How to Bake, Part 1: Ingredients

How to Bake Part 1_merged

 

Did you know that baking is chemistry?

So — because baking is chemistry, it’s very important that you always, always follow the recipe. I’m really talking to myself here because I’d rather read a recipe over once and throw it out the window. But every time that happens, my cookies never turn out how I want.

To really be a good baker, you must keep in mind these things: Ingredients, Measurements and Substitutions


PART ONE: INGREDIENTS

Ingredients, as you know, are the framework of a recipe. They create what the outcome will be: volume, shape, texture, flavor, and appearance. But do you know HOW they affect what you’re baking?

You watched and learned about a little bit of food science in the video above; below is even more delicious knowledge. I’ve compiled a list of some common baking ingredients and explained how they’re important in recipes. In addition, I’ve linked to some videos and/or other blogs–whose authors can explain things better than I can with their experience and nicer writing/filming skills–to better enhance your retention (you’re welcome!).

FLOUR

Provides structure to baked goods; the more protein in the flour, the more structure.  Hence, bread flour has more protein than cake flour, giving bread a tougher, crunchier crust and a firmer inside texture versus a spongy, soft, melt-in-your-mouth cake.

Sometimes recipes boast “no flour!” In that case, either another sort of “flour” has been used (gluten free); or the mixture is so thick/sticky with ingredients such as nut butter that it doesn’t need flour to hold it together.

Side note: Since flour can also dry out a batter and dough, it’s also important to understand the flour-to-liquid ratio in a recipe and the technique for combining these two ingredients. Most recipes will have you incorporate all the wet ingredients and then gradually add the flour. Because most of us in America don’t use kitchen scales, your 1 cup measure and my 1 cup measure might be slightly–and slightly can be a huge difference!–variant in weight. Adding the flour gradually to a recipe ensures that not too much is mixed into a batter/dough. It’s MUCH easier to keep adding flour to an overly-wet mixture than to add liquid to a very dry mixture. (More about measurements in Part Two.)

A Closer Look at Gluten with America’s Test Kitchen:

FAT {butter, margarine, shortening, oils}

Creates the creamy, flaky, soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture of foods. It’s what makes cookies and brownies so delectable! ;) Sometimes part of the fat can be removed or replaced (with yogurt, applesauce, sour cream, or mashed fruit) but doing so will affect the flavor and texture of the recipe.  If you’re trying to reduce your fat intake, replacing 1/4 to 1/2 of the fat in recipes won’t affect the recipe too much. Experiment to figure out what ratio of fat to fat substitute works for you (more about substitutions in Part Three)

The Difference Between Butter and Margarine with ASAP Science:

LEAVENING AGENTS {baking soda, baking powder, yeast}

These uber important ingredients cause doughs and batters to expand/rise due to the agent creating carbon dioxide.  Specific agents create the iconic texture and flavors of biscuits, bread, muffins, and cakes; so make sure you’re using the right one for the right recipe.

The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder from Joy the Baker

The Mechanics of Yeast with America’s Test Kitchen:

EGGS

Bind ingredients together, act as a leavening agent; and adds color, nutritive value (protein and fat), moisture, and rich flavor to baked goods.

(A neat experiment to prove the importance of eggs in recipes is to make two batches of muffins. In one batch add eggs and in the other batch omit eggs! Tell me what the difference is ;) And don’t throw away the result if you don’t like it!!! Crumble it over yogurt or icecream.)

Why We Use Large Eggs in Baking from Joy the Baker

15 Facts about Eggs with French Guy Cooking:

SUGAR {brown & granulated sugar} & HONEY

Adds sweetness, creates the “golden brown” color of baked goods and holds in moisture.

How Sugar Affects Moisture and Sweetness with America’s Test Kitchen:

 

And finally…some tips for creating the cookie of your preference!

 
PART TWO &  PART THREE

 

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