure need not be sought if your blood pressure is being well controlled. Consider talking to your doctor if you have hypertension and:

  • You are younger than 35 years of age.
  • Your blood pressure is not controlled (over 130/80) despite the use of up to three medications in appropriate doses.
  • Your serum potassium is low or you require prescription potassium.
  • You have a sudden deterioration of kidney function and visual changes.
  • You experience sweating, headaches, palpitations, shaking, and anxiety.
  • You have type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, easy bruisability, and abdominal obesity.
  • You have sleep apnea.

As for our English professor, she is now well into her 70s and continues to have normal blood pressure, and delivers lectures with no qualms beforehand.

Source: Consumer Reports

Brown Rice Crust Quiche with Turkey and Mushroom



2 cups cooked whole-grain brown rice, cooled
1 egg
cooking spray


2-3 tsp canola oil
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
3 tbsp green onion, chopped
1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1 cup cooked turkey, diced
3 eggs
1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp paprika
dash pepper
dash cayenne pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Stir together rice and one whisked egg.
  3. Liberally spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Press rice mixture into bottom and sides of pie plate. Set aside.
  4. In small frying pan, heat 2-3 tsp canota oil over medium-high heat and saute mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and green onion. Set aside.
  5. Sprinkle cheese, turkey and sauteed vegetables into rice pie crust.
  6. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until just blended, and then mix in sour cream, milk, salt, basil, thyme, paprika, pepper, and cayenne. Pour into pie shell.
  7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife gently inserted near the centre comes out clean.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Manitoba Egg Farmers

In Pictures: Breakfast Toast with Fried Egg

New Polygenic Hazard Score Predicts When Men Develop Prostate Cancer

An international team, led by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, has developed and validated a genetic tool for predicting age of onset of aggressive prostate cancer, a disease that kills more than 26,000 American men annually.

The tool, described in the online issue of the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), may potentially be used to help guide decisions about who to screen for prostate cancer and at what age.

Currently, detection of prostate cancer relies primarily upon the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening blood test. But PSA testing is not very good as a screening tool. While it reduces deaths from prostate cancer, indiscriminate PSA screening also produces false positive results and encourages over-detection of non-aggressive, slow-growing tumors.

“The existing PSA test is useful, but it is not precise enough to be used indiscriminately on all men,” said the study’s first author, Tyler M. Seibert, MD, PhD, chief resident physician in the Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “As a result, it may prompt medical interventions like biopsy, surgery or radiotherapy that might not be necessary.”

Seibert, senior author Anders Dale, PhD, professor and co-director of the Center for Translational Imaging and Precision Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues in Europe, Australia and the United States, used genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to determine whether a man’s genetic predisposition to developing prostate cancer could be used to predict his risk of developing the aggressive and lethal form of the disease.

GWAS search individual genomes for small variations, called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), that occur more frequently in people with a particular disease than in people without the disease. Hundreds or thousands of SNPs can be evaluated at the same time in large groups of people. In this case, researchers used data from over 200,000 SNPs from 31,747 men of European ancestry participating in the ongoing international PRACTICAL consortium project.

Using a method developed at UC San Diego, the researchers combined information from GWAS and epidemiological surveys to assess quantification for genetic risk at age of disease onset. “Polygenic Hazard Score methodology is specialized in finding age-dependent genetic risks and has already been proven to be very useful in predicting age of onset for Alzheimer’s disease”, said study co-author Chun Chieh Fan, MD, PhD, in the Department of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego.

“The polygenic hazard score is very versatile and can be applied to many age-related diseases,” said Fan. “In this case, the polygenic hazard score of prostate cancer captures the age variations of aggressive prostate cancer.”

Genotype, prostate cancer status and age were analyzed to select SNPs associated with prostate cancer diagnosis. Then the data was incorporated into the polygenic hazard score, which involves survival analysis to estimate SNPs’ effects on age at diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer. The results led to a polygenic hazard score for prostate cancer that can estimate individual genetic risk. This score was then tested against an independent dataset, from the recent UK ProtecT trial, for validation.

“The polygenic hazard score was calculated from 54 SNPs and proved to be a highly significant predictor of age at diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer,” said Seibert. “When men in the ProtecT dataset with a high polygenic hazard score were compared to those with average PHS, their risk of aggressive prostate cancer was at least 2.9 times greater.”

“And when we account statistically for the effect of the GWAS having disproportionately high numbers of men with disease compared to the general population, we estimate that the risk defined by the polygenic hazard score is 4.6 times greater.”

The study authors note that an individual’s genotype does not change with age, so the polygenic hazard score can be calculated at any time and used as a tool for men deciding whether and when to undergo screening for prostate cancer. This is especially critical for men at risk of developing prostate cancer at a very young age, before standard guidelines recommend consideration of screening.

“This kind of genetic risk stratification is a step toward individualized medicine,” said Dale, who also noted that PSA tests are much more predictive of aggressive prostate cancer in men with high polygenic hazard score than in those with low polygenic hazard score. This suggests that polygenic hazard score can help physicians determine whether to order a PSA test for a given patient, in the context of the patient’s general health and other risk factors.

Investigators caution that further study of the clinical benefits are needed before the polygenic hazard score is ready for routine use.

Source: UC San Diego

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